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Students Benefit from Simulink Built-in Support for Low-cost Hardware Platforms

Students Benefit from Simulink Built-in Support for Low-cost Hardware Platforms
Simulink built-in support for prototyping, testing, and running models on low-cost target hardware, including Arduino®, LEGO®MINDSTORMS® NXT, and BeagleBoard.

With one click of a mouse, Simulink models can now run directly on Arduino, BeagleBoard, and LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT platforms. These popular, low-cost devices are widely used in engineering curriculum for hands-on teaching of robotics, mechatronics, audio signal processing, computer vision, and other engineering applications. Simulink models can run standalone on these hardware platforms or in tandem with a connected PC.

Simulink provides built-in support for the following platforms:

  • Arduino Uno and Mega 2560 microcontroller boards for robotics, mechatronics, and hardware-connectivity tasks
  • BeagleBoard-xM single-board computers for audio, video, and digital signal processing
  • LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system for robotics applications

This has a significant impact on engineering students and their professors. These hardware platforms are widely used in academia for hands-on teaching of robotics, mechatronics, audio signal processing, computer vision, and other engineering applications. Engineering students who learn control theory by creating and running models in Simulink can now easily test and tune their algorithms on hardware, without requiring embedded systems programming.

But this has bigger implications beyond just the classroom. The combination of Simulink and hardware is a Model-Based Design approach frequently applied across engineering disciplines, for applications that range from robotics to mechatronics design. Students using hardware to test and validate Simulink models and designs are gaining project-based skills and experiences that will be of value to future employers.

About the Platforms:

Arduino is an inexpensive, open-source microcontroller board that provides flexibility for introducing concepts such as control systems and mechatronics design. The Arduino platform has wide adoption and support from numerous websites, newsgroups, and user forums. Additionally, Arduino is easy to setup and use for many engineering projects.

BeagleBoard is a low-cost, single-board computer designed for digital signal processing. Using this hardware in a classroom environment can help students to understand the workflow for designing an embedded system without using manual programming. Students can also learn to apply industry-proven techniques for Model-Based Design to verify their algorithms work when connected to hardware.

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT is a robotics invention system that allows users to create and control robots using programmable motors and sensors. Features include:

  • Widely available robotics system with a processor, servo motors, and a variety of analog and digital sensors
  • Creation of programs running autonomously on the robot
  • Remote control using USB cable or Bluetooth
  • Open software architecture support for a variety of teaching approaches, including introductory programming, closed-loop control systems, and embedded systems

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