Stephen A. Edwards Columbia University Crown
  CSEE 4840
Embedded System Design
Spring 2008

General Information

Class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM in Room 415 Schapiro (CEPSR).

Mudd 1235 is the lab, which is filled with Linux workstations and FPGA boards. Registered students will receive accounts on these machines and 24-hour badge access to this room.

Do the lab by yourself. Project groups should be three students or more.


Name Email Office hours Location
Prof. Stephen A. Edwards 4-5 T, W 1235 Mudd
David Lariviere TBA 1235 Mudd


Prerequisites: ELEN E3910 or COMS W3843 or the equivalent. Embedded system architecture and programming. I/O, analog and digital interfacing, and peripherals. Weekly laboratory sessions and term project on design of a microprocessor-based embedded system including at least one custom peripheral. Knowledge of C programming and digital logic required. Lab required.

The goal of this class is to introduce you to issues in hardware/software interfacing, practical microprocessor-based system design issues such as bus protocols and device drivers, and practical digital hardware design using modern logic synthesis tools. You will put all of this to use in the lab where you will be given the opportunity to implement, using a combination of C and the VHDL hardware description langauge, a small embedded system.

This is a lab course done in two parts. During the first part of the class, each student will implement the same ``canned'' designs designed by the instructor and be given substantial guidance. These are meant as an opportunity for you to learn the development tools and basic concepts. In the second part of the class, you will divide up into teams and each will design and implement a comparable project of their own with guidance from the instructor and TAs.

This course is designed to take over the role ELEN 3940 once played in the EE and Computer Engineering curriculum, i.e., as a capstone class in which students will integrate their knowledge of digital logic, programming, and system design to produce a real system. It is intended to complement ELEN 4340, Computer Hardware Design. 4840 will focus more on system-design issues and include a large section on hardware/software integration. Students in 4840 will use processors and peripherals as building blocks. By contrast, students in 4340 have logic gates as building blocks.

Possible projects include:


ELEN E3910 or COMS W3843 or the equivalent. You must understand digital logic design and C programming. Prior experience with hardware description languages, FPGAs, or embedded processors is not required.

You are strongly encouraged to take COMS W4823, Advanced Digital Logic Design. In it, you will learn logic design and VHDL coding, both of which are crucial to success in 4840.



Date Lecture Notes Due
January 22 Embedded Systems pdf pdf
History of the Apple II pdf pdf
January 24 VHDL 1 pdf pdf
January 29 VHDL 2
January 31 VHDL 3 Lab 1pdf .tar.gz
February 5 Ethernet and the PS/2 keyboard pdf pdf
February 7 Low-Level C Programming pdf pdf
February 12 HW/SW Interfaces pdf pdf Lab 2pdf .tar.gz
February 14 Video pdf pdf
February 19 The Avalon Bus pdf pdf
February 21 (no lecture)
February 26 Processors, FPGAs, and ASICs pdf pdf Lab 3pdf .tar.gz
February 28 Memory pdf pdf Proposal
March 4 Serial Communication pdf pdf
March 6 Sprites pdf pdf
March 11 (no lecture)
March 13 (no lecture) Design
March 17-21 Spring Break
March 25
March 27 Milestone 1
April 1
April 3
April 8
April 10 Milestone 2
April 15
April 17
April 22
April 24
April 29 Milestone 3
May 1
May 10 Final Presentations, reports due Project

Recommended Texts

Mark Zwolinski.
Digital System Design with VHDL.
Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2004. Second Edition.

There are a lot of books about VHDL out there; this is the most practical one I have seen. It focuses on the synthesizable subset of the language and also discusses test benches. Examples, etc., are available from the Author's web site for the book.

Cover of Digital System Design with VHDL

James K. Peckol.
Embedded Systems: A Contemporary Design Tool.
Wiley, 2008.

Many embedded system books are too idiosyncratic or incomplete for my taste, but this one does a nice job covering everything from digital circuit design to interprocess communication in real-time operating systems. Unfortunately, it only discusses the Verilog language and only in an appendix.

Cover of Embedded
 Systems: A Contemporary Design Tool

The Project

You'll perform a design-it-yourself project in the second half of the class. There are five deliverables for the project:

  1. A short project proposal describing in broad terms what you plan to build and how you plan to build it
  2. A detailed project design describing in detail the architecture of your project, both hardware and software. This should include block diagrams, memory maps, lists of registers: everything someone else would need to understand your design. You should have done some preliminary implementation work by this point to validate your design.
    Your design document should also a plan of what you intend to complete by each of the three milestones.
  3. Three milestones that you set for yourself: think of 25%, 50%, and 75% completion
  4. A presentation on your project to the class
  5. A final project report

Project groups should be three students or more.

The Project Report

This is a critical part of the project and will be a substantial fraction of the grade.

Include the following sections:

  1. An overview of your project: a revised version of your project proposal.
  2. The detailed project design documents: a revised version of the project design.
  3. A section listing who did what and what lessons you learned and advice for future projects
  4. Complete listings of every file you wrote for the project. Include C source, VHDL source, and things such as .mhs files. Don't include any file that was generated automatically.

Include all of this in a single .pdf file (don't print it out) and email it to me on the due date.

Also create a .tar.gz file (see the online documentation for the `tar' program to see how to create such a file. Briefly, create a file called `myfile' with the names of all the files you want to include in the archive and run tar zcf project.tar.gz `cat myfiles` to create the archive.) that just includes the files necessary to build your project, such as I did for the labs. Also email this to me by the due date.


AES: 128-bit AES decryption for video (DL)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Shrivathsa Bhargav Ravichandran    Larry Nai Ning Chen    Abhinandan Majumdar    Shiva Ramudit   
Pelmanism: Interactive picture-based memory game (SE)
Proposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Can Ilhan    Chintan Shah    Sungjun Kim    Zenan Li   
mindTunes: Digital Voice Recorder/Player (DL)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    Powerpoint filePresentation   
Jonathan Chen    Po-Han Huang    Michael Kempf    Yen-Liang Tung    Christos Vezyrtzis   
WiiMaze: Triple Labyrinth with the WiiMote (DL)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Brian Ramos    Shaun Salzberg    Yezhen Lu   
SRTRT: A Simple, Real Time Ray Tracer (SE)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    Powerpoint filePresentation   
Daniel Benamy    Keerti Joshi    David Smith    Minjie Zhang   
IPG: Interactive Pool Game (SE)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    Powerpoint filePresentation   
Abdulhamid Ghandour    Thomas John    Bharadwaj Vellore    Jaime Peretzman   

Altera Documentation

Altera DE2 Tutorials

Datasheets for DE2 Peripherals


Class Policies

Grading 30% Labs
10% Milestone 1
15% Milestone 2
20% Milestone 3
25% Final Report and presentation
Late Policy Zero credit for anything handed in after it is due without explicit approval of the instructor.
Collaboration Policy Work by yourself on labs. You may consult others, but do not copy files or data. You may collaborate with anybody on the project, but must cite sources if you use code.

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