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Use of mobile embedded system as aid in education process

Authors:
  • Visoka tehnička škola strukovnih studija, Serbia, Subotica
  • Subotica Tech - College of Applied Sciences Subotica

Abstract and Figures

The development of science and the technology allowed significant enhancements to the methods in presentation of new materials to students. The processors and available memory in time has become smaller, faster, cheaper and power efficient. This development opened the way for the creation of the mobile devices with the graphical and sound interfaces in order to simplify and enhance the communication between the people and the machines. Additional adjustment to this hardware, primarily dictated by the software, led to the possibility of improving the methods and the speed in which the students absorb the new knowledge. The advantage of this approach lies in the fact that the anchor point in education was transferred from the mere observation of the lecture presentation to the active participation in the aggregation of the new material.
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Use of Mobile Embedded System as Aid in
Education Process
Bojan Kuljić
*
, Anita Sabo
***
, Tibor Szakáll
***
, Andor Sagi
****
Subotica Tech, Subotica, Serbia
* bojan.kuljic@gmail.com ** saboanita@gmail.com *** szakall.tibor@gmail.com **** peva@vts.su.ac.rs
Abstract — The development of science and the technology
allowed significant enhancements to the methods in
presentation of new materials to students. The processors
and available memory in time has become smaller, faster,
cheaper and power efficient. This development opened the
way for the creation of the mobile devices with the graphical
and sound interfaces in order to simplify and enhance the
communication between the people and the machines.
Additional adjustment to this hardware, primarily dictated
by the software, led to the possibility of improving the
methods and the speed in which the students absorb the new
knowledge. The advantage of this approach lies in the fact
that the anchor point in education was transferred from the
mere observation of the lecture presentation to the active
participation in the aggregation of the new material.
Keywords – education, embedded systems, lecture affirmation
I.
II.
INTRODUCTION
Every year more and more students are enrolled in
college. In parallel the technology becomes more and
more complex. This trend creates a very difficult working
environment for the teachers because in the same time
they have to cope with larger groups of students, keep up
with more complex teaching materials and achieve high
quality classes. Because of the time limitations the biggest
impact for students comes from the lack of extensive and
complex examples in the classes. In most cases the
students are introduced through simpler task examples and
are expected to complete more complex (time demanding)
tasks by themselves. This poses a great problem because
this way the teacher is not present when the student is
performing the most important and challenging work – the
comprehension of the class material. The presented
solution offers possibility for the students to go through
the class material without guidance from the teacher and
still receive help in their learning process.
The system has four parts:
touch sensitive LCD screen
RFID reader
Ethernet module
online database
In order to achieve a small size and user friendly
environment the touch screen was used for easy
interaction between the students and the electronic system.
The RFID reader was used so the teachers could easily
monitor the students’ activities and attendances. The
Ethernet module provided the link between the electronic
device and the database. The database was introduced into
the system so the teachers could monitor the progress of
every student.
EXAMPLE
As a small demonstration this section presents a simple
example from the Coding Theory applied to trellis as
shown in Fig. 1. This method allows the introduction of a
large amount of practical examples which demonstrate the
application of the theoretical principles on to the practical
tasks.
One of the advantages is the fact that tasks can be
scheduled in a way that every student starts from his or
her basic level and gradually the advances to the most
complex tasks. In order to successfully solve the trellis
and find the decoded sequence the student needs about
twenty pieces of information. At each stage the surviving
paths are labeled with solid lines and non-surviving ones
with dashed lines, and the maximal accumulated distance
is given next to corresponding node at each stage.
The decoded sequence is acquired by back tracing the
solid branches. The input and output sequence are given
below the diagram. In order to successfully solve the task
student has to calculate and write the correct values next
to every node in the trellis over the touch screen interface.
In the case of an error the student is presented with the
error screen where he or she receives the information
about that particular mistake. This way the student does
not have to know all the theoretical principles which
define the trellis – they will be presented with the
appropriate information when they reach the adequate part
of the task.
The benefit of this method is the fact that the student is
making a connection between theoretical rules and their
place in practical example which makes it far easier to
comprehend.
Figure 1.
III.
IV.
Trellis diagram
RFID SYSTEM
An RFID system consists of a tag, a chip, an antenna,
and a reader. The reader sends a signal that is picked up
by the antenna. The microchip responds by transmitting a
code back to the reader. Together they form a network
allowing for information to be sent and received via radio
signals between the tag and the reader. RFID has been put
to use in many applications, perhaps most successfully for
tracking inventory and for automatic toll-road payment
systems. Recently, RFID industry advocates have been
promoting the use of RFID for tracking and monitoring
students in schools as described in [1].
RFID
TAGS
There are three types of RFID tags. Active tags use a
battery to supply power to the circuitry of the chip,
allowing it to broadcast an outgoing signal receivable by
the reader. Passive tags, however, do not require a battery
to achieve communication. The reader in passive tags
sends out electromagnetic waves that induce a current in
the antenna. Semi-passive requires a battery to run the
chip, but communicate by drawing power from the reader.
Active tags can be read from 30 m or more. Passive tags
have a shorter reading range, but are significantly cheaper
as in [2]. For this project passive tags were selected.
The RFID transponder is able to transmit its data by
modulating the RF field of the reader. There are three
popular modulation schemes:
Manchester encoding
BiPhase encoding
PSK encoding
The transponder and reader use the individual cycles of
the RF field to synchronize the data transmission between
the two. The frequency of the synchronizing clock then
simply becomes the frequency of the RF field used. RFID
system clock frequencies vary according to the application
required. In low frequency, short distance sensing of tags
the typical band used is between 100-150 KHz. For longer
range sensing a system frequency of 13.56 MHz might be
used, or other frequency as the application requires. The
length of each bit is specified in terms of clock cycles.
Since this project uses the EM4100 protocol bit lengths
can be either 64, 32, or 16 clock cycles.
Figure 2.
V.
RFID development board
Our EM4100 compatible RFID transponder carries 64
bits of Read Only memory. This means that information
can be read from the tag but no data can be changed, or
new data written to the card once the card has been
programmed with the initial data.
When the tag enters the electromagnetic field
transmitted by the RFID reader it draws power from the
field and will commence transmitting its data. The first 9
bits are a logic 1. These bits are used as a marker sequence
to indicate the beginning of the string. As even parity is
used throughout the data this 9 bit sequence of 1's will not
occur at any other location in the string. This is followed
by 10 groups of 4 data and 1 even parity bit. Finally there
are 4 bits of column parity (even) and a stop bit (0). The
RFID tag then continues to repeat this string as long as it
has power.
RFID
READER
For the RFID reader we selected “RFid Reader Extra
Development Board” from mikroElektronika as shown in
Fig. 2.
An RFID reader contains a module (transmitter and
receiver), a control unit and a coupling element (antenna).
The reader has three main functions:
energizing
demodulating
decoding
In addition, readers can be fitted with anti-collision
algorithms which permit the simultaneous reading of large
number of tagged objects, while ensuring that each tag is
read only once.
During the test stage a number of disadvantages were
noticed such as:
while RFID readers and sensors are
comparable in cost to other security systems,
RFID tags and readers are still relatively
expensive
two tagged items placed against one another so
that the tags exactly overlay can reduce or
eliminate the tag’s readability
it is possible to compromise an RFID system
by wrapping the protected material in two to
three layers of ordinary household foil to block
the radio signal
VI. PROCESSOR
PLATFORM
To complete RFID reader design a digital processor
was needed which is a suitably fast microprocessor or
other computing devices in order to translate the encoded
data that streams from the EM4095 device, and to format
the data in a more useful form. Further, so that the digital
processor can then take appropriate actions based on the
data stored on the transponder. The choice was a new
processor from Parallax P8X32A called Propeller chip.
The Propeller chip is actually a multiprocessor because
it has eight processors cores called cogs. This made
implementation much easier because it was possible to
assign one core for every process. In the present case there
are four processes:
communicating with RFID transponder
taking appropriate actions based on the RFID
data
forming a packet and sending it over Ethernet
network
constructing a real time debugging report for
easier development and maintenance
The Propeller chip is a group of a so-called cogs
consisting of a tiny 32-bit processor with 2 KB (512 32-bit
long words) of RAM and a dash of specialized video/timer
hardware. The cog itself is an interesting mix of RISC and
CISC architecture. Conventional machines differentiate
between registers and memory and code and data. By
contrast, with the cog, everything is housed in the 2-KB
RAM. And while there are only 64 opcodes in the
instruction set there are a number of unique
embellishments. For instance, every instruction features
conditional execution based on the state of the zero and
carry flags. This supports deterministic straight-line
coding instead of jittery conditional branches. Similarly,
but on the other side of the coin, writing the results (flags,
destination register) of instruction execution is also an
Figure 3.
VII.
Serial Ethernet development board
option. In a sense, the conditional execution and optional
result writing means the chip really has 8,192 instructions
(e.g., 6-bit opcode + 4 bit conditional execution + 3-bit
optional result writing), although many permutations
would be of dubious use.
The Propeller is a symmetric multiprocessor, or SMP
(e.g. the cogs are all the same), using “shared memory” as
the communication medium. Said shared memory,
comprising 32 KB of RAM and 32 KB of ROM, is found
in the hub. Virtually all cog instructions execute in four
clocks, except conditional branches, which require four
(branch taken) or eight (not taken) clocks. That means the
performance for the entire Propeller chip approaches 160
MIP-s.
The programming language for Propeller chip is called
Spin. Like the cog architecture itself, Spin combines the
best aspects of earlier languages. The simplest explanation
of a Spin language would be that it is an interpreted semi-
object-oriented super assembler.
Since the Propeller chip is designed as a multimedia
processor it can handle a mouse, keyboard, audio, and
video, the latter including VGA, NTSC, and, with the
right crystal, even video broadcast as in [3].
NETWORK
PLATFORM
For network communication two approaches were
tested:
Ethernet controller based on XPORT
XP1002000-03R
Ethernet controller based on ENC28J60
Xport is a completely integrated network Ethernet
controller which is enclosed in the RJ45 port. XPORT
communicates with the processor through RS232 serial
link. This is a very elegant and fast solution because the
entire TCP/IP protocol is embedded in XPORT. At the
same time this is a very expensive solution.
The other solution was to use the low cost “Serial
Ethernet Extra Development Board” from
mikroElektronika as shown in Fig. 3. Microchip's
ENC28J60 is a 28-pin, 10BASE-T stand alone Ethernet
Controller with on board MAC & PHY, 8 Kbytes of
buffer RAM and an SPI serial interface. Unfortunately this
means that TCP/IP stack had to be designed from scratch
and implemented in software.
Figure 4. Online database organization
VIII.
IX.
DATA BASE
In order to have the insight into the data obtained over
the RFID network device the Apache web server listens
on the port 20001 where TCP/IP packets are received. Php
programming language is installed on the side of the web
server in order to parse the incoming data into the
MySQL data base. The gathering of the data from the port
is done by programming a socket in PHP language. In this
purpose functions socket_create, socket_bind,
socket_listen, socket_accept, socket_read and
socket_close were used.
In computer networking, an Internet socket or network
socket is the endpoint of a bidirectional inter-process
communication flow across an Internet Protocol-based
computer network, such as the Internet. Internet sockets
are an application programming interface (API)
application program and the TCP/IP stack, usually
provided by the operating system. Internet sockets
constitute a mechanism for delivering incoming data
packets to the appropriate application process or thread,
based on a combination of local and remote IP addresses
and port numbers. Each socket is mapped by the
operational system to a communicating application
process or thread. The web part of the system represents a
three layered client-server application. The architecture of
this application is presented in Fig4.
Internet technologies / techniques used for the
implementation:
XHTML as markup language;
CSS for styles;
PHP for server programming;
JavaScript for client programming;
MySQL as relational database management
system (RDBMS);
XML for data interchange.
This system introduces a number of advantages such as:
no time is wasted during classes on round call of
students.
since there is a web data base that can be
accessed through the unique RFID number, each
student can attach his comment on the quality of
the class he attended. This can later be used for
enhancements in the teaching material.
the web data base also allows the teachers to
enter various information like students’
impressions, remarks or achievements in the
class.
analysis of the data base makes it possible to
monitor the progress of each student so the
teachers could spot potential problems and help
the student before the exam.
the unique data base for all classes allows
detailed analysis of correlation between active
participation in the classes and successfully
passing the exam because in that case it is
possible to identify exactly which methods in the
classes are bringing the best results.
with the RFID card that can store data it is very
easy to simplify the students’ activities in the
school, e.g. the RFID card can be used for
borrowing books from the library or for booking
sessions in the computer rooms.
CONCLUSION
This paper presents a possible solution for the students
to improve their learning curve without direct supervision
from their teachers. One of the key benefits is the
possibility to monitor the exact part of the tasks where the
student had the most problems. This is especially
important in multidisciplinary courses like biomedicine
where, in order to solve the task, the students must
combine their knowledge in mathematics, informatics and
electrical engineering. This way it is very easy to spot the
exact area where the student had troubles coping with the
material so the teachers know precisely where to improve
on the material.
By utilizing a web data base it is possible to keep track
of students activities, establish a feedback of information's
from students, grading students performance before final
exam by the teacher and creating statistical report based
on various criteria's.
R
EFERENCES
[1] Li Yang, Lara J. Martin, Daniela Staiculescu, C. P. Wong,
Fellow,and Manos M. Tentzeris, “Conformal magnetic composite
RFID for wearable RF and bio-monitoring applications” IEEE
transactions on microwave theory and techniques, vol. 56, No. 12,
December 2008
[2] Joseph P. Melloy, “RFID – it’s appeal to higher education”
Proceedings of the 2006 ASCUE Conference, June 11-15, 2006,
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
[3] Tom Cantrell, “Turning the Core-ner” Proceedings of the
PACT’2006 International Conference on Parallel Architectures
and Compilation Techniques, September 16-20, 2006, Seattle,
Washington
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