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Raspberry Pi: An Effective Vehicle in Teaching the Internet of Things in Computer Science and Engineering

ABSTRACT

The Raspberry Pi is being increasingly adopted as a suitable platform in both research and applications of the Internet of Things (IoT). This study presents a novel project-based teaching and learning approach devised in an Internet of Things course for undergraduate students in the computer science major, where the Raspberry Pi platform is used as an effective vehicle to greatly enhance students learning performance and experience.

The devised course begins with learning simple hardware and moves to building a whole prototype system. This paper illustrates the outcome of the proposed approach by demonstrating the prototype IoT systems designed and developed by students at the end of one such IoT course. Furthermore, this study provides insights and lessons regarding how to facilitate the use of the Raspberry Pi platform to successfully achieve the goals of project-based teaching and learning in IoT.

AN OVERVIEW OF RASPBERRY PI

Figure 1. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

Figure 1. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer introduced in 2012 (Figure 1) with the intention to promote the study of computer science and related topics in schools and in developing countries. It is powered by an ARM-based processor, which operates on 700 MHz–1.2 GHz, with a memory of 256 MB–1 GB, depending on different models. The major components include HDMI, USB ports, Ethernet ports and SD card. The default operating system on a Raspberry Pi is Raspbian, a Debian-based Linux distribution; Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 can also run Window 10 IoT core.

PROJECT DESIGN

The success of any project-based teaching and learning paradigm lies in the appropriate design of the project series, through which the students are required to work. This project design should carefully take the students background into consideration. Designed projects should be challenging enough to keep students motivated and interested, but not so difficult that students cannot complete them. In this section, we first briefly describe the course outline and then present the design of a series of course projects to realize our project-based teaching paradigm. The hardware for the students to use includes CanaKit Raspberry Pi 2 Ultimate Starter Kit, Osoyoo Sensor Modules Kit, and Elegoo Sensor Module Kit.

PROJECT DEMONSTRATION

Figure 2. A prototype of the stock ticker system

Figure 2. A prototype of the stock ticker system

The stock ticker system monitors the dynamics of selected stocks and generates alert signals. The user of the stock ticker system can register an email to receive notifications when the stock price has reached a level of interest. Figure 2 shows the prototype of the system.

Figure 4. The prototype of the lock checker. The obstacle avoidance sensor is attached to the door frame, and the touch sensor is attached on the door handle

Figure 4. The prototype of the lock checker. The obstacle avoidance sensor is attached to the door frame, and the touch sensor is attached on the door handle

The lock checker is designed to monitor the status of the door lock and can be used to improve home security. The major system components are an infrared obstacle avoidance sensor and a touch sensor. The obstacle avoidance sensor is installed on the door frame (Figure 4) to detect the door’s opening or closing by sensing the presence of the door handle. The touch sensor is attached to the door handle on the inside so that it will be triggered if someone opens or closes the door from inside the room.

DISCUSSION AND EVALUATION

We believe that the appropriate design of the projects in PBL is critical to effectiveness of PBL approach itself. This is not only requires deep understanding of the scientific and engineering subjects that students are going to learn, but also needs clear understanding of students academic background. In our case the subject of internet of things naturally includes two important things: single node system and networking. The single node system is different from traditional computer organization, because it includes sensors and actuators.

CONCLUSIONS

In this paper, we present our experience using the Raspberry Pi platform as an effective vehicle to realize a successful project-based teaching approach in an Internet of Things class for undergraduate students. We feel that it is important to provide students with such an engaging environment for learning and experimentation, where the Raspberry Pi platform fits in very well. The outcome of the class was very positive; and the prototype systems developed by the students show great potential to be improved to be practical IoT products. We are pleased to observe that through our devised project-based teaching and learning paradigm in this course, the students have obtained the ability to finish IoT projects based on the Raspberry Pi platform, to come up with novel IoT ideas and to implement them successfully.

Source: Indiana University
Authors: Xiaoyang Zhong | Yao Liang

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