December 19, 2007
Marking the end of fall semester, several ECE students completed course projects and demonstrations, displaying the skills they learned this term in everything from using micrometer technology in Analysis and Design of Digital Circuits, to designing large digital systems for Advanced Digital Design Project, to examining thermal and power management in chip-multiprocessors (CMPs) in Advanced Computer Architecture. View project photos.
A classroom competition took place in Analysis and Design of Digital Circuits, instructed by Associate Professor of ECE Radu Marculescu. Students presented posters of their work for the course, which covered the computer skills required for the analysis, computer simulation, design, and computer-aided physical layout of digital ICs.
"The winning projects were the best I've seen in the last few years...Overall, it was a very successful year and we had a lot of fun while learning cool things," said Marculescu.
The topic of the assignment was the full custom design of an 8-bit arithmetic logic unit (ALU) using 0.18 micrometer technology. Twenty competing teams worked to optimize their designs for area, performance, and power consumption.
Student winners were chosen in three categories: area, speed, and power. The awardees were: first place for area: Nikkolos White and Shameer Bolanos, second place for area: Ryan Walsh and Kelsey Ho; first place for speed: John Bauman and Boris Lipchin, second place for speed: Sushant Madan and Heer Gandhi; first place for power: Bo Hyun Kim and Chi Ho Yoon, second place for power: Scott McCaffrey and Sejin Park; Honorable Mention: Jungyeon Kim and Jae Yoon Chong.
Demonstrations of the final projects for Advanced Digital Design Project included XilQuake, Guitar Hero, and a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) hardware emulator. Assistant Professor of ECE Ken Mai led the course, which requires students to design a large digital system and implement it on a Field Programmable Gate-Array (FPGA) board.
The XilQuake team ported the open source id Software game Quake to the FPGA board. The game supported almost all of the features of the original Quake game including keyboard input, sound, and multiplayer capability via networking. During the demonstration, students networked three FPGA boards and a PC together to allow four people to play the game simultaneously.
Students in the Guitar Hero team cloned the popular console game and interfaced a Guitar Hero controller to the FPGA board. For the demo, they uploaded a few popular songs to the board.
Finally, the NES emulator team configured the FPGA board to become the two main components (the CPU and the pixel processor) of the classic NES game console. They also interfaced an NES controller with their board. Their design successfully ran a third-party maze game program designed for the NES.
Additionally, the Advanced Computer Architecture course held a poster session, exhibiting their projects, which ranged from classic topics such as branch predictor design and analysis, to cutting-edge subjects related to thermal and power management in CMPs.
"Most of the project topics have been designed such that they expose the students to advanced techniques for enhancing computer architecture performance, while keeping an eye on other design constraints in a holistic manner," reported Diana Marculescu, who taught the course.
To emphasize the relevance of the research topics to today's processor manufacturers' needs, one team worked on a project defined by Intel. Guided by Krishna Kant, Senior Performance Analysis Engineer at Intel, ECE students Aruna Manjunatha and Dhananjay Motwani analyzed memory system behavior for the purpose of defining optimal power management strategies.
Computer architecture is the science and art of selecting and interconnecting hardware components to create a computer that meets functional, performance, and cost goals. The course qualitatively and quantitatively examined computer design trade-offs.
Besides Advanced Computer Architecture's project with Intel, two other courses this semester had industrial connections. DRS Technologies, Inc. sponsored a Best Project Award competition for Digital Communication and Signal Processing Systems Design, taught by David Casasent, George Westinghouse Professor of ECE, and Associate Teaching Professor of ECE Tom Sullivan. In addition, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) sponsored the annual contests for Integrated Circuit (IC) Design Project, instructed by Andrzej Strojwas, and Digital Systems Testing and Testable Design, taught by ECE Professor Shawn Blanton.
From left to right: ECE students Vijay Pothi Govindaraj and Abitha Panneerselvam present their research to Associate Professor of ECE Diana Marculescu.
The class members of Analysis and Design of Digital Circuits gather for a photo (click photo to enlarge).
ECE Department Head T.E. (Ed) Schlesinger plays one of the games developed by students in Advanced Digital Design Project. The digital system was implemented on a FPGA board.
ECE student teaching assistant Sebastian Herbert (left) reviews Dhananjay Motwani (right) and Aruna Manjunatha’s (center) work. To emphasize the relevance of the research to today's processor manufacturers', their team’s project was defined by Intel.