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Teaching Systems Performance Limitations Through An Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.394.1 - 2.394.5

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Paper Authors

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Duane L. Marcy

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James C. Sturm

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

Session 1526

Teaching Systems Performance Limitations Through an Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory

Duane L. Marcy, James C. Sturm Princeton University


Because the physical implementation and hence performance limitation of many aspects of Electrical Engineering rely on the integrated circuit, all Princeton EE majors take a course to understand the fabrication and operation of ICs. In the lab portion of the course all students fabricate their own IC chip. The goal of the course is not to understand in depth the detail of the physical processes behind transistor operation or chip fabrication, but rather to show how basic analog, digital, and opto-electronic functions may be integrated onto a chip. The students test the circuits using needle probes and a microscope so they can see the circuit while measuring its limitations. Through lab and lecture the connections between the physical parameters, such as line width on a chip and system parameters such as power delay product (digital) or gain bandwidth product (analog) are developed.


Recently at Princeton, the Electrical Engineering (EE) curriculum has been revised to accommodate the needs of a student interested in engineering in the modern world of sophisticated systems technology. The new students do not have the background in tinkering with systems by taking them apart and fixing them, because with the cover off, a modern system (such as a TV or radio) reveals just an inaccessible layer of complex boards and integrated circuits (ICs). The curriculum revisions included changing an upper-level elective IC fabrication laboratory course to a required sophomore level course. More details concerning the reasoning behind this change are presented in the motivations section of this paper. The new requirements needed to make this change are discussed in the implementation section, and finally a new set of experiments which were designed to show how systems are integrated on an IC and to measure the performance limitation of these simple systems are described in the final section of this paper.


The new introductory curriculum at Princeton focuses on solving problems across the entire EE field, and away from narrowly focused specialty courses centered around various tools and methods. This is accomplished through four required sophomore level courses which are: An Introduction to EE Systems and Signals, Electric Circuits, Digital Logic, and Integrated Circuits: Practice and Principles. The four courses span the scope of electrical engineering and are not designed to be an introduction of various tracks for people keen on majoring in that track. Rather, they are designed as a broad overview, more to instill what the basic concepts and goals are in the area for the non-specialist. In the area of integrated circuits, an IC fabrication laboratory course was chosen because ICs are at the heart of all modern systems, not only computer systems, but other

Marcy, D. L., & Sturm, J. C. (1997, June), Teaching Systems Performance Limitations Through An Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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