Course Brief

Unit Abstract 

An embedded system is a device or product which contains one or more tiny computers hidden inside it. This ‘hidden computer’, usually a microcontroller, is used to control the device and give it added ‘intelligence’. Embedded systems are a key aspect of modern engineering and are applied in areas as diverse as automotive, medical, and industrial, and in the home and office. In many cases,
embedded systems are linked together in networks. Embedded systems are the basis of a new wave of engineering design and practice, notably in machine-to machine communication and in the Internet of Things.

This unit builds on introductory knowledge students have already gained in electronic circuits. It develops their knowledge of computer hardware, focussing on the small, low-cost type of computer (i.e. a microcontroller), usually used in embedded systems. It then develops skill in devising circuits which operate external to the microcontroller and interface with it; generally, these relate to sensors, actuators, human interface or data transfer. In parallel with this, students will be
developing programming skills, writing programmes which download straight to the microcontroller and cause it to interact with its external circuit. Students will also explore the wider context of embedded systems, learning how they are applied in ‘hi-tech’ applications, in many cases revolutionising our ability to undertake certain activities.

Unit assessment will require the design, development, construction and
commissioning of an embedded system, meeting a given design brief; this will develop skills which are in much demand in industry. A written assignment, exploring one or more of the many fast-moving embedded system applications in use today, will also be completed.


  • This course is offered in 45 hours.