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There has been a tremendous growth in the use of modern embedded computers in control and other applications in the past few years. While courses offered in the electrical and computer engineering disciplines cover such topics as microprocessors, digital and analog hardware, control theory, and programming languages, there exist few courses that focus on integrating these subjects for designing embedded systems. On the other hand, there is a growing need in industry for engineers who can perform software design and system integration for various applications in embedded control. Toward filling this gap, this paper describes a laboratory testbed developed for a new course on Embedded Computer Control offered at the University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada. An outline of the course structure, laboratory setup, and the design aspects for implementing a modern embedded control application are presented. The embedded controller performs command, control, and user interface tasks required to operate a low-cost prototype of a thermal system. Furthermore, its network connectivity allows users to tune system parameters, start and stop running the system, and observe the status of the plant via the Internet.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2004