The University of Iowa

CS:4980 Foundations of Embedded Systems


Course Description

This course gives an overview of the principles underlying the design and analysis of embedded systems. These are software systems that interact with the physical environment, typically to control the behavior of physical devices. Such software can be found in a rapidly increasing variety of physical systems, from smart appliances to medical devices to automobiles. An understanding of embedded computation focuses on the continuous dynamics of the physical world, the reactive nature of the interaction of embedded software components with their environment via inputs and outputs, different ways of communication among components, and requirements concerning safety, timeliness, stability, and performance. Developing techniques and tools for approaching the design, analysis, and implementation of embedded systems in a principled way is an active area of research. This course seeks to give students a coherent introduction to this emerging field.


Tue and Thu, 2:00pm - 3:15pm, 351 IMU.


Prof. Cesare Tinelli
201D MLH
(319) 335-0735
cesare-tinelli + @ +

Office hours: Tue 3:30pm-5:30pm, Wed 2pm-3:15pm, and by appointment.

Teaching Assistant

Ruoyu Zhang
201N MLH
(319) 335-0713
ruoyu-zhang + @ +

Office hours: Mon 9:00am-11:00am, Thu 9:00am-10:00am and by appointment.


Officially: CS:2230 or CS:2110 or equivalent.

In practice: The course will requires a level of mathematical maturity commensurate with either ECE:3600 (Control Systems) or one of the Computation Theory requirements of the BS program in Computer Science. It is suitable for students who have or are pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering.

Web Sites

Most of the information about the class, including handouts and assignments, will be available from the class web site:

We will also use Piazza, a class discussion service highly catered to getting students help fast and efficiently from classmates as well as the teaching staff:

Finally, we will use ICON for homework and grade posting and for homework submissions.

Students are expected to check both the class web site and the Piazza discussion board on a regular basis (at least every other day) for announcements regarding the course.

Textbook and Readings

The required textbook is

    Principles of Cyber-Physical Systems by R. Alur. MIT Press, 2015

A copy of this book is on reserve in the Engineering Library.

Additional reading materials will be made available on the course web site as needed.

Computer Accounts and Software

It will be helpful to use your account on the CS lab machines because they will have a working installation of software tools we might use in the course. Instructions on how to access those machines, on-site or remotely, and use the installed software will be provided on the course website.

Although you are welcome to use your own computer for course work, you are responsible for installing any necessary software. We regret that will not be able to provide assistance for any problems with your own installation.

Homework Assignments

A few exercises will be given during the course of the semester, covering the material from the textbook and the lectures. These exercises are required but will not be collected or graded.

For each main topic there will be a graded homework assignment to be done individually.


There will be a course project to be done in small teams. Each student in a team will be expected to complete a similar amount of work and to contribute equally to the final project. Students will be asked to submit an evaluation of how well they and their teammates performed as team members. Each evaluation is confidential and will be be incorporated into the calculation of the project grade.


There will be one midterm and one final exam. The midterm will be during class time. The final exam will be as per the university finals schedule.


The weighting of items in grade determination will be the following:

Item Weight
Homework Assignments 30%
Project 10%
Midterm 25%
Final Exam 35%

The following cutoffs will be used to determine letter grades. In the ranges below, x stands for your total score at the end of the semester. Final scores near a cutoff will be individually considered for the next higher grade. Plus(+) and minus(-) grades will also be given; their cutoffs will be determined at the end of the semester.

Score Grade
88 <= x < 100 A
75 <= x < 88


60 <= x < 75 C
50 <= x < 60 D
00 <= x < 50 F

Grades are not curved in this course. It is theoretically possible for everyone in the class to get an A (or an F). Your final grade depends only on your own final score and not on that of others.

Academic Excellence and Workload

The University of Iowa expects students to set high academic standards for themselves and work hard towards achieving them. You can achieve true academic excellence only through dedicated work. An average workload of 6 hours a week besides class attendance should be considered the norm for this course. More effort might be needed depending on your background, predisposition and academic ambition.


Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. In particular, under no circumstances should you pass off someone else's work as your own. This also applies to code or other material that you might find on the Internet.

Graded Homework: Sharing solutions of graded homework between teams or copying someone else's work, including posted solutions from previous editions of the course, is not allowed. Doing that will result in a zero on the assignment and a report to the CS department's chair and the college.
You are allowed and encouraged to discuss with students in other teams concepts and ideas that relate to the class and the homework assignments. However, it is important to ensure that these discussions do not lead to the actual exchange of written material.

Exams: The midterm and final exams are individual tests. Each student must be complete them without any help from others. Exams showing strong similarities and/or duplication will receive a fail grade and the students involved will be reported to the Department and the College.
If you are unclear about what constitutes academic dishonesty it is your responsibility to contact the instructors or consult the CLAS policy (online version). Be aware that repeated academic dishonesty offenses lead to suspension or expulsion from the University.

General Course Policies

Communicating with the Instructors: We welcome questions related to the course. Students are strongly encouraged to post their class-related questions on Piazza (publicly or privately, as appropriate) rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff. Questions sent by email will receive lower priority. We will try to answer all questions, posted or emailed, by the end of the following day.
We will occasionally send email announcements to all students in the class. Recall that you are responsible for all official correspondence sent to your Hawkmail address (see General CLAS Policies on electronic Communication below).

Assigned Readings: Students are expected to study all the material assigned as required readings, even if that material is not explicitly discussed in class or in the homeworks.

Additional Readings and Discussions: Students are encouraged to go over any specifically suggested readings and consult any relevant materials beyond those provided on the course's web site. They are also encouraged to discuss the course topics with their classmates. It is a genuinely helpful learning activity having to formulate one's own thoughts about the material well enough to express them to others.

Attendance: Students are expected to attend all classes. Their knowledge and therefore their grade depends on it. They are responsible for all announcements and material covered during class even if they did not attend.

Extra Credit: No extra-credit assignments or tests will be given on an individual basis (although they maybe given to the whole class).

Make-up Exams: Make-up exams will be offered only if there is a serious, documented reason for not being able to take a scheduled exam, and if the request is made at least a week before the exam.

Regrading: Students thinking a graded assignment or test has been misgraded and deserves a regrading are invited to let the instructor know. The instructor welcomes and will give full consideration to all well motivated regrading requests.