Stephen A. Edwards Columbia University Crown
  CSEE 4840
Embedded System Design
Spring 2010

General Information

Class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:10 - 5:25 PM in 327 Mudd?

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 labs by yourself. Project groups should be three students or more.


Name Email Office hours Location
Prof. Stephen A. Edwards TBA 1235 Mudd
Baolin Shao Tu 3-4, W 3-4 1235 Mudd
Scott Schuff M 3-4 M, Th 2-3 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 20 Embedded Systems pdf
History of the Apple II pdf
January 25 VHDL 1 pdf
January 27 VHDL 2
February 1 VHDL 3 Lab 1pdf .tar.gz
February 3 Ethernet and the PS/2 keyboard pdf pdf
February 8 Low-Level C Programming pdf
February 10 Snow Day
February 12 (no lecture) Lab 2pdf .tar.gz
February 15 HW/SW Interfaces pdf
February 17 Video pdf
February 22 The Avalon Bus pdf
February 24 Processors, FPGAs, and ASICs pdf Lab 3pdf .tar.gz
March 1 Memory pdf Proposal
March 3 Serial Communication pdf
March 8 (no lecture)
March 10 Sprites pdf Design
March 15-19 Spring Break
March 22
March 24
March 29 Milestone 1
March 31
April 5
April 7
April 12 Milestone 2
April 14
April 19
April 21
April 26
April 28 Milestone 3
May 3
May 13 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.


RSR: Run, Stephen, Run! (SE)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Andrew Bui    Cathy Chen    Johnny Chin    Andrew Sabatino    Michael Scott   
KH: MP3 Player (BS)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Zheng Lai    Zhao Liu    Meng Li    Quan Yuan   
pac-xon: Pac-Xon (BS)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Bo Liang    Dongwei Ge    Jie Cai   
fdc: Fancy Digital Clock (SE)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Alex Bell    Ridwan Sami    Geoffrey Young   
pacman: Pac-Man-like game (BS)
PDF fileFinal Report    Zip ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Yunde Shi   
nahvg: Networked Air Hockey Video Game (SS)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Ankita Nayak    Aimee Sanchez    Vinay Sharma    Kapil Verma   
EIC: Embedded Image Capture (SS)
PDF fileProposal    PDF fileDesign    PDF fileFinal Report    Compressed Tar ArchiveProject Files    PDF filePresentation   
Albert Jimenez    Alexander Glass    Nektarios Tsoutsos   

Altera Documentation

Altera DE2 Tutorials

Datasheets for DE2 Peripherals

Other References


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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