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The authors have developed a senior-level undergraduate system-on-chip (SoC) course at San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, that emphasizes SoC design methods and hardware-software codesign techniques. The course uses a "real world" design project as the teaching vehicle and implements an SoC platform to control a five-axis robotic arm using Altera's state-of-the-art Excalibur chip. The Excalibur chip contains both ARM Corporation's embedded processor and a programmable logic device (PLD) array. The course goes through a complete hardware-software codesign flow from implementing custom hardware devices on a PLD to developing an embedded algorithm in a state-of-the-art design environment for a complete SoC solution. Students learn the Quartus II design environment by examining the sample design files in Altera's EXPA1 development kit and following the step-by-step instructions toward creating a simple embedded application. After this familiarization process, students define the architectural specifications of a memory-mapped servo controller, implement it in the Excalibur's PLD array, and interface this device with the ARM processor's internal bus to control each robotic arm servo. Functional regression tests and post-synthesis timing verification steps are applied to the servo controller following the implementation phase. Subsequently, students integrate the servo controller with the rest of the system and perform board-level functional verification tests to observe whether the robotic arm can move an object from a source to a destination point accurately. Students also develop an embedded algorithm, which translates user inputs in Cartesian coordinates into robotic arm movements in spherical coordinates during laboratory sessions.
Date of Publication: May 2005