Embedded systems building blocks

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Embedded systems building blocks (often called e-blocks) “are small circuit boards each of which contains a block of electronics that you would typically find in an electronic system. Each E-block performs a separate function as either an input sub-system, an output sub-system, or a processing sub-system. E-blocks can be snapped together to form a wide variety of systems that can be used for teaching and learning electronics and for the rapid prototyping of complex electronic systems.” (Wikipedia, retrieved 12:50, 13 July 2009 (UTC).

Various kits are very different. Also, different products target different populations, from Kindergarten to adult. Simpler versions made for kids (e.g. Crickets are often called tangibles. Many e-blocks / e-blocks systems are programmable.

See also Fab labs, another kind of hardware setup that is becoming popular in education.

The UC Riverside e-blocks

“The goal of the eBlocks project is to empower regular people, having no programming or electronics experience, to build basic useful electronic systems around the home, office, store, etc. To achieve this goal we are creating a set of embedded system building blocks - eBlocks - that are easily connect together to build a huge variety of basic but useful monitor/controller systems. The key to our approach is to add compute intelligence to components that previously had none - to sensors, switches, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), speakers, etc. Adding compute intelligence to those items was previously cost and power prohibitive, but extremely small, cheap and low power processing devices now make such addition possible. Ideally, people could simply connect such eBlocks together to build basic systems.” (eBlocks Home Page, retrieved 12:50, 13 July 2009 (UTC))

This system also includes a simular to model prototypes before building them.


“The Logidules are small plastic boxes which snap together, establishing simultaneously the power connections. They have in addition 4 logical signals per side (8 for a double-size box) which greatly reduce the wiring of bussed interfaces. The great advantage of logidules over Augat-like boards or over the racks found in many universities is that a logic symbol is visible; students are only required to handle essential wires (power supply and buses are connected automatically). The layout can grow at random in two directions and both contacts and wiring are reliable, due to the high quality connectors.” ([1], retrieved 13:13, 13 July 2009 (UTC)).



Connected with research labs (may also be commercially available)


  • Cotterell S. and Frank Vahid. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), April 2005. PDF
  • Cotterell, S.; Vahid, F.; Walid Najjar; Hsieh, H., "First results with eBlocks: embedded systems building blocks," Hardware/Software Codesign and System Synthesis, 2003. First IEEE/ACM/IFIP International Conference on , vol., no., pp. 168-175, 1-3 Oct. 2003 Abstract PDF (Access restricted).
  • Kharma, N., Caro, L. and Venkatesh, V. MagicBlocks: a Construction Kit for Learning Digital Logic, Computers in Education Journal, issue 2, April-June, 2003. pdf
  • Kharma, N., Caro, L., & Venkatesh, V. (2003). MagicBlocks: A construction kit for learning digital logic. Computers in Education Journal, 13 (2), 35-46.