Information on BTEC National Engineering - Unit 6: Microcontroller systems for engineers set task

12 February 2018

This update is written to give you further information about Unit 6 task based external assessment and provide answers for the frequently asked questions about the unit.  

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Unit 6: External assessment 

Firstly, Unit 6: Microcontroller Systems for Engineers, external assessment task will be released on the 23 April 2018. Learners will have 12 hours in 5 consecutive days in a two week window set by Pearson to complete the task.

  • Supervised Window: 23 April 2018 – 4 May 2018
  • Submission deadline: 15 May 2018
  • The work is set and marked by Pearson
To help prepare your learners, we currently have the following on our qualification page.

We will be adding an additional set of SAM in Spring 2018.


1. Are you able to indicate to me which input, output and process components from the syllabus will definitely be needed as a requirement of the design brief for the exam question so that I can target my funding for specific component orders?

All the devices which could be used to complete one of the live tasks are listed in the unit specification and we will never require learners to use components that are ​not listed in the specification.

There are also many ways which the problems can be solved, so different input and output (I/O) devices would be used by different learners.​ In the unit specification we have sometimes given more than one type of I/O device for a particular application. For example, to measure temperature there ​are three possible devices that could be used: ​(a) ​thermistor​, (b) temperature sensor​, and​ (c) environmental sensor​ ​(temperature and humidity), but​ we would expect learners to have available and be able to use​ (practice with)​ only one of these types of ​temperature ​sensor, so you do not need to purchase all of the devices​ listed​.

Please​ ​also​ refer to the SAM and SMLW on our website here to see the types of​ I/O​ component that ​will typically be ​needed for a live assessment. You will notice the SAM and SMLW requires far fewer components to be used than listed in the specification, but over​ the next five years we ​do ​expect to use ​a ​greater range of I/O devices​​.​

2. Can learners use a 'budget' 08 Microcontroller from PICAXE for the task based external assessment?

The 'budget' 08 Microcontroller from PICAXE has 5 inputs/outputs which may not be enough I/O ports for learners to provide a solution that fully meets the brief. As a minimum, learners will probably need the 'educators' version (08M2 microcontroller) (it has 1-4 inputs, 1-4 outputs, 3 ADC, 8MHz'). We'd recommend that you go with the 14M2, 18M2 ​or​ 20M2 model as they will provide ​the brightest ​learners with some spare I/O capacity should they come up with some enhanced ​system ​features to solve the problem.

3. Can we use Picaxe Blockly programming language for the task based external assessment?

Picaxe supports ​the development of​ ​programmes in Basic, flowchart and visual block and text programming languages. Unfortunately, ​’Blockly’ ​is a visual block and text programming language and therefore it is not one of the specified/permitted languages for use with Unit 6. However, Picaxe does also support free flowchart programming language that could be used instead.

4. Can learners use Arduino C library code as part of their solutions to the task based external assessment?

Yes, as it is common industry practice if writing low level code.

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