Laboratories Teaching Concepts in Microcontrollers and Hardware-Software Co-design

Daryl G. Beetner, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Hardy J. Pottinger, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Kyle Mitchell

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Hardware software co-design is becoming increasingly important to the embedded systems industry. It will soon be fundamental to digital systems design. As such, students in electrical and computer engineering and in computer science should be introduced to hardware-software co-design early in their undergraduate education. We are designing laboratory modules which introduce concepts of hardware-software co-design in an undergraduate''s first course on microcontrollers and digital systems design. Students use design automation tools to develop FPGA-based hardware for use with an 8051-microcontroller and use common software development tools to develop microcontroller software in C or assembly language. Co-simulation of hardware and software is enabled using a simulation model of the 8051 that we developed. Preliminary results are encouraging. Students who take the lab perform better in the associated lecture class than those who do not take the lab and appear to develop a greater appreciation for digital systems design. We believe such laboratories will be a common component of computer engineering classes in the future