Embedded systems courses and labs teaching hardware and software design are a necessity in many technical university programs. Within these courses, students need to perform signal measurements on real hardware utilizing expensive and professional equipment. This implies that it would be advantageous for all students (full-time, part-time & distance learning) having access to the real hardware and the necessary equipment.
Due to OPES (One Platform for Every Student) it is ensured that students are equipped with embedded platforms. In order to develop their skills at home, proper measurement equipment is mandatory. Therefore, the tools to complete the exercises and assignments need to be available 24/7 to all students. To address this need of access to measurement equipment outside the university, a suitable toolkit is necessary. This toolkit should be affordable for the university to increase the availability of measurement equipment for every student. Furthermore, it should provide adequate functions and features to ease the successful completion of exercises and assignments. Finally, the toolkit should be scalable to ensure the integration of further functions and features. The hardware and software design should be available to the open-source community as well.
The University of Applied Sciences (UAS) Technikum Wien offers various courses dedicated to electronic engineering and embedded hardware & software design. These courses are provided in different degree programs such as full-time, part-time, and distance learning. Every course has its specific exercises and assignments. Depending on the degree program more or less tasks are intended to be done at home.
The traditional approach, during laboratory exercises dedicated to electronic engineering and embedded hardware & software design, is that students should complete their assignments within the presence phase. Within full-time study programs only a limited amount of time for laboratory exercises is available. Thus, it can not be ensured that students have enough time to complete their exercises qualitatively. The availability of a measurement equipment, which provides basic features and functions, would enable students to develop skills and expertise outside the university as well. The attendees of these courses are already, due to OPES, equipped with different embedded platforms. To be able to complete the assignments at home, it is mandatory that a suitable measurement equipment is available.
The availability of measurement equipment also supports handicapped students such as single parents and persons with special needs. To guarantee that every student can be equipped with a toolkit, it is necessary that the developed hardware and software is low-cost, open-source, operating system independent, scalable, available, easy to use and to maintain.
In order to extract a reasonable requirements specification for the measurement equipment (Signal-Toolkit), a course analysis was performed. The resulting requirements specification consists of different parameters such as frequency, voltage range, and channel count. This requirement specification was necessary, because digital and analog oscilloscopes are expensive and have many functions which are not required for daily usage. In this case, the university can not ensure that every student can be equipped with an oscilloscope.
The entire Signal-Toolkit is open-source which means students can access and modify the design data, specifications, and source code. Due to the fact that students use different operating systems and the Signal-Toolkit application should be platform-independent, Java is utilized as programming language. The user should not be overwhelmed with countless functions, but immediately be able to start with the measurements and signal analysis. This means that the student should be able to focus on solving a given problem and not be held up by searching for the correct functionality.