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The BitBoard - Bridging the Gap from Gates to Gate Arrays

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Circuits & Systems Education I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Bill D. Carroll University of Texas, Arlington

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Bill Carroll is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). He has been a UTA faculty member since 1981 and has held faculty positions at Auburn University and visiting appointments at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Washington. He has held engineering positions at Texas Instruments and General Dynamics. Carroll received B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a licensed professional engineer in Texas and Alabama.

Carroll has co-authored two textbooks, a tutorial book, and numerous papers and technical reports. He has received an American Society for Engineering Education Outstanding Young Faculty Award, two National Aeronautics and Space Administration Technology Innovation Awards, and three IEEE Computer Society Service Awards. He is an IEEE Computer Society Golden Core Member and a recipient of the IEEE Third Millennium Medal.

Carroll served as Dean of the College of Engineering at UTA from January 1, 2000 to August 31, 2011. During his service as dean, the College of Engineering experienced an enrollment growth of more than fifty percent, an increase of research expenditures from under $10M per year to more than $40M per year, and a growth of the faculty of about sixty percent. Over the same period, capital projects totaling more than $180M were started and completed.

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The BitBoard – Bridging the Gap from Gates to Gate Arrays

This paper describes an innovative, low cost device called The BitBoard that I have developed for use with education boards such as the Altera DE1 or DE0-CV to enable a wide range of digital logic experiments from basic logic gates and flip-flops to advanced field programmable gate arrays (FPGA). The BitBoard design will be covered in the paper. Laboratory experiments and experiences using the device in an Introduction to Digital Logic course will also be shared.

The BitBoard is the core of The BitBox, a low cost take home lab kit that students use to perform a series of logic design experiments that culminates with the design and realization of a simple processor. A systematic assessment of student responses and the effectiveness of The BitBox and The BitBoard will be given in the paper.

The convenience and low cost of The BitBox also makes it ideal to support homework assignments and/or in-class active learning or flipped classroom exercises. Plans for using it in a flipped version of the Introduction to Digital Logic course will be described. Motivation for developing The BitBoard came from several sources. One was to find a low cost option for replacing an existing piece of laboratory equipment the IDL-800 which had served us well but was showing wear and tear after more than fifteen years of use. The IDL-800 was used for experiments with combinational and sequential logic circuits using SSI and MSI level integrated circuits.

Another motivation was to develop a take-home kit enabling students to start and/or complete their experiments and projects at home. Previously, we were giving students an IDL-800 solderless breadboard to take home for wiring circuits prior to coming to lab. This was not as effective as hoped since students still had to come to lab to test their circuits, so most chose to do the wiring in lab as well.

We were also using Altera DE1 boards to support FPGA based experiments being conducted in the logic lab. So an idea was conceived to replace the IDL-800 with a device that connects to the DE1 for power and input/output. This led to The BitBoard and provides a seamless way to bridge the gap from basic gate-level experiments to advanced FPGA projects using an integrated take home laboratory kit. Informal feedback from students suggests that the approach is effective and popular.

Carroll, B. D. (2016, June), The BitBoard - Bridging the Gap from Gates to Gate Arrays Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26091

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