Students at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics will now have a chance to study a very unique course - one based on the EFM32 Giant Gecko kits. We got in touch with the creators of this course and asked them to share the inspiration and thoughts behind this project with the Silicon Labs community. 



Fig: Tamas Kovacshazy and Gabor Naszaly


Q: Can you introduce yourself to the Silicon Labs community?

Our names are Tamas Kovacshazy and Gabor Naszaly. We work at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Department of Measurement and Information Systems (BME-MIT). The Network Embedded System Laboratory (NESlab, our research group) has been heavily involved in teaching and the application of embedded operating systems for years. Tamas has been involved in electrical engineering related activities since secondary school as he attended a secondary vocational school, and later received his MSc degree in 1994 and PhD degree in 2008 from BME. Currently he is an Assistant Professor of BME-MIT and head of NESlab. Gabor received his MSc in 2006 also from BME, and he is a research engineer at BME-MIT.


Q: How did you come to know about Silicon Labs?

Our department has been heavily involved in teaching embedded systems. Therefore, some of our former students work for Silicon Labs as the company has an office in Hungary and they regularly introduce new devices to us.


Q: Can you explain about your course using Silicon Labs’ chips? Why did you decide to use our parts for your course?

The faculty has decided to revise the curriculum of B.Sc. in Engineering Information Technology program, in which the Operating System class (400-500 students taking part per academic year) class has been extended with laboratories including one with embedded operating systems. Silicon Labs donated some EFM32™ Giant Gecko Starter Kits to us some years ago, and therefore, we knew the hardware (EFM32™ Giant Gecko) and the software (Simplicity Studio) well. We also knew that FreeRTOS (it was selected for the laboratory) was supported on the platform. We approached Silicon Labs and asked if they would be interested in supporting our plan by donating additional hardware, and they responded positively.


Q: What will students learn over the duration of the semester?

Here are the main topics of the laboratory:

  • Introduction to the EFM32 Giant Gecko microcontroller and the development board,
  • Introduction to Simplicity Studio and the FreeRTOS port on it (included as an example),
  • Creating tasks in FreeRTOS,
  • Mutual exclusion using FreeRTOS,
  • Synchronization using FreeRTOS,
  • Communication using FreeRTOS,
  • Priority inversion and other typical errors and how to avoid them.

The laboratory is supported by some lectures also dealing with the peculiarities of embedded operating systems.


Q:  Any comments or additional information that you would like to share?

The EFM32™ Giant Gecko Starter Kit is an ideal tool to introduce students to microcontrollers and embedded software development including FreeRTOS like embedded operating systems. The teaching material we have developed for the Operating Systems class has also been applied to other subjects including Software Technology for Embedded Systems (MSc Electrical Engineering), Project Laboratory, and Parallel Even Driven Programming in Embedded Systems (BSc Electrical Engineering). We plan to acquire additional boards as we cannot support all of these teaching activities with the boards currently available at the department.


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