Embedded Systems MOOC From EdX
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Monday, 13 January 2014

A hands-on, learn by doing course that shows you how to build real-world embedded systems starts January 22nd. To get the most from it you need to purchase a Texas Instruments microcontroller kit and some electronic components.

The course has been designed not only to explain how electronic gadgets are designed, developed, and built as embedded systems but also to get students to build circuits and program a microcontroller using C. The course description states:

You will develop debugging skills using oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and software instrumentation. Laboratory assignments are first performed in simulation, and then you will build and debug your system on the real microcontroller. At the conclusion of this course you will be able to build your own arcade-style game.

UT.6.01x Embedded Systems - Shape the World comes from The University of Texas at Austin and is an online version of a required course for all students embarking on Electrical and Computer Engineering there. It is being taught by Jon Valvano and Ramesh Yerraballi who introduce the course in this video.

 

 

Starting on the edX platform on January 22nd, UT.6.01x is a 15 week course with an expected workload of 10 hours per week if you want to participate fully and complete the lab assignments using the Texas Instruments TM4C123 microcontroller kit and a few electronic components that  students are expected to purchase:

 

ut6xkit

 

Details of how to purchase the kit from many parts of the world are provided on the course website and costs seem modest - in the US they will cost about $40 plus shipping.

The FAQs do point out that purchasing the kit isn't compulsory to join in and states three approaches to taking the course:

You could just listen to the videos, read the assignments, and play with the interactive learning tools. The second option involves installing the Keil uVision integrated development environment on a Windows PC, and performing the lab assignments in simulation mode. The third option, which fully captures the essence of embedded systems, can be done by performing the lab assignments on a real system that you will purchase.

When registering for the course you have two options, to audit the course or to make a monetary contribution, the minimum being $50, for a Verified Certificate of Achievement which uses photos of you and your ID to authenticate that the work done on the course is your own. See Computer Science MOOCs For The New Year for more discussion of these alternative options.

In answer to the question of whether its possible to use a different microcontroller such as the Arduino or PIC it explains:

If your plan is to watch the videos and not attempt certification, then yes you may do the labs with whatever microcontroller you want. From an educational perspective most microcontrollers are equivalent. On the other hand, if you wish to interact in the lab discussion groups or wish to obtain the certificate, then you must use either the EK-LM4F120XL or the EK-TM4C123GXL board from Texas Instruments. This is because we have developed grading software that will test the function of your labs running on either the EK-LM4F120XL or the EK-TM4C123GXL board.

And, as has been surmised elsewhere, the choice of a Texas Instruments microcontroller is no doubt influenced by supporting local industry - this is an edX course from the University of Texas, after all.

UT.6.01x sounds like an interesting MOOC and it is one that should appeal to programmers. The prerequisites are:

Computer programming course in any language with exposure to variables, arithmetic, logic, loops, and functions. High school physics course covering current, voltage, resistance, and power.

 

 

There are a lot of embedded systems out there and understanding them in the "bottom-up" way of this course is highly recommended.


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