Member Profile: Chris Coulston

Chris Coulston

Location: Erie, PA

Education: BA, Physics (Slippery Rock University), BS and MS, Computer Engineering (Penn State University), and PhD, Computer Science (Penn State University)

Occupation: Computer Engineering Professor, Penn State University

Member Status: Chris started reading Circuit Cellar 10 years ago, when he became a professor and wanted to learn more about embedded and mixed-signal systems. He says much of what he teaches has been gleaned from Circuit Cellar. He often has students from his embedded systems class read articles because it [provides] “invaluable insight into the practice of embedded systems design from working professionals in the field.”

Technical Interests: Chris says his career in academia has enabled him to study a range of fascinating subjects in areas as diverse as theoretical computer science to embedded systems design. He has worked on creating a neural network that mimics the neural function behind swimming and locomotion behaviors in the leech hirudo medicinalis, optimizing Steiner minimal trees, and recently designing embedded systems that leverage the photoelectric effect of LEDs to make them behave as sensors.

Most Recent Embedded Tech-Related Acquisition: To keep his embedded systems class current, Chris experiments with new technologies every year. This year, Chris says his students will interface a Microchip Technology PIC18F26K22 to a Raspberry Pi. “I am enjoying the broad support base of the Raspberry Pi and the excellent development tools provided by Microchip,” Chris said.

Current Projects: Chris is working on getting the Raspberry Pi to “play nice” with the PIC18F26K22 before making it a class assignment. Recently, he has also been working on replicating Jeff Han’s LED matrix multitouch display. “This is a neat project where Jeff took an off-the-shelf LED matrix and enabled it to sense where a user was touching the display. Hopefully you’ll see my version of this concept in these pages,” Chris said.

Thoughts on the Future of Embedded Technology: Chris thinks the industry will continue its trend of peripheral integration (hopefully) with an eye on simplifying the task of laying out PBCs. He notes that crossbar switches between microcontroller subsystems and the I/O pins enable cleaner and quicker PCB layouts and integration of new subsystems (e.g., DACs) reduces chip count and layout effort.

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