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Project G2: Circuit Design In The Undergraduate Classroom

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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 Methodology

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.989.1 - 14.989.11



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Paper Authors

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Steven Kurtz University of Notre Dame

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Jay Brockman University of Notre Dame

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Ramzi Bualuan University of Notre Dame

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

Project G2: Circuit Design in the Undergraduate Classroom


This paper examines the efforts of undergraduate students to design and construct control circuitry for a Lego® robot. The work focused on following two different design paradigms for implementing circuits. The goal of the study was to determine how well suited the two approaches are for undergraduate VLSI Design class projects. The first implementation focused on logic layout at the mask level to produce an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). The second implementation involved Verilog code being mapped to a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). Both methods provided students with different insights into the design process while exposing them to a variety of CAD tools used in manufacturing today.

This project grew out of Project G (short for Godzilla), an earlier endeavor in which a group of undergraduates constructed a Lego® robot using the Lego MindstormsTM tool kit. This work looked for alternative ways to control the robot and was performed as a mixture of class projects and faculty directed undergraduate research. The project has resulted in successfully driving the Godzilla robot via an FPGA Board. The ASIC design is nearly complete and a working test chip has been fabricated on MOSIS. In addition, the observations from this work have helped provide insight into different ways VLSI Design can be taught.

In this paper we examine the two design approaches and their results in detail, highlighting the challenges encountered along each path as well as the major benefits. We look at how those two approaches correlate to changing trends in modern computer technology. Finally, we analyze how this work can be translated into the classroom as undergraduate senior design capstone projects.


In previous work at the University of Notre Dame, a group of undergraduate students from various engineering backgrounds produced a Lego® version of the monster Godzilla1. The robot (Figure 1), standing about 13” tall, drove around wagging its tail and spouting real flames from its mouth, all at the touch of a Lego® remote control. A compilation of tidbits arising from numerous different engineering backgrounds, Godzilla was a diverse robot. With light in his eyes, gear driven legs, fire on his breath, and a computer program for brains, Godzilla brought to life the disciplines of his creators.

In the original robot, all of the programming was done using the Lego MindstormsTM toolkit2. The Lego® tools provide a simplistic programming language Not Quite C (NQC) which is compiled and loaded into a microprocessor contained in the robot’s control unit. This control unit, known as an RCX, interacts with external motors and sensors via special Lego® wire contacts built into its sides. In the semester following

Kurtz, S., & Brockman, J., & Bualuan, R. (2009, June), Project G2: Circuit Design In The Undergraduate Classroom Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5016

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