Silicon Labs 8-bit MCUniversity Program

In support of individuals, colleges and universities worldwide, Silicon Labs has established the 8-Bit MCUniversity Program as a complete embedded programming course on mixed-signal MCUs based on the popular 8051 core. The materials include lectures, development tools, tutorial questions, lab exercises and associated solutions.


Individuals can approach these well-organized lessons and lab materials at their own pace. Alternatively, if you already have some embedded programming background, you can jump directly to critical information, and find just what you need. Individuals can download materials below to get started, but the labs will require the MCU University Starter Kit listed below. Students should direct their questions not answered here to the Silicon Labs Community forum where they can get their questions addressed more quickly.

Professors and Educators

Professors can quickly incorporate this content into their existing curriculum without having to develop lectures or programming code. We generally provide ten units in these kits for hands-on student labs. Donated kits are not available directly to students. Students may buy kits and add-on components at the links below. Professors and educators are encouraged to submit an application for equipment donations. Contact Silicon Labs at for additional program related questions.

Course Work


The course is based on the second edition of the Embedded Programming with Field-Programmable Mixed-Signal µControllers book that covers in detail the features of the C8051F020 mixed-signal MCU, enabling students to go through basic functions and complex analog features. Both a soft cover and pdf download versions are available below.

Embedded Programming Textbook

Embedded Systems with Field-Programmable Mixed-Signal µControllers examines the features of an advanced mixed-signal microcontroller. Only the relevant information is presented in a concise manner which is simple to read and comprehend. All the clutter has been cut out to make learning easy and interesting. At the same time all the knowledge that is required to accomplish a project is covered in fair details. Targeted at anyone involved in learning microcontrollers either at an introductory or advanced level, Embedded Systems serves as a handy reference and source of information for projects using microcontrollers to design and build systems.

The textbook content includes:

  • 8051 architecture overview
  • Introduction to Silicon Labs C8051F020
  • Instruction set
  • ASM directives
  • System clock, crossbar and GPIO
  • C8051F020 C programming
  • ToolStick University Daughter Card
  • Timer operation and programming
  • ADC, DAC and voltage comparator
  • Serial communication
  • Interrupts


Students perform all labs using the Silicon Labs' USB ToolStick platform. Students do not need software, lab equipment or even a power supply for the ToolStick. The software development tools consist of the easy-to-use 8-bit Microcontroller Software Tools and the ToolStick Virtual Display tool set. The ToolStick Virtual Display tools avoid the need for expensive lab equipment, only a PC is required to develop on the MCU.

Special Note about Simplicity Studio: Please note that the 8-Bit MCUniversity Program lessons are built around the original 8-bit microcontroller tools that are described below on this page. These original 8-bit tools include virtual instruments that simplify the lab work. The newer and fully integrated Simplicity Studio tools are much more advanced than the older 8-bit IDE, but the Simplicity Studio platform does not support all of the 8-Bit MCUniversity lab components. Students can use either tool set, but please note that the 8-bit labs may need to be modified slightly if the more capable Simplicity Studio tools are selected.

Silicon Labs Community

We encourage students and professors alike to register at the Silicon Labs Community forum where they can discuss labs and tutorials, share teaching ideas or post files. Just post a question in the new advanced search engine, and see relevant information across the entire forum, including the knowledge base, and community boards. If the information that you need is not already there, you can post your question to get community responses.

Hardware and Software

To setup and use the MCUniversity kit, please download and install the software packages from the Development Software table below.

Lab exercises are provided with solutions in Assembly and C languages. All the lab exercises correspond to the lectures for the entire course. The assembly programming assignments provided work with the Keil software A51 macro assembler and the C programming assignments work with both Keil and SDCC compilers.

Detailed instructions to setup the hardware and software are available in the ToolStick University Daughter Card User's Guide. You can also review a wealth of information on the Silicon Labs Community forum. We encourage everyone to register and engage to get the greatest educational value.

All the educational material, including a PDF version of the textbook and software tools are available below. The schematic diagram, bill-of-materials and gerber files needed to build the ToolStick University Daughter Card are also available for download.


Development Software Downloads

Package Description
8-bit Microcontroller Software Tools Includes the Silicon Labs IDE, configuration wizard, Keil µVision driver, flash programming utilities, ToolStick development tools, battery life estimator and additional components
MCUniversity Development Tools Includes Silicon Labs MCU Virtual Tools, example code and documentation; it also includes a schematic, bill of materials and fab drawing for easy development of a ToolStick University Daughter Card
SDCC Small Device C Compiler A freeware, open source, C compiler that includes support for 8051 microcontrollers; the Silicon Labs IDE can be configured to use SDCC, Keil and many other tool chains

Educational Materials Downloads

Package Description
MCUniversity Course Material


Simplified Chinese Version
Set of 12 lecture notes (English and Simplified Chinese) covering each chapter of the textbook in PowerPoint with speaker's notes; it also includes lab and tutorial questions and additional advanced lectures covering topics such as analog performance measurement, digital signal processing and mixed-signal design techniques
Embedded Programming Textbook PDF version of the Embedded Programming textbook with an updated chapter on the ToolStick Development Platform

Purchase Tools

Discounted Tools

Silicon Labs’ comprehensive MCU University Starter Kit and development kits come complete with all of the required hardware and software to develop complex embedded systems quickly and easily. These development tools assist faculty and students with everything needed for basic introductory courses to the most advanced design classes.

The C8051F330DK development kit is especially well-matched for senior design projects. Silicon Labs offers a discount of 50% on the following tools to qualified MCUniversity program members:

ToolStick Virtual Tools

The ToolStick Virtual Tools software replaces the need for expensive lab equipment like an oscilloscope. The software provides both a virtual LCD and a virtual oscilloscope.

Third-Party Tool Support

A broad range of third-party compilers and development tools are available, including a free C Compiler from Small Device C Compiler (SDCC), which is supported by AN198: Integrating SDCC 8051 Tools into the Silicon Labs IDE.

Contact our MCUniversity Relations Team

Silicon Labs is dedicated to making a valuable impact on the university community and is ready to work with you. Professors and educators may contact our team at if you have non-technical topics to discuss. Students and educators are encouraged to visit the Silicon Labs Community if there are any technical questions.


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