Stephen A. Edwards Columbia University Crown
CSEE 4840
Embedded System Design
Spring 2020

General Information

Class meets Fridays, 10:10 - 12:40 PM in 633 Mudd.

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

Do the labs in pairs. Project groups should be three students or more.


Name Email Office hours Location
Prof. Stephen A. Edwards By appt. 462 CSB or 1235 Mudd
Martha Barker 2P-4P Thursday 1235 Mudd
Shravan Karthik 10A-12P Tuesday 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 SystemVerilog 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 a capstone 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 focuses more on system-design issues and include a large section on hardware/software integration. Students in 4840 will use gates, processors, peripherals, software, and operating systems as building blocks.


CSEE 3827, Fundamentals of Computer Systems or the equivalent. You must understand digital logic design. Prior experience with hardware description languages, FPGAs, or embedded processors is not required.

COMS 3157, Advanced Programming or the equivalent. Specifically, C programming experience. While 4840 will teach you advanced aspects of embedded C programming, you need to come in with significant C experience.

COMS W4823, Advanced Digital Logic Design. While not a formal prerequisite, you are strongly encouraged to take it. In it, you will learn advanced logic design and HDL coding, both of which are crucial to success in 4840.


Date Lecture Notes Due
Fri Jan 24 Introduction: Embedded Systems
Fri Jan 31 Memory
Fri Feb 7 Video
Networking, USB, and Threads
Thu Feb 13 (none)

Lab 1 pdf
Fri Feb 14 Hardware/Software Interfaces
The Avalon Bus
Fri Feb 21 Device Drivers
Qsys and IP Core Integration
Thu Feb 27 (none)

Lab 2 pdf
16 GB SD Card Image.tar.gz
Fri Feb 28 (lecture cancelled)

Fri Mar 6 Sprite Graphics
Line drawing example
Processors, FPGAs, and ASICs (1/2)
Processors, FPGAs, and ASICs (2/2)
Fri Mar 13 Debugging
Audio Waveforms
Mar 16-20 Spring Break
Thu Mar 26 (none)

Lab 3 pdf
.tar.gzHardware files
.tar.gzSoftware FIles
.tar.gzKernel Module Env.
Fri Mar 27
Thu Apr 2 (none)

Design document
Fri Apr 3 Design reviews

Fri Apr 10
Fri Apr 17
Fri Apr 24
Fri May 1
May 14 Final Project Presentations

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 teams 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, SystemVerilog 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).

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.


GAA: Genetic Algorithm Accelerator (MB)
pdfProposal pdfDesign
Jarrett Ross and Graham Stubbs
autotune: Audio Processor (MB)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport
Fuming Qiu and Luna Ruiz
moon-patrol: Videogame (SK)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Pratyush Agrawal, Peter Mansour, Aaron Pickard, and Shabhari Saravanan
nes: Nintendo Entertainment System Emulator (SE)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Jeffrey Jaquith, Minghao Li, and Zachary Schuermann
phoenix: Phoenix-like Video Game (SE)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Vaishnavi Murthy, Ignacio Ramirez Sr., and Brianna Williams
tank: Videogame (SK)star
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Wenzhe He and Zixiang Zheng
tetris: Videogame (SK)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Arsalaan Ansari, Sooyeon Jo, Joshua Learn, and Kevin Li
webrender: HTML Renderer (MB)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Alex Patrick Gajewski and Allison Ghuman

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Other References

Recommended Texts

Mark Zwolinski.
Digital System Design with SystemVerilog.
Prentice-Hall, 2010.

SystemVerilog is relatively new, so there are not too many books out there for it. This is one of the better ones. It focuses on the sythesizable subset of the language and also discusses test benches.

Cover of Digital System Design with SystemVerilog

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. It only discusses the Verilog language and only in an appendix.

Cover of Embedded Systems: A Contemporary Design Tool


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 in pairs on the 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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