Experiences Teaching an FPGA-based Embedded Systems Class

Edwards, Stephen A.

I describe a two-year-old embedded systems design course I teach at Columbia University. In it, the students learn low-level C programming and VHDL coding to design and implement a project of their own choosing. The students implement their projects using Xilinx FPGAs and tools running on Linux workstations. The main challenges the students face are understanding and complying with complex and often poorly-documented interfaces and protocols, personal time management, and teamwork. While all real-world challenges, this class is often the first time the students encounter them, which makes the class quite challenging, but very practical. In this paper, I describe the structure of the class, the configuration of our teaching laboratory, some of the more successful projects, and give suggestions to instructors wishing to implement the class elsewhere.


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Computer Science
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March 8, 2012