Stephen A. Edwards Columbia University Crown
CSEE 4840
Embedded System Design
Spring 2012


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General Information

Class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:40 - 3:55 PM in 702 Hamilton Hall.

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 3-4 Monday, 11-12 Thursday 462 CSB or 1235 Mudd
Shangru Li 10 AM-12 PM Wednesday 1235 Mudd
Abhinav Tallapally 11 AM-1 PM Monday 1235 Mudd
Chandni Chandran 9-11 AM Monday 1235 Mudd
David Lariviere TBD 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 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, and software as building blocks.

Possible projects include:


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 VHDL coding, both of which are crucial to success in 4840.



Date Lecture Notes Due
Jan 17 Embedded Systems
History of the Apple II
Jan 19 VHDL
Jan 24 (no lecture)
Jan 26 (no lecture)
Jan 31
Feb 2
Feb 7
Feb 9 Ethernet
The PS/2 Keyboard
Lab 1 pdf .tar.gz
Feb 14 Embedded C Programming
Feb 16 HW/SW Interfaces
Feb 21 The Avalon Bus
Feb 23 Processors, FPGAs, and ASICs
Lab 2 pdf .tar.gz
Feb 28 Memory
Mar 1 Serial Communication
Mar 6 Drawing Lines
Quartus Project (DE0)
a file
Mar 8 Sprites
Mar 12-16 Spring Break
Mar 20 Design
Mar 22 Lab 3 pdf .tar.gz
Mar 27 Milestone 1
Mar 29
Apr 3
Apr 5
Apr 10 Milestone 2
Apr 12
Apr 17
Apr 19
Apr 24 Milestone 3
Apr 26
May 10 Final Project, Presentations

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.


BIC: Bastard Ice Cream Videogame (CC)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport Powerpoint FilePresentation ArchiveFiles
Haodan Huang, Lei Mao, Yaozhong Song, and Ziheng Zhou
Battleship: Networked Battleship game (CC)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Daniel Aprahamian, Apoorva Gade, Shihab Hamati, and Marc Howard
Campus-Fight: Fighting video game (AT)star
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport Powerpoint FilePresentation ArchiveFiles
Pan Deng, Hongtao Li, Haosen Wang, Lei Wang, and Pengyi Zhang
HAMOD: Hardware Acceleration of Market Order Decoding (DL)star
pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation pdfFiles
Amandeep Chhabra, Manu Dhundi, Prabhat Godse, and Adil Sadik
HAMOPG: Hardware Accelerated Market Order Packet Generation (DL)
pdfDesign pdfReport Powerpoint FilePresentation ArchiveFiles
Sushant Bhardwaj, Ankur Gupta, Yasser Mohammed, Dhananjay Palshikar, and Mithila Paryekar
IFV: Interactive Fractal Viewer (SE)star
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Nathaniel Hwang, Richard Nwaobasi, Luis Pena, and Stephen Pratt
Pong: Pong Video Game (SL)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Zuyang Cao, Bo Li, Cong Liu, and Jihong Zou
Smasher: Smasher Video Game (SL)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport Powerpoint FilePresentation ArchiveFiles
Chaoying Kang, Jian Liu, and Tong Zhang
Snappers: An Educational Shooting Game (SL)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Yuhan Dai, Lianyi Ding, Dian Wang, and Chi Zhang
Super-Frogger: Frogger-like videogame (CC)star
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport Powerpoint FilePresentation ArchiveFiles
Shengzhen Li, Chenxi Liu, Ziyao Xu, and Xin Zhang
Synth: MIDI Synthesizer (SE)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport ArchiveFiles
Warren Cheng, Robert Hendry, and Ashwin Ramachandran
TAGG: The Awesome Guitar Game (AT)star
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Laurent Charignon and Avijit Singh
TAGG2: Guitar Hero Game (SE)
pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
and Imre Frotier de la Messeliere
Tetris: Tetris Game (SE)
pdfReport ArchiveFiles
and Yunfan Dong
Touch-Pong: Ping pong game with touch screen (SE)
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport Powerpoint FilePresentation ArchiveFiles
Younggyun Cho, Hao Zheng, Ran Zheng, and Xiang Zhou
Watch-Out: Platform Videogame (AT)star
pdfProposal pdfDesign pdfReport pdfPresentation ArchiveFiles
Shangru Li and Zachary Salzbank

star My favorites

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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