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Hard Core vs. Soft Core: A Debate

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Projects and Applications

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.689.1 - 25.689.16



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Paper Authors


Antonio Francisco Mondragon Rochester Institute of Technology

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Antonio F. Mondragon-Torres received a B.Sc. degree with honors from Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, Mexico, a M.Sc. degree from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico, and a Ph.D. degree (as a Fullbright-CONACYT scholarship recipient) from Texas A&M University, College Station; all degrees in electrical engineering in 1990, 1996, and 2002, respectively. From 1988 to 1995, he worked in a telecommunications company TVSCOM, Mexico City, Mexico, designing teletext products, first as a Design Engineer and later as a Design Manager. In 1995, he joined the Mechanical and Electrical Department, Universidad Iberoamericana, as an Associate Professor. From 2002 through 2008, he was with the DSPS R&D Center’s Mobile Wireless Communications Technology branch, Texas Instruments Dallas, Texas, and in 2008, he moved to the nanoMeter Analog Integration Wireless branch, where he worked as Analog IP verification technical lead. In 2009, he worked for Intel Guadalajara, Design Center in Mexico as Front-End/Back-End Technical Lead. In 2009, he joined the Electrical, Computer, and Telecommunications Engineering Technology Department at the Rochester Institute of technology, where he currently is a tenure-track Assistant Professor. His research interests include analog and digital integrated circuit implementation of communications systems and system-on-a-chip methodologies.

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Jeanne Christman Rochester Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Hard Core vs. Soft Core: A DebateToday’s Computer Engineering Technology students have the opportunity to learn embeddeddesign in both physical and virtual environments. Current technologies allow for such a highlevel of integration that digital and embedded designs can no longer be implemented usingdiscrete components that are easily accessible to students for prototyping and debugging.Educational platforms currently available are in the form of microcontroller populated boards(hard core processors) or programmable logic device boards. In the later, students can instantiatea configurable, soft core processor comparable to the one provided in the former. This leaveseducators with two distinct options for teaching embedded systems and low level programmingcourses (Note: there can be hard core processors within a programmable logic device, howeverthis paper is referring to a hard core processor as a stand-alone component).This paper is a dialogue between two faculty members, one defending design using hardcomponents, assembly and laboratory testing, and the other using soft components, simulationand verification. The objective of the paper is to highlight the tradeoffs that both methodologiesoffer and the equilibrium that needs to be reached in order for students to receive the maximumexposure to both domains. Some of the tradeoffs debated are in terms of: visibility to internalsignal behavior, testability, design flexibility, cost, power consumption, student learning curve,availability, industry training, upgradeability, hardware-software partitioning, student’sengagement, rapid prototyping, and user interfaces.While evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches to teaching embeddeddesign, the underlying goal that is always considered is that students become proficient designerswhile obtaining the skills that are current by today’s industry standards.

Mondragon, A. F., & Christman, J. (2012, June), Hard Core vs. Soft Core: A Debate Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21446

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