The computer uses a microprocessor to do its work. This unit outlines design and manufacture of chips and the role they play in many of today's technologies. The online lessons, readings, and videos introduce students to:
Goals and Objectives
Time to Complete Online Lessons: about 60 minutes
Some example instruction cards:
This handout teaches students the need for clear, concise instructions when programming a task for a microprocessor or "robot." Working individually, students write a set of step-by-step instructions for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Students then try to make sandwiches following each other's instructions. Or, a student or the teacher tries following one set of instructions in front of the entire class.
Fetch, Decode, and Execute
This handout teaches students the three steps a microprocessor uses to process each instruction it is given. It requires a set of index cards on which simple tasks are specified (such as "give this card to someone wearing glasses"). Students use a fetch, decode, and execute process in getting a card, reading it, and performing the instructed task.
This handout helps students experiment with the importance of order and precision in computer commands. Students program human "robots" to do simple tasks using four commands (stand, sit, walk, and turn). The microprocessor's fetch, decode, and execute cycle is also reinforced.
Bugs and Debugging
This handout expands on the lessons learned in the Taking Command handout. It adds conditionals to the repertoire of available commands and teaches students about bugs in software instructions and how to debug them.
How Clean Is Clean?
This handout helps students understand how small the circuits and transistors are on microprocessors. It also explains why working in such a small scale requires the circuits on microprocessors to be created in virtually dust-free environments. Students get to experiment with size relationships.
This handout teaches students about creating things (like microprocessor circuitry) in layers. Students use crayons, coins, and other objects to experiment with layers and masks.
Making a Complex Product
This handout teaches students how the probability of defects is a factor in the manufacturing process of a product like microprocessors.
Miracle of the Microprocessor
This handout (also found in the Technology and Society section) is an essay by Michael S. Malone, author of The Microprocessor: A Biography. It provides a wide-ranging perspective on the importance of the microprocessor as an invention and explains its significance in human history.
Making of a Silicon Chip
This handout (also found in the Technology and Society section) is an informative essay by Michael S. Malone, author of The Microprocessor: A Biography. Students get a detailed but easy-to-follow description of the simple materials and complex process by which microprocessors are manufactured.
Interactive White Images
The images linked below are pertinent to this unit. You can project the images on an interactive whiteboard and use them in class discussions or activities.