In computer science, "embedded systems" refers to computer systems that are embedded in a larger technical context, for example in a car, a wristwatch, a mobile phone or a satellite. Many of these systems have very compact, low-cost hardware based on microcontrollers.
Computer engineering is not an essential part of the orientation of our computer science courses. However, basic knowledge in the field of embedded systems is generally part of the curriculum of computer science studies. A not insignificant proportion of the computer science graduates at our university find jobs in companies that operate directly or indirectly in the market for embedded systems or use such systems in their products.
For this reason, the topic of microcontrollers has already been taught at the HFT in various events with a great deal of personal commitment and improvisational artistry by the assistants and lecturers involved. By setting up the laboratory, this teaching should be placed on an appropriate foundation. But the laboratory will also offer further possibilities. The three main focuses of the laboratory are: Teaching, workshop for Embedded Systems and applied research.
The main task of the laboratory is to enable a quality of education appropriate to the topic in the context of our courses of study.
For this purpose, our students work in the embedded systems lab with real microcontroller hardware in the form of development boards and small robots controlled by microcontrollers. The platforms are widely used internationally in industry, research and education and have already been introduced in our company. Our experience so far shows that this form of teaching in combination with theoretical instruction is highly appreciated by the students.
Additional hardware is available or planned for more special events, for example radio nodes and gateways for sensor networks, card readers and programming devices for smart cards, etc.
The teaching equipment of the laboratory initially provides for 12 workstations at 6 laboratory tables. In addition to PC equipment and microcontroller hardware, the dual workstations are equipped with oscilloscopes and other accessories to study the principles of controlling simple peripherals such as motors, serial interfaces, etc. The PC software basic equipment consists of the necessary development environments with simulators and possibilities for programming the hardware.
A lecturer's workstation with projection via a large flat screen on the wall is planned for classroom design.
The use of the laboratory is planned for the following events:
There are relations to other events, e.g. Compiler Construction (test of simple code converters) or Programming 3 (C/C++ programming).
In the laboratory, a small workplace with tools, soldering iron, material etc. will be available for employees and professors to carry out electronic work. Such a workstation is necessary to produce small extensions, controls or even just adapter plugs between the microcontroller boards and, for example, new sensors. The laboratory's application possibilities become extremely flexible due to the possibility of creating small hardware modifications and extensions, and the teaching becomes even more attractive for the students due to the possible inclusion of a wide variety of devices.
The workshop for embedded systems can of course also be used without direct reference to an event. For example, for repair or conversion work that is always necessary, for example on cabling or connections of computer peripherals. Research projects in the field of embedded systems usually involve the use of real or so-called dummy hardware that has to be connected to a system, be it a controller or a PC, in some way. In most cases, the above-mentioned equipment makes it possible to carry out such work quickly in-house and not to have to have it carried out by external service providers or research partners.
As already mentioned, research in the field of embedded systems is mostly bound to real hardware and is practically impossible without an appropriate laboratory. A presentable laboratory for embedded systems is therefore already extremely helpful in the search for partners and in the rerailing of research projects.
Initially, research projects will focus on assistance systems (AAL), building automation, sensor networks and ultrasonic localization. In this area there is a great deal of know-how and a grown network (e.g. iHomeLab, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Siemens Building Automation, Digitalstrom.org, ETHZ, Landis+Gyr, TU Wroclaw). 2/3 Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences Faculty of Surveying, Computer Science and Mathematics With the help of the laboratory, this existing network is to be used more intensively again, ideally by working on international research projects, and above all to win new partners from the region, for example for applied research projects and/or as co-funding partners.
The laboratory can of course also be used for projects in other fields. It is planned to expand the automotive sector with the help of locally based partner companies and also to deal with it more specifically in training.
Especially students who participate in information events at the HFT are usually quite taken with embedded systems, especially the small robots. The already introduced successful events on embedded systems in connection with the Study Info Day / Informatics Day and the MineMINT Theme Days find a worthy domicile in the Embedded Systems Laboratory.