June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Design in Engineering Education
13.621.1 - 13.621.9
Fostering Design Across Multiple Disciplines With Graphical Programming and FPGAs.
Abstract Design has become an essential component of today’s engineering education curriculum. However traditional tools and techniques that are primarily text-based have hindered students and professors from taking advantage of the various hardware platforms such as FPGAs that are available in order to be able to teach design effectively. This is especially true for disciplines other than electrical engineering and computer science, where the students are not experts in programming with textual languages. With the evolution of graphical programming tools, it is now possible to leverage the intuitive and powerful technology of graphical programming to target hardware platforms such as FPGAs in order to teach design across multiple disciplines. In this paper we demonstrate a new plug-in that we have built in order to be able to target a commonly used Xilinx Spartan 3E evaluation board with NI LabVIEW, a commonly used graphical programming software. We will also show a demonstration of this plug-in and discuss the pros and cons of such an approach
Introduction Achieving proficiency in designing systems with real-world signals has become a necessity in every engineering discipline today. Systems of different scale are being created and used by mechanical, aerospace, biomedical, automotive, chemical and electrical engineers alike[1,2,3]. This is a very good development – now domain experts from mechanical, biomedical and chemical engineering can create much more efficient embedded systems that help solve problems in their area of expertise.
However, it is worth noting that unlike electrical engineers, the chemical, biomedical and mechanical engineers are not core-embedded programmers. This is significant because the tools used to teach design of embedded systems are still based on traditional textual approaches. In addition, embedded devices are increasing in complexity – for example, the number of gates on an FPGA have increased keeping pace with Moore’s law, resulting in more sophisticated embedded platforms. This makes it exceedingly difficult to teach the design process effectively using traditional techniques. The traditional tools also restrict introducing embedded systems to introductory engineering courses which serve as an avenue to create excitement for design in the engineering education.
In this paper, we will examine graphical programming as a possible avenue to leverage to teach design. We will also examine an FPGA(Field Programmable Gate Array) board found in many embedded design laboratories, the Xilinx SPARTAN-3E XUP board and finally talk about the a plug-in that we developed for a leading graphical programming language, LabVIEW to target the Xilinx SPARTAN-3E FPGA board.
Traditional Vs Graphical Programming for Design Design has evolved to comprise of two distinct components, software and hardware. From the software side, literature[4,5,6] shows that the actor-oriented or graphical programming languages are better suited for embedded design because they are based on the dataflow paradigm. Figure 1 shows an example of an actor-oriented graphical programming language, NI LabVIEW.
Sharad, S., & Crouch, G., & Lee, R., & Johnson, B. (2008, June), Fostering Design Across Multiple Disciplines With Graphical Programming And Fpgas. Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/4146
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