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Balancing Virtual And Physical Prototyping Across A Multicourse Vlsi/Embedded Systems/Soc Design Curriculum

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design in the ECE Curriculum

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.270.1 - 14.270.8



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Paper Authors

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Mark McDermott University of Texas, Austin

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Jacob Abraham University of Texas, Austin

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Mihir Ravel Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Balancing virtual and physical prototyping across a multi-course VLSI/Embedded-Systems/SoC Design curriculum


With the advent of high performance computing platforms and design automation tools there has been a migration from physical prototyping of VLSI systems to virtual prototyping in both the industrial and educational environments. This move is attractive for many educational institutions as it is possible to have a “virtual” lab environment for a wide range of the curriculum that requires only computers and EDA software. This shift to virtual prototyping as the preferred method for teaching the design of integrated circuits and systems offers quicker iteration and exploration, but it leaves significant gaps in the intuitive and systematic design competencies gained from physically implementing and testing a complex electronic system. We have attempted to strike a balance between the two approaches, and this paper analyzes the lessons learned from our use of a common set of virtual and physical prototyping platforms for a four course graduate sequence in integrated circuit design and embedded system-on-chip (SoC) design.

Background and Motivation

A sequence of four graduate level courses was chosen for this analysis for three reasons: 1) the dependencies the courses have on laboratory based instruction, 2) applicability to the semiconductor industry and 3) each course builds upon the previous course culminating in a capstone course that unifies the systematic design competencies that are needed to build complex silicon systems. These silicon systems are composed of both hardware and software components that implement complex algorithms and functions, and these functions determine the competencies required by the student.

The four courses in the sequence are described in detail in the next section and include:

1) Basic VLSI Design 2) Advanced VLSI Design 3) Embedded Systems Architecture 4) System-on-Chip (SoC) Design

These courses were co-developed and are currently co-taught by full-time faculty and adjunct faculty from industry. There are a number of key benefits associated with using both full-time and adjunct faculty including timely access to state of the art teaching material, feedback on future directions in the design of complex silicon systems, support in developing new curriculum material and immediate feedback on the capabilities of the students. The course sequence has been taught in this format for a number of years. To support this approach with a maximum of efficiency yet allow teaching adaptability, the course sequence is being optimized to provide an “active learning” approach using a common set of platforms for both virtual and physical prototyping.

McDermott, M., & Abraham, J., & Ravel, M. (2009, June), Balancing Virtual And Physical Prototyping Across A Multicourse Vlsi/Embedded Systems/Soc Design Curriculum Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5801

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