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This paper describes a new approach for a course and laboratory designed to allow students to develop low-cost prototypes of robotic and other embedded devices that feature Internet connectivity, I/O, networking, a real-time operating system (RTOS), and object-oriented C/C++. The application programming interface (API) libraries provided permit students to work at a higher level of abstraction. A low-cost 32-bit SOC RISC microcontroller module with flash memory, numerous I/O interfaces, and on-chip networking hardware is used to build prototypes. A cloud-based C/C++ compiler is used for software development. All student files are stored on a server, and any Web browser can be used for software development. Breadboards are used in laboratory projects to rapidly build prototypes of robots and embedded devices using the microcontroller, networking, and other I/O subsystems on small breakout boards. The commercial breakout boards used provide a large assortment of modern sensors, drivers, display ICs, and external I/O connectors. Resources provided include eBooks, laboratory assignments, and extensive Wiki pages with schematics and sample microcontroller application code for each breakout board.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2013