Cornell University’s Digital Systems Design course is taught on RP2040

Despite being not yet two years old, RP2040 is at university, and we couldn’t be more proud. Hunter Adams is a lecturer in electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University and has written his Digital Systems Design Using Microcontrollers course around our little chip. They grow up so fast.

With all due respect, this is one for the hardcore Pi-heads. I blog about a lot of whimsical stuff that everyone can enjoy but today is not one of those days. But you can’t argue with free Raspberry Pi content from the great Cornell University, can you?

What do you learn on an RP2040 course?

Lab work is central to this practical course. Students design digital systems using the RP2040-based Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller. Working in small groups, they design, debug, and construct different systems. It’s a Cumulative Design Experience (CDE) course, building on things learnt in the previous lecture to help you in the next one. Students employ their skills in coding, digital signal processing, analog circuits, control theory, computer graphics, robotics, and neural modelling.

hunter adams teaching at cornell university rp2040 course
Hunter in the middle with [one] appropriately clad Cornell student.
Photos by Simon Wheeler for Cornell University.

The entire lecture list is on YouTube so you can learn along in your own time, like a real-life Cornell student. Our favourite lesson title comes courtesy of lecture 11: Boids, Bees, and Synchronization Bugs. In it, students learn about creatures’ movement and migration behaviour, and how an artificial life program called “Boids” mimics the separation, alignment, and cohesion of different flocking animals, from birds to termites.

Meet the teachers

Hunter used to work as something called a Dragon Development Intern according to his LinkedIn. He started out at Cornell University as a student of physics, before moving on to aeronautical engineering.

hunter adams teaching at cornell university rp2040 course
Photos by Simon Wheeler for Cornell University.

Helping Hunter lead the course is Bruce Land. He does a pretty sweet number in loud shirts and is a “retired” lecturer, though still dabbles in hadware and software development courses for fun. You can have a watch of Bruce and his cool shirt in action here.


Berto, un huargo avatar

Goodness wow, this is indeed a full 14-week course, 2 lecture-hours a week. [Or a 9-week course, 3 lecture-hours a week, plus one lecture on a 10th week.]

Thank you for sharing this course! I indeed plan on digging in.

Ashley Whittaker avatar

It’s the reeeeeeal deal.

Berto, un huargo avatar

I just got done listening to the introductory lecture.

I anticipate going much slower than 16 to 20 hours of study and practice a week, hah. I anticipate I’ll spend quite some time catching up pre-requisites, for which these senior- and masters-level students have already dedicated some intense semesters.

Even so! I look forward to this deep dive of the Pi Pico. The idea of modeling bird & insect sounds, or of implementing algorithms of swarming behavior with this microcontroller, is kind of mindblowing to me.

I also really can’t say no to the goal of invoking a state of play for learning, either. Although, yeah, I’d imagine that’s generally the goal with anyone getting into microcontrollers, hah.

Larry Washburn avatar

I am very impressed with your course. Kudos for sharing it to the public, I will do my best to learn, absorb and hopefully transfer some of this to freshman students.

Tom avatar

I’ve been meaning to have a closer look at the Pico with the idea of making a controller for wind/pv/battery and inverter control for renewables but have been unsure if it was up to it. This will help enormously!

Christian avatar

Really great! Is it possible to download the lectures? – I have ultra slow internet at home.

Joe avatar


Kevin avatar

If you check out Hunter Adams website now you will see a plothora of RP2040 project progress for the students of Cornell University released 5 dys ago. Fascinating stuff!

Ashley Whittaker avatar

Yessssss. Good shout. I posted a link on social but forgot to come back and share it here.

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