New CSCI Course – Fall 2003

Logic Design Lab

CSCI 381.3

E6MBC (Reg. Code 3113)

CSCI 780

E6MBC (Reg. Code 3114)


2 hr. lecture; 2 hr. lab; 3 credits


Mon./Wed. 6:00 – 8:00 PM


CSCI 341 or CSCI 343


Dr. Vickery


This course may be used to satisfy the “Hardware Semicore” requirement for graduate students.


Students will learn to use state-of-the-art software tools to design, simulate, and implement digital systems.  After doing exercises to become familiar with the laboratory environment, teams of 1-3 students will each select a term project to complete.  Some examples of projects that might be undertaken include, but are not limited to, hardware implementations of:

·      A video game

·      A CPU

·      An image processor or generator

·      An MP3 or Ogg Vorbis music player

·      A mobile robot

While the main goal of the course is to have fun playing with new toys (see below), students will also gain a good understanding of how modern digital devices (cell phones, portable music players, PDAs, etc.) are designed and built. In addition, students will have a chance to become familiar with the emerging importance of software skills in the development of hardware systems.

Software Tools and Languages

Logic designs will be implemented using a mixture of Hardware Description Languages (HDLs) and a Hardware Implementation Language (HIL).  Students will be introduces to industry-standard HDLs, Verilog and VHDL, and will become proficient in the Handel-C HIL.  Programming experience in C, C++, and/or Java at the undergraduate level is the only software background assumed.

Three development platforms will be available, Quartus II from Altera, ISE Foundation from Xilinx, and DK1 from Celoxica.  Altera and Xilinx are the dominant manufacturers of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).  They provide free versions of their development platforms on the web, but the tools listed above have more features than the free versions.  Celoxica is in the software development business rather than the hardware business, and their Handel-C language can be used to develop designs that can be targeted to use FPGAs from a number of companies, including Altera and Xilinx.  All three of these development platforms allow you to enter circuit designs and to simulate the design before implementing it in an actual FPGA for final testing.

The big difference between using HDLs or an HIL is that when you compile your code, the output is a logic network instead of a machine language program.  And with logic networks you deal explicitly with parallelism that does not exist in software.  For example:



            a = b;

            c = a;


In Handel-C the two assignment statements are executed in parallel (because they are inside a par block).  That is, they cause the values on the left-hand sides to change at the same time.  If the values of a, b, and c before the block were 1, 2, and 3 respectively, then the new value of c after the block would be 1 (the old value of a), not 2 (the new value of a).

Laboratory Facilities

The laboratory consists of two parts: development systems (PCs running the development software) and target devices (circuit boards with and FPGA and various other circuits pre-mounted on them).

The development systems are high-end PCs with 3 GHz processors, 1.25 GB of RAM, and 22" monitors.  Half of these development systems will be available outside the laboratory so students can work on their projects any time they wish.  The development software is available to be installed on PCs located off campus too, but you need Internet access to the department to actually run the software because of the way it is licensed.

There are two target devices available in the lab, a lower-end “UP2” development kit from Altera and a higher-end “RC200” kit from Celoxica.  Both kits are designed for instructional purposes, but are similar to prototyping boards used in industry during the development of new products.  Both kits include a connector for downloading the bits to program an FPGA through a cable connected to a development system, and both provide lights and switches on the board for testing simple circuits.  Also, both kits provide additional connectors that can be connected to a mouse and a monitor.  Beyond this, the RC200 provides keyboard input, RAM, video input, audio output, a wireless (Bluetooth) module, and Ethernet I/O.  The FPGA on the RC200 has the equivalent of a million gates on it, compared to about 70 thousand gates on the Altera board.  An entire pre-designed CPU (Xilinx’ “MicroBlaze processor core”) can be implemented on the RC200 with plenty of gates left over for student projects that integrate software running on the processor core with hardware interfaces to outside devices.  Finally, the RC200 kits are also configured with touchscreens and video cameras for graphical and image processing projects.

Thus, the laboratory setups available can support a diverse range of projects as complex as anyone might want to tackle.  At the same time, they can accommodate very simple projects that simply ignore the irrelevant parts.