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Teaching Internet of Things (IoT) Literacy: A Systems Engineering Approach

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The Internet of Things (IoT) invades our world with billions of smart, interconnected devices, all programmed to make our lives easier. For educators, teaching such a vast and dynamic field is both a necessity and a challenge. IoT-relevant topics such as programming, hardware, networking and artificial intelligence are already covered in core computing curricula. Does this mean that fresh graduates are well prepared to tackle complex IoT problems? Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The problem is that IoT devices are complex systems, where software, hardware, and humans interact with each other. From this interaction, unique behavior and hazardous situations can emerge that might easily stay undetected, unless systems are analyzed as a whole. This paper presents two differently flavored courses that teach IoT using a holistic, system-centric approach. The first is a broad introduction to Pervasive Computing, focused on the intelligence of "Things". The second is an advanced course that zooms on the process of testing a software-intensive system. The key characteristics of our approach are : (1) teaching only the bare essentials (topics needed for end-to-end engineering of a smart system), (2) a strong, hands-on project component, using microcontroller-based miniature systems, inspired by real-life, and (3) a rich partnership with industry and academic idea incubators. Positive student evaluations gathered during the last five years demonstrate that such an approach brings engagement, self-confidence and realism in IoT classrooms. We believe that this success can be replicated in other courses, by shifting the focus on different IoT-relevant aspects.
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