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Teaching Vlsi Design For Today's Students

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.496.1 - 4.496.11

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Paper Authors

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Rama K. Vedachalam

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George L. Engel

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

Session 2532

Teaching VLSI Design To Today’s Students Rama K Vedachalam and George L. Engel

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Edwardsville, IL 62025-1801


This paper describes the successful evolution of a course in VLSI (Very Large Scale Integrated Circuit) design. While a decade ago, it was acceptable for a first-semester course in VLSI design to emphasize only MOS transistor theory, process technology, physical layout, and circuit issues; this exclusively low-level approach to teaching VLSI design is no longer in the best interest of the majority of students. Some claim that since the use of hardware description languages, standard-cell libraries, and high-level synthesis are becoming so widespread in industry; emphasizing low-level circuit issues benefits only a few students. Long-time teachers of VLSI often counter with the claim that while perhaps valid, what is really being offered is a course in system design and not in traditional VLSI design where the emphasis should be on full-custom methodology.

Hence, it has been our observation that, in practice, the majority of introductory courses in VLSI focus on one methodology, while treating the other in a cursory manner. This paper will demonstrate how we successfully teach everything from MOS transistor theory and CMOS process technology through circuit and logic design, up to and including the design and synthesis of digital systems using a hardware description language in a one-semester introductory course in VLSI design. Topics addressed in this paper include course content, laboratory exercises, final design project, and the overall effectiveness of using state-of-the-art, industry-standard CAD tools in helping to teach VLSI design to first-time students.

I. Introduction

This paper describes the experiences of a teaching assistant and an instructor in EE 484: Digital VLSI Design during the Spring ’98 semester at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville (SIUE). The course is fast becoming a popular elective for graduating seniors and a core course for those graduate students wishing to pursue a career in IC design. The course was introduced four years ago and is offered once per year but may soon be offered every semester. The course has evolved over the past four years in hopes of keeping up with the changing nature of VLSI design. It became clear to us that it is no longer appropriate to teach VLSI the way it was taught over ten years ago, where the focus was almost exclusively on low-level circuit issues.. It has

Vedachalam, R. K., & Engel, G. L. (1999, June), Teaching Vlsi Design For Today's Students Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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