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A French electronics company is testing its human-machine interface (HMI) programming environment with high school and college students.

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A French electronics company is testing its human-machine interface (HMI) programming environment with high school and college students.

By Valérie LECONTE, Production Manager at AIM-PLC, France

It is difficult to talk about the world of education or new pedagogical approaches when you have been in the professional world of digital and embedded systems for 40 years. However, we gain a certain distance from the needs and skills of users by offering appropriate and relevant development tools.

We said to ourselves, “What is costing a business dearly these days? "

These are undoubtedly the development costs.

The development time to get a product to market is time consuming. Our team naturally turned to a solution to facilitate the programming environment and make the tool more intuitive.

 

And this is where our thinking leads us to draw a parallel with young users and the world of education. We offered our development tool to middle school and high school students to audit the product. Some had basic programming skills, others didn't. Skill levels were highly variable, with some young people experiencing real academic difficulties and others less.

Some expressed interest and motivation in the idea of handling a product that allows the creation of an HMI (Human Machine Interface); others, more contemplative, were waiting for the first explanations to start.

In any case, all without exception succeeded in programming. They took pleasure in developing applications and above all validated new knowledge, each in their own way, at their own pace and with their energy.

Each program was different from one student to another, each application developed was a personal source of inventiveness.

 

Computer skills development

In our precise framework, where we use a development environment, we use several tools: a software suite which is used to configure a "target" on the one hand and to program it on the other hand, then a hardware tool, a kit, which allows you to download the programmed application and to simulate this application.

In this development of the computer program, several concepts will be implemented and worked on:

  • The algorithmic;
  • The programming language (in our case, graphic programming, Grafcet, C language);
  • The programming architecture (editor, compiler, simulator, debugger).

 

The advantage of having a development kit associated with the program is also allowing young people to understand notions of electronics.

What is a development kit? An electronic card with an active intelligent organ, called a microcontroller. We have chosen the STM32 family from ST Microelectronics - 12-bit discrete and analog inputs and outputs, a relay, a buzzer, ROM, RAM… All these electronic components take on meaning and have a concrete utility for the young developer who uses them.

 

Create an HMI by visualizing what you want to program

Thanks to the kit's touch screen, the student immediately sees his program and corrects himself.

While some find it difficult to program and choose the right functional blocks to respond to a given problem, others have real skills in creating intuitive and ergonomic interfaces.

And for those who want to go further, they can create their website embedded from their application in a few clicks.

There is something for everyone, their motivation to complete the project.

 

Each student always arrives at a result, there are no situations of failure. He sees, he hears, he manipulates, the work becomes rewarding. There is no limit in terms of project, young people are only limited by their imagination.

This type of environment opens up curiosity, develops autonomy, encourages those who want to seek other technical innovations and better understand the digital world that surrounds them.

 

Numbers

A few figures, however, around thirty young college and high school students have programmed with our product. In a maximum of half a day, everyone programmed an application that met the specifications. From a problematic around a thermal regulation project, some have branched out into the creation of the Hangman program.

The development environment and the kit were widely chosen and praised during an ENSEA Hackathon, in Cergy, France. 24 hours of development to respond to a problem and deliver its prototype, the subject was: "Embedded systems serving the environment".

Many of the proposed solutions, such as connected trash cans, a stand-alone greenhouse, a connected pantry against waste, AYCO a smart companion, and many other very ingenious projects, were able to use our development kit associated with 3D printers to satisfy the constraints of the subject.

 

Created for professional users and made available to schools

Finally, by wanting to create a product that reduces the development time of professional users by 10, we have also given the possibility of creating lots of small projects that can be exploited at different scales, especially in schools.

All the resources made available by the product are very suitable for teaching in the very promising field of digital technologies.

 

Come on, we won't say the name of the product, but we will be happy to give you a remote demo to explain its characteristics. Do not hesitate to contact Mr. Nicolas Chaffard: nchaffard@aim-plc.com.

 

About'AIM

AIM is a French manufacturer, located in Grenoble in the French Alps, whose core business is the development of embedded hardware and software. It is a service provider that offers IT solutions in the field of instrumented real-time kernel, programming languages, development chains, network protocols and associated drivers.

 

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