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In this paper a comprehensive toolkit for education of Mechatronics and Computer Science (especially micro controller and embedded programming) will be presented. The idea is based upon material for internet assisted distance learning, home labs as well as for face-to-face education in classes. The concepts details are composed of special DistanceLab solution, HomeLab Kit, Virtual Microcontroller System, and additional, supportive material which will be introduced and ranged into the didactical concept.
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Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept
for teaching Micro Controller technology
utilizing HomeLab kits and Remote Labs
in a virtual web environment
Sven Seiler1and Raivo Sell2
1Bochum University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Computer Science,
Lennershofstr. 140, 44801 Bochum, Germany
2Tallinn University of Technology, Department of Mechatronics, Ehitajate tee 5
19086 Tallinn, Estonia
Abstract. This article introduces a comprehensive toolkit for the edu-
cation of Mechatronics and Computer Science (especially micro controller
technology and embedded programming). The approach is based upon
a full set of material, tools and products for internet assisted distance
learning. The presented concept utilizes remote labs, home labs and face-
to-face education in classes. In detail, the learning concept is composed
of a special DistanceLab solution, HomeLab kits, Virtual Micro Con-
troller Unit, assisted by supportive material which will be introduced
and ranged into the didactical concept in the frame of this publication.
Furher next steps in Remote Lab development will be presented by the
Keywords: Virtual Micro Controller Unit, VMCU, Virtual Lab, Dis-
tance Lab, Remote Lab, Blended Learning, Learning Concept
1 Introduction
The education of Computer Science and Mechatronic has got a lot of attention
in the last decade and its importance is still increasing. This seems to be a logical
process, as these fields have entered into everyday life, and smart products are
more and more spread into homes. Most of these devices are mechatronic devices
in their nature, what means they consist of software in addition to mechanical
and electrical parts. Therefore a good education in these fields, especially in
microcontroller and embedded programming is necessary to assure quality and
a continuous advancement in the future.
It is quite a challenge for educational institutions to keep up with the high
pace of technological innovation in industry. The availability of (often expensive)
ICT based learning material for learners; a lack of functional qualified teaching
staff and also insufficient place in classes for capacious equipment are the main
problems identified in the frame of projects analysis of target sector needs[1].
2 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
Best way to encounter the current and more important future high demand
of professional in the mentioned fields is to start in a quite early stage to de-
light young people with this technology. In authors opinion this can ensured by
exploiting modern ICT based content, beginning in school, covering as well vo-
cational and also university educational level. Another point the projects were
dealing with was to exploit modern Internet technology for education in the
mentioned fields to make them more attractive for young engineers and keep
them interested[2].
Within the following sections the different parts of the overall concept are
introduced, which have been developed in the frame of joint EU projects [3–5]
since 2007, followed by detailed descriptions of each subpart, where the concept
was developed further [6] from each project to another. Current project Vir-
tual Academy Platform for Vocational Schools (VAPVoS) [7], which will extend
the whole framework by additional modules for the Virtual Micro Controller
(VMCU) and integrate the results from former projects is accepted for funding.
2 Remote, Online, Virtual, Simulation and Distance Labs
In literature, there a different terminologies used for descriping remote accessible
or virtual online experiments. To avoid confusion and mixing-up this article takes
a sight to these terms before the principal part. The terms are used, according to
the definitions of the mentioned terms in [8–10], mainly taking the virtualization
component into account.
2.1 Distance Labs
A Distance Lab is a web platform offering any kind of online accessible experi-
ment. This can be a remote or a virtual lab. These two kind of labs are descriped
next up. In case of consortium the term DistanceLab is used for a web platform
including several labs, accompanied by booking and user management modules.
2.2 Remote Labs
A remote lab (or online lab) enables actors (such as students or employees) to
carry out experiments over the Internet, which are normally performed in pres-
ence studies at educational laboratories. Compared to a normal laboratory there
is need of additional equipment for preparing traditional labs for online access.
The fig. 1 is illustrating these necessary changes. In a conventional laboratory
environment, the actor is feasible to use the equipment with own hands, get-
ting direct feedback to performed actions. When pressing a button the actor
will see what the ”reaction” of the lab is, without any detention. In an remote
lab, the actor is connected by a personal computer (or any other device, like a
smart phone or tablet pc) to the Internet. The actor is performing by utilizing
specific software or just by accessing a web application running in any common
web browser. Users actions are transmitted to a receiver system (in most cases a
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 3
Fig. 1. A common vs. a remote laboratory
computer system) with a public IP address. Naturally this receiver system is pre-
ceded by a user/laboratory management system, dealing with access rights and
booking issues. This case is not illustrated here. The receiver system is directly
connected to the laboratory equipment, enabling to perform standard actions to
the hardware, which are common for that specific kind of experiment.
Advantages of remote labs compared to traditional ones In a common
lab course, mostly during practical work sessions, as defined in the engineering
curriculum, learners are encouraged to perform their exercises at a specific time,
usually in a group of students, during opening hours of their institution. There
is often no consideration for disabled learners or for individual time constraints
of the participants. Another problem is the availability of sufficient lab places.
Especially poor institutions may not offer costly experiments. Due the nature
of remote labs there is the possibility of sharing equipment not only to own
students at the institutions, but also between institutions themselves.
2.3 Virtual and Simulation Labs
The integration of virtual labs (see fig. 2) into a lab management system is gener-
ally easier than integrating remote hardware based labs. Some literature is using
”remote lab”, ”online lab”, ”cyber-enabled lab” or ”virtual lab” synonymously.
But while the first three are the same, ”virtual lab” may not be used interchange-
able. A virtual lab is a ”laboratory” consisting of a specific piece of software.
4 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
This software may be a proprietary one, but also a web service or simulated
hardware. Common case for all virtual lab is that real experiments are virtual-
ized or simulated in this software, in most cased dealing with the challenge to be
close to reality. A virtual lab can be accessed like a real hardware lab. The actor
Fig. 2. A virtual or simulation laboratory
is performing his actions from distance by using an ordinary computer system
sending his input over a network (in most cases involving Internet transmission)
to a receiver system which will be in most cases also directly the virtual lab. In
specific cases a virtual lab may involve different virtual machine (like in a net-
work experiment, where students have to set-up a network infrastructure from
distance) or additional server systems (database systems among others) which
are necessary for the virtual lab. The system itself directly sends the feedback
over the communication channel back to the actors personal computer. All com-
putations are done in the virtual lab and only feedback to the user input is send
Advantages and disadvantages of virtual labs Virtual labs have some ad-
vantages compared to real hardware labs. If the virtual lab is a software service,
once set-up the lab can be used by a lot of students simultaneously, only affected
by computational power of the host computer. It is also more robust than real
equipment. A student may not destroy the hardware while adjust some settings
or failures in programming. Another benefit is considering monetary issues. The
system can be easily duplicated without paying additional costs. Of course vir-
tual labs also have disadvantage in relation to real (remote) ones. A virtual lab
may never react in all cases equal to real hardware. It is impossible to include
all environmental parameters into the virtualization, thus a virtual lab will react
sometimes different from a real one. The best solution seems to be a combination
of virtual and remote labs to get benefits from both of them. A general approach,
also used in our consortium is to use the virtual devices for basic education to
teach basic system thinking and to get familiar with the hardware. In later steps
the learners are switching to real hardware.
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 5
3 Overview of the Blended Learning Concept
During the mentioned projects consortium of European partners3developed a
comprehensive concept for educating microcontroller technology, based on sev-
eral results, drawn up in fig. 3, which will be described in separate sections in
this article. The concept consist of the following parts:
DistanceLab - The DistanceLab concept [11] was initially developed during
Interstudy project and developed further in the follow-up projects. In cur-
rent state it is a web platform for accessing real hardware (labs) and virtual
labs which can be programmed or controlled directly over the Internet. The
concept is continuously developed further and currently applied into study
processes in Estonia and Germany.
HomeLab kits - These are cases with micro controller hardware, for self-
educating of learners at home or for utilizing them in classes in the frame
of face-to-face education. The kits are combined with specific modules for
different domains (e.g. Automotive or Mechatronic).
Virtual Microcontroller System (VMCU) - A virtual version of the HomeLab
kit hardware simulating the microcontroller’s behavior, but acting like the
real hardware.
Robotic Applications - These applications are based on combined parts of the
HomeLab kit. So after teaching basics with the kits it is possible to use more
complex scenarios for further education and for inseminating the more inter-
esting side of microcontroller programming, in the form of robotics. These
robots can be existing ones, provide by the course supervisor, or self-built
by student teams. In summer semester 2011 this was ran as a robotic com-
petition in Estonian bachelor class.
Supporting Material - The strength of the concept is the provided material in
form of a wiki based webpage, named as Network of Excellence, where broad
information about microcontroller programming and basics of mechatronic
principles are provided. In addition there was also developed corresponding
hands-on material and teaching books. The material incorporates practical
examples, theory, exercises, questions, discussions and project examples.
All modules are integrated into one package as a microcontroller blended learning
concept. The main idea of this concept is to integrate and emphasize e-learning
3Since 2007, the following partners were involved in the concept development: Tallinn
Technical Unversity (Estonia) Bochum University Of Applied Sciences (Germany),
Helsinki University of Technology (now Aalto University) (Finland), Kaunas Univer-
sity of Technology (Lithuania), Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Universit de
Technologie de Belfort-Montbliard (UTBM), Estonian Qualification Authority and
several SMEs and schools
6 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
Fig. 3. Blended Learning Concept overview
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 7
possibilities into the normal learning progress (face-to-face and self-education at
home as well as collaborational work over Internet in student teams) to create a
successful symbiosis of all three worlds in form of blended learning. As illustrated
in fig. 3 the connection of three different approaches in teaching microcontroller
technology are used. Initially, the concept was based only on the HomeLab kit
In the frame of Interstudy project a web platform was developed to inte-
grate HomeLab kit into a e-environment and to make the same hardware as
formally used offline in classes and labs accessible and programmable over the
Internet. The next step, undertaken in project MoRobE was to virtualize the mi-
crocontroller and all of its associated modules as a supplement for real physical
tangible labs. Since January 2011 a stable version of this virtualized controller
can be accessed by the DistanceLab.
The didactically link between the mentioned project results is to be seen
by the fact, that most integrated labs in the DistanceLab are using HomeLab
kit hardware components or are compatible to it (like VMCU). The mobile
robot solution, for example is completely realized by hardware from the kit.
Therefore it is possible to train in home and have more expensive experiments
(more motors and sensors in one lab) with the distance aspect overview of the
hardware, overview of the software, etc. in different languages.
In addition to this self-developed results consortiums approach was also to
integrate further external labs into the DistanceLab. The application into the
learning process and the course set-up [12] is not covered by this paper. The
next sections are introducing the tools and products utilized by the concept in
more detail.
4 DistanceLab
4.1 The first version
The developed DistanceLab solution is intended for educational and professional
use and was primary developed in the frame of life-long learning. It is composed
of a Web 2.0 rich Internet platform, where different remote and virtual labs are
integrated. In the first stage, the DistanceLab provided access to microcontroller
based systems, which can, but most not be based upon the HomeLab kit hard-
ware. In current development stage also external labs can be integrated, as far
as they can be interfaced using consortiums defined standards.
The DistanceLab is designed for facilitating direct programming or control-
ling of the connected devices. In case of programmable devices, this is realized
by using a programming editor and an automatically invoked compiling process.
This enables directly flashing programs to the connected devices over Internet.
Some examples for interfaced labs are mobile robots, specific versions of Home-
Lab kits with add-on modules for a specific purpose (e.g. automotive study
CAN-Module, LCD Display or a motor board) or the Virtual Micro Controller
Unit with its various modules.
8 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
Fig. 4. Distance Lab Environment
In case of real hardware labs, the user can monitor the behavior and control
the compiled program he wrote by accessing cameras showing the lab in real
time. The programming interfaces, together with the images of robot in different
configurations are shown in fig. 4. In case of virtualized labs, the user will see
the behaviour in a virtual world (like a 3D robot arm, or the emulated HomeLab
4.2 DistanceLab 2.0
As the first approach is somehow limited based on technology decisions, con-
sortium is currently working on an advanced approach. It is intended to inte-
grate the DistanceLab, Network of Excellence as well as further material into
a Webdesktop system, which will be app-based and can easily extended with
new functionality. Current conceptualization of this system is illustrated in fig.
5. The system will use the same technology base than the VMCU and there-
fore our current results can be integrated in a comfortable way. We intend to
extend the Webdesktop system by new applications, like a virtual companion
(the avatar in the lower right corner of fig. 5), based on knowledge assessment
techniques, which will provide useful hints for the users, based on aquired infor-
mation from the Network of Excellence and semantic analysis. It is the long-term
goal to provide accompanied to all real hardware labs also a virtual adaption of
the lab in addition. With tracking this approach, the first steps in a new lab can
be undertaken in the virtual version, by heading over to real hardware, as soon
as the course instructor is satisfied with the students learning outcome.
5 HomeLab kits
The Robotic HomeLab kit (see fig. 6) was developed by consortium, where both
authors participated. It is a mobile, ready to use small test stand packed into a
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 9
Fig. 5. Distance Lab 2.0 concept
Fig. 6. HomeLab kits
10 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
case, which can be connected to PC and operated in computer class, at home
or in working place. The aim of the kit is to provide a practical and effective
hands-on training. Students may combine various solutions on different levels of
complexity and functionality, based on the modules belonging to the kit. The
main feature of HomeLab kit is its mobility - the case is a small and compact
box and all modules with necessary tools are seated into that. Taken the current
development status into account, the HomeLab kit offers for example hardware
and exercises for 7-segment LED display, LCD (alphanumeric as well as graphical
one), sensors (potentiometer, infrared, ultrasonic, etc.), different motors (DC,
servo, stepper), as well as a networking module (for Bluetooth, Ethernet and
ZigBee), a CAN module and USB for direct connection to PC (for example
student home computer). Simple and easy to install software is used to connect
main controller to computer. This is particularly important because the student
can start practical experiments in school and then continue with self-learning at
home or even in workplace.
The HomeLab kit is assisted by a specific software library, enabling easy
accessing the modules and their functionality which is available as open source
for all users. More experiences users may abandon using it, but for beginners
utilizing the library makes it a lot easier to start with micro controller program-
ming. This library is extended by implementing new modules or labs, so it can
be used even for devices not consisting of HomeLab kit hardware, as far as they
are micro controller based.
In detail the following kits are available:
5.1 HomeLab Basic kit
This basic kit features an AVR ATmega2561 Development Board, including Eth-
ernet, SD card reader and integrated JTAG programmer. In addition the User
Interface Board, composed of buttons, LEDs, Graphical LCD, 7-segment indi-
cator is integrated to this kit.
In addition to the Controller and User Interface module, the kit consists of
multimeter for the basic measurements, power supply and USB cable. All needed
software for Windows and Linux operating systems are included together with
practical examples and different types of guides. The latest addition to the kit
is a live Linux USB stick which has preconfigured IDE and can be used in any
computer able to boot from USB without affecting the main system. This is
especially useful in case the kit is used in pubic computers, e.g. library. With
HomeLab Basic kit many exercise can be performed and this kit is usually enough
for the introduction courses. For more advanced courses like Robotics, Embedded
systems, etc. HomeLab Add-On kit may be necessary.
5.2 Sensor and Motor Add-On kit
This add-on kit consists of a Sensor module,Motor Module and a Communication
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 11
Robotic HomeLab Add-On kit is composed of most common functionality,
which are sensing, actuating and communicating, in robotics. Different types of
this functionality can be studied and tested with Add-On kit. Add-On kit re-
quires the HomeLab Basic kit as the main micro controller is included in Basic kit
but not in Add-On kit. Also User Interface module is often needed when working
with sensors, motors and communications. Together with Basic kit this is a per-
fect set of hardware tools for many different practical courses, like Mechatronics,
Embedded systems, Robotics, Practical Programming, Automation, etc.
The sensor module is equipped with an analogous sensor and low-pass fil-
ter combined board with on-board sensors (temperature sensor, light intensity
sensor, potentiometer and mic), a ultrasonic distance sensor and an infrared
distance sensor.
The Motor Module features, DC motor (w/ gear and encoder), RC servo
motor, Stepper motor (bipolar or unipolar stepper) and with an motor driver
The communication module is based on a communication board, with 2xRS232
and a ZigBee or Bluetooth wireless unit
5.3 HomeLab additional modules
Additional modules are not packed into the cases but can be directly connected
with HomeLab Communication module. Practical examples and exercises are
provided for these modules. For instance, the following add-on modules are avail-
RFID module , offering a high frequency RFID reader with several different
RFID tags.
Machine Vision Module , a camera which can be used with CMUcam3[13],
the Open Source Programmable Embedded Color Vision Platform.
6 Virtual Labs
6.1 Virtual Microcontroller System
The Virtual Microcontroller System (VMCU)[14] is the newest innovative result
embedded into the blended learning concept. It is based on Avrora [15, 16] with
an Ext GWT [17] based GUI. It is a fully functional, but virtual microcontroller
running in any modern web browser4, with JavaScript enabled, supporting latest
4Consortium tested so far: Chrome starting with version 11; FireFox starting with
version 3; Internet Explorer starting with version 8
12 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
Java version (at least build 1.6.0.x). It can be used for educational purposes,
as well as for prototyping. The system is illustrated in fig. 7 in the lower left
corner, showing a virtualized LCD display and the Studyboard developed during
Interstudy project. The picture also shows the real hardware, the VMCU is based
upon in the upper left corner.
Fig. 7. Virtual Microcontroller System and Virtual Robot Arm Lab
The VMCU is a valuable and useful extension of the concept. Its main use
is the education of beginners in micro controller programming. But in fact it is
possible to use it for any task that could be undertaken with the HomeLab kit
basic modules. Compared to real hardware it is easy to set up new instances
of the VMCU quite easily, without any extra costs (expect server capacity).
So many students may use the virtual solution, without any need to buy more
expensive hardware for all workstations.
In current stage there are the following add-on modules available for the
VMCU unit.
User Interface Module version 3.0
User Interface Module version 5.2 with a Graphical display
User Interface Module version 5.2 with an attached LCD display.
7-Segment-Display Module
GFX Display Module
LCD Display Module
All User Interface modules are featured by a 7-segment-display, three buttons
and three different-colored LEDs, which enables working with the system for
several weeks on student level, or for half an year on lower educational levels[19,
The VMCU is embedded in a website, developed by utilizing Ext JS 4[20]
to build a fully dynamic Ajax-enabled web platform, as illustrated in fig. 8. The
platform features an integrated development environment (IDE) an user can
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 13
use for directly programming online. This JavaScript editor offers all necessary
functionality (1), like Select Files (for loading files), Save File or Save & Compile
what is needed for programming embedded devices, such as the VMCU. There
was also a console feedback implemented (3), to give the user feedback when
there occured any errors in the compiling process. These occuring errors are
even highlighted in the editor, as it is habitual for users in an offline IDE. Each
user has his/her own directory to store source code in (4). These are stored
in the section User Files. To enhance working with the virtual controller, the
course-supervisor can upload additional files, which will show up in the section
Example Files. These files can only be loaded into the editor and saved to a new
name, but not overwritten. So a supervisor may add hints or exercise solutions
for the students.
Fig. 8. Overview of VMCU environment
The system also allows to load binary files into the virtual controller (5), so
any additional development environment may be used for development. As the
Virtual Micro Controller Unit behaves like real hardware, it makes no differences.
Another goal we track was to made the internal behaviour of micro controller
or embedded system more transparent to the user. Therefore we included a
console output of the internal performance of the controller, so it is easy to see
which pins are connected and how they are adressed.
Currently new modules and extensions are developed for the VMCU. In a
near-future version there will be a Physics Engine implemented for the whole
14 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
system, available for Virtual Lab users. This engine can be connected to vir-
tual sensors, which are them selves interfaced to the VMCU. Currently a PTC
and a NTC sensor for temperature measuring is in test status. The data these
sensors are reading are passed forward from the Physics Engine, which can simu-
late natural environmental values, like air pressure, humidity and light intensity
amongst others. These data may be set up as values over time, or following a
function over time. The general idea about this is to build a robotic 3D simu-
lation environment, which is also based on the Virtual HomeLab kit hardware
(for instance a moving robot), but with simulated environmental physical values
in addition.
6.2 Virtual Robot Arm Lab
In addition, as illustrated on the right side of fig. 7 two Robot Arm Labs are
currently in development. While the hardware robot arm (upper right corner) is
already available online, the virtual version is currently tested internal, before it
will be publicly made accessible in the DistanceLab. This lab makes also use of
the VMCU technology approach. With this robot arm lab, real-life situations like
picking and deposit of pieces or swiveling can be trained by students. It is not
a substitute for working with professional robot devices, and it does not intend
to be. From consortium point of view it is the right choice to introduce machine
control to learners. When the virtual robot arm version is fully functionable, the
next step is to simulate the behaviour of a real industry robot arms, followed by
more complex devices.
7 Supporting Material
There are different kinds of supporting material currently existing:
1. Network of Excellence (NoE) [21]
2. Hands-on-lab exercise book [22]
3. Learning situations for vocational education [18]
4. Textbook ”Microcontroller & Mobile Robotics” [23]
5. Textbook ”Integrated Systems & Design” [24], as a result of project In-
terstudy, covering current issues in Mechatronics. This book will not be
described further in this paper.
7.1 Network of Excellence
The Network of Excellence consists of a forum for discussions and an encompass-
ing wiki page. These collaborative tools have to be seen as the main educational
material. The wiki page is a supportive environment for students and teachers
using the Robotic HomeLab kit. Partners participating are offering learning ma-
terial and full set of methodologies for the teaching and self-education of AVR
microcontroller technology (where the HomeLab kit consists off). Additionally
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 15
information about the ARM-CAN HomeLab kit or AVR-CAN kit can also be
found there.
The page is offering a versatile set of practical examples, about e.g. digital
input/output, indicators and displays, sensors and motor control. Additionally
the website has a special section for the teachers, which includes the teacher
training material, and most important - the exercise solutions and answers of
revision questions. In the Robotic HomeLab Community the consortium intends
to have all learning material and also the teaching methodologies directly acces-
sible for interested learners and teachers, as well as ready-made examples about
teaching courses for the vocational schools, to apply the developed solutions di-
rectly in school, what is the main strength of our approach. The overall page is
designed as a multi-language website, with current translations to English, Es-
tonian, German, French and Lithuanian, where English is base language for all
further translations. Next foreseen language is Turkish and Russian language.
The strength of the this website is the amount of supporting teaching aids,
administrated from teachers and developers from different European countries,
and therefore the influence of various cultures, level of knowledge or styles of
teaching, which leads to a (nearly) complete set of material.
7.2 Other material
Learning situations During the frame of project MoRobE [5] a full didactic
concept of learning situation, with full methodology was developed. This learning
situation makes use of the HomeLabs as well as VMCU and integrates them in
a real-world scenario of a injection molding facility, where the HomeLab kit
controller board with interfaces add-ons monitors the system behaviour.
”Microcontroller & Mobile Robotics” Based on content of the NoE a new
textbook (”Microcontroller & Mobile Robotics” [23]) was provided to support
students and self-learners in keeping their learning motivation. The textbook is
built with references to the fundamentals to understand the topic discussed in a
specific chapter. So a student may directly start with writing to the LCD display
chapter, looking up necessary background information from other parts of the
book. Currently this textbook is available in Estonian and English. A German
version will be published soon.
8 Robotic Applications
The whole concept designed as illustrated in fig. 3 intends to use the same
hardware even for more complex programming tasks, like a moving robot. Build
on the HomeLab kit hardware consortium developed robots using only modules
which belong also to the other material we provide. Thus students can train on
the VMCU, after those using specific modules from the HomeLab kit leading
to complex programming by including several modules attached to the micro
controller. A prototype concept of the robots used in our concept is shown in
fig. 9.
16 Comprehensive Blended Learning Concept for teaching Micro Controllers
Fig. 9. Robotic Application
9 Conclusion
The paper has introduced all parts of the blended learning concept and gave a
comprehensive overview about the project results of latest European projects
carried out by project consortium. Currently project MoRobE ended and we are
starting a new project in a similiar field, working on enhancing the education of
embedded systems. For further research, consortium is currently planning to re-
search and develop an open, standardized interface to easy plug-and-play remote
laboratories into the educational process. This purpose should be realized by for-
mulating a new architecture called ”Laboratory as a Service” (LaaS), which will
establish a generic method to integrate existing experiments and laboratories
using a semantic description of devices and/or labs. This method includes also
research on user interfaces for the specific pedagogical contexts of our target
groups, mediating the complexities of creation and usability of distance exper-
iments. The concept intends to develop also virtual labs, so students may gain
knowledge interactive experiments, which are virtual ones, before heading over
to the real hardware. Of course this will be only carried out for a limited subset
of labs.
The labs should be enabled to be included into any target platform or medium
(like mobile devices) supporting the new open standard. In addition to this re-
search it is planned to interface widely-spread eLearning platforms, like Moodle
or Blackboard. On one hand it is intended to create the mentioned open stan-
dard, which enables the lab integration in any kind of ”product” (for e.g. mobile
devices, any kind of software and websites), on the other hand there is also
need of one common platform which integrates all developed products. Thus
this generic platform for this project will be a wide-scale web platform, behav-
ing like an ordinary Desktop system, but running in any modern web browser -
This approach is similiar to the one illustrated in fig. 5, but more advanced. This
platform has to be seen as the over spanning tool to access labs and also other
included learning tools. In addition the platform is intended to be used for Eu-
rope wide lab sharing between partner institutions, offering e.g. a comprehensive
booking system and user management for large-scale networks.
Comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching micro controllers 17
Acknowledgments. Most parts of the solution are developed and implemented
by the support of the EU, Leonardo Da Vinci projects [3–5, 7]. A part of the
work is funded by the Estonian Science Foundation Grant No. 8652.
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... Programming is an important new literacy in todays digital age. Microcontroller programming is a basic skill required to learn robotics which is compulsory to ensure quality and continuous improvement in these fields [1]. However in Malaysia, microcontroller subjects are only taught to undergraduate electronic engineering students [2]. ...
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In the era of the IR 4.0, the use of information technology among school students is widespread but students are not proficient in computer programming. To compete in the digital world, students need to be exposed to computer programming in order to produce computer programming experts. Integrating computer programming into the school curriculum can improve students literacy of computer programming but adequate computer programming skill among teachers are quite limited. Therefore, the development of microcontroller instructional teaching module which could address this problem is needed. This development aims to develop the module using Design and Developmental Research (DDR) approach. Need Analysis phase in DDR is discussed in this article. The phase consists of identifying the level of knowledge, attitudes and practices of teachers about microcontroller and to obtain the views and opinions of the teachers on the developmental needs of microcontroller teaching modules. The type of microcontroller and the programming language to be used in the microcontroller module also identified. The results of this study are important to ensure that the design and development of an instructional module for microcontroller education are implemented and have a positive impact on increasing the programming literacy level among secondary school children.
... Secondary target group was vocational education teachers and students. [2]. In the trainings the hands-on approach is prevailing. ...
Technical Report
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RESEARCH REPORT ON GOOD PRACTICES Robotics as blended learning approach for training A " good practice " can be defined as follows: A good practice is not only a practice that is good, but a practice that has been proven to work well and produce good results, and is therefore recommended as a model. It is a successful experience, which has been tested and validated, in the broad sense, which has been repeated and deserves to be shared so that a greater number of people can adopt it. In the following report we want to share good practices and successful pedagogies for robotic education from different European countries. Main focus is Estonia, Finland, Sweden and United Kingdom.
... Where most approaches2223242526 focus on a single lab integration, the authors in2728 suggest a "Service Oriented Laboratory Architecture" approach. From the interoperability perspective, the authors have tested and proved the possibility of sharing remote experiments between different institutions [29] , as did the consortium of the author of this article30313233. Currently, there is very little evidence for significant sharing of distance lab hardware between different institu- tions [34] . ...
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This article is introducing latest developments and trends in remote and virtual technologies and their ap-plication in engineering education. The author gives an overview about the potential of utilizing remote engineering in engineering research, education and professional train-ing, focusing on different kinds of technological characteris-tics. In conclusion, possible ways of further advancement are presented.
... Both technologies are accessible through a remote and virtual distance lab platform, named VAPVoS. This system is conceptually fully compatible with the distance lab approach presented in [3] [15] and [16]. However components in these advanced educational platforms are built up on virtual and real hardware which are combined with ICT systems to allow remote access to controller programming feature and visual feedback. ...
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Education in the field of embedded system programming became an even more important aspect in the qualification of young engineers during the last decade. This development is accompanied by a rapidly increasing complexity of the software environments used with such devices. Therefore a qualified and solid teaching methodology is necessary, accompanied by industry driven technological innovation with an emphasis on programming. As part of three European projects regarding lifelong-learning a comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching embedded systems and robotics was developed by paper authors. It comprises basic exercises in micro controller programming up to high-level student robotic challenges. These implemented measures are supported by a distance learning environment. The programming of embedded systems and microcontroller technology has to be seen as the precursor for more complex robotic systems in this context, but with a high importance for later successfully working with the technology for further professional utilization with these technologies. Current paper introduces the most novel part; the online accessible Virtual Micro Controller Platform (VMCU) and its underlying simulation framework platform. This approach conquers the major existing problems in engineering education: outdated hardware and limited lab times. This paper answers the question about advantages of using virtual hardware in an educational environment.
Control Theory serves as a fundamental background for a number of popular paradigms, including the cyber-physical one. The contents have been standardized over the decades of teaching, but new digital technologies and market practical skills demand to raise the questions on how the course is to be taught. The goal of the report is to share the results of 3 years (2015–2018) of experimenting on the transition from classical to project-based blended design of the Modern Control and Automation course. The course is part of the curricula of the SPbPU MSc degree programme “Management of Innovative Processes (Innovatika)”; 75 students were taught. Now, the course is represented by online and offline studying of the basic theoretical aspects and hands-on development of a hardware device in a project group. Each element of the course, its three-year evolution, analysis of the collected data, results of surveys and recommendations for adaptation of the used tools for teaching control theory in the frames of another educational program or university are described in the article.
Conference Paper
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This paper presents one of the successful co-operation activities during last 10 years which is initiated by conference series REM - Research and Education in Mechatronics. Projects are dealing mostly about innovative educational tools and learning materials in mechatronics. Several innovative solutions like Distance- and VirtualLab are created as well as attractive Robotic HomeLab kit. In addition to project activities the cooperation has led to successful Ph.D thesis, other EU projects and friendship.
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In the current paper the design-centric approach for mechatronics and smart product design is presented. The novel aspect of the proposed solution is a comprehensive learning concept and environment which includes remote labs, mobile hardware, methodology, learning material and web environments. The whole concept supports fast and student-oriented learning process for acquiring knowledge and practical skills of integrated systems. The concept is applied into practice in the course of several stages. The most recent case study is described in this paper and the course setup proposed. The feedback from students indicates the time spent by the student on the activity, when the course follows the proposed concept. It is apparent that students spend considerably more time than the curriculum requires. At the same time, workload of the supervisor is lower. However, the quality and learning outcomes are higher than those of previous related courses, but without using novel technologies. In the current paper special attention is paid to remote and virtual labs related to the proposed learning concept.
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Education in the field of embedded system programming became an even more important aspect in the qualification of young engineers during the last decade. This development is accompanied by a rapidly increasing complexity of the software environments used with such devices. Therefore a qualified and solid teaching methodology is necessary, accompanied by industry driven technological innovation with an emphasis on programming. As part of three European projects regarding lifelong-learning a comprehensive blended learning concept for teaching embedded systems and robotics was developed by paper authors. It comprises basic exercises in micro controller programming up to high-level student robotic challenges. These implemented measures are supported by a distance learning environment. The programming of embedded systems and microcontroller technology has to be seen as the precursor for more complex robotic systems in this context, but with a high importance for later successfully working with the technology for further professional utilization with these technologies. Current paper introduces the most novel part; the online accessible Virtual Micro Controller Platform (VMCU) and its underlying simulation framework platform. This approach conquers the major existing problems in engineering education: outdated hardware and limited lab times. This paper answers the question about advantages of using virtual hardware in an educational environment.
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This paper describes an integrated solution for intelligent robotic and mechatronics subject study. The proposed concept provides the comprehensive set of tools and methodology by exploiting the most contemporary technology. However the traditional learning aids, like course textbook and lab guides are not excluded. The solution is fully developed and implemented in several educational institutions around Europe. In addition this paper gives an overview about the components of the overall concept and introduces briefly the learning process. Upcoming actions are pointed out in the last chapter.
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Computing and communication technology has had a significant impact on the engineering education system. This technology has improved online and collaborative learning. Besides that, it improves the students learning experiences. One of the distinguishing elements of engineering education is the laboratory requirement. In this paper, we discuss the current trends and key issues in virtual laboratories-simulation environment laboratories and remote laboratories via the Internet. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Comput Appl Eng Educ 17: 108–118, 2009; Published online in Wiley InterScience (; DOI 10.1002/cae20186
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This article describes a new way of teaching adopted at the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED) that uses dynamic and interactive simulations in a stand-alone or Web-based environment to permit control engineering students to do practical work at a distance. The article focuses on how this new stand-alone experimentation environment maintains a clear separation between the graphical experimentation interface, developed in Java, and the math and simulation engine. By constructing the environment in this fashion, the math engine can be replaced with a different one or with a real plant, or can even be ported to a remote server. A Web-based, multiuser virtual lab is also possible without the necessity of reprogramming the experimentation interface code. Other differences with respect to tools are the dynamic simulations, the user interactivity, the generation of new experiments as goals change, and the opportunity to practice with classical or advanced control strategies in different plants: a heat exchanger, a tank, a distillation column, or an inverted pendulum
Current Internet-based technologies allow traditional control laboratories to be supplemented with remote or simulated experimentation sessions, which holds much promise for distance learning institutions. The authors describe a complete virtual and remote laboratory for the three-tank plant, a nonlinear multiple input/multiple output control system that students can run from a computer connected to the Internet. The implementation of their laboratory is an example of the integration of open source software tools: running the experiment on the student's computer requires only a Java-enabled Web browser. This article shows examples of laboratory assignments that the authors' students must complete for a course on system identification and control.
Advances on remote laboratories and e-learning experiences
  • Lus Gomes
Gomes, Lus and Garcia-Zubia, Javier, eds (2007) Advances on remote laboratories and e-learning experiences. In: International Meeting on Professional Remote Laboratories, 16-17 Nov 2006, Bilbao, Spain. University of Deusto, Bilbao. ISBN 978-84-9830-077-2.
Avrora - the AVR simulation and analysis framework
  • B L Titzer
  • B.L. Titzer
Hands-On Lab Exercises
  • M Hellgren
  • R Sell
  • S Seiler