Multimedia Teaching Materials for Electronic Design Software
Keywords: Multimedia Teaching, Electronic Design, Undergraduate Education
Submitted in Response to:
EASNE 1996 Request for Proposals for Curriculum Development
Dept. of ECE
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Duration: March 1, 1996 to September 30, 1996
Technical Point of Contact
fax (413) 545-1993
Novel multimedia teaching materials will be developed to allow students to
learn modern electronic design methods while addressing manufacturing issues.
The materials will be built around three commercial computer-aided design (CAD)
software packages which support logic design, microcontroller design, and printed
circuit board design, from industrial partners Altera, Microchip and PADs, respectively.
The materials will consist of videos, written materials and software design examples,
much of which will be available on the World Wide Web for broad dissemination. This
is a continuation and expansion of an earlier effort supported by industry and the
Academy for integrating manufacturing into upper-level computer design courses.
This proposal will extend the impact of that earlier work into a broader set of
Electrical and Computer Engineering courses.
This proposal describes the development of new multimedia for teaching
about manufacturing in ECE design courses. The original teaching materials were
developed with Academy support in the summer of 1995 and a pilot course was offered
in the Fall of 1995. A number of new and ambitious approaches were utilized to bring
manufacturing issues into the senior-level Computer Design course at the University of
Massachusetts and several of these will be available for use in a similar course
this spring at the University of Rhode Island. Most notably, substantial industrial
involvement in this program allowed the development of new lab hardware and software
as well as an 11 lecture video-taped series featuring 5 industrial guests.
One of the major lessons we learned in the fall course was the significant challenge
involved in rapidly introducing industrial design techniques into the curriculum. Student
evaluations and industrial observers of the course were very supportive of the techniques
chosen, but the lack of time and appropriate tutorial materials prevented the students from
gaining as much as they could have from industrial CAD tools. It is not surprising that
industrial software tools require a substantial learning curve and support and that
vendors are not too interested in developing specialized student materials. Therefore,
we propose to create specialized teaching materials for 3 of the PC software packages:
MaxPlus from Altera, PICstart from Microchip and PADsPCB from PADs. These packages
provide high-performance graphical interfaces for logic design, microcontroller system
design and printed circuit board design, respectively.
The objective of this proposal is create new teaching materials for three
CAD software packages that were recently used in a senior computer design lab course.
By making these commercial software packages available to students, the students are
exposed to the manufacturing issues in three facets of electronic system design.
In particular design for manufacturability, testability, reliability and quality are
addressed. CAD packages provide designers with the ability to analyze the cost,
performance and reliability of their systems prior to fabrication, thus allowing them
to optimize and verify that specifications are met. Digital systems
designers are working at higher and higher levels of abstraction, using tools
such as hardware description languages (HDLs), programmable logic and software on
microcontrollers and digital signal processors. University labs need to move
beyond just teaching about prototyping (e.g. breadboards) and simulation and
give all senior level students exposure to real design-for-manufacturing techniques that
they will encounter in industry. This needs to be emphasized in all aspects
of a computer systems design, from software to programmable logic to processor
and memory selection and finally printed circuit boards.
Rather than using a traditional lecture approach, novel teaching materials
allow students to work on their own or in small groups, thus accomodating different
rates of learning. The interactive nature of the software packages themselves also
allows quick feedback to the student and the gratification of a real design. For
both the Altera and Microchip products, we have development systems which allow a
student to actually implement their design in a matter of minutes on a programmable
VLSI chip. Actual manufacture of printed circuit boards design in the PADs system
is also becoming quite rapid, available from area vendors in less than a week.
The teaching materials will allow
the use of these packages in additional ECE courses such as 350 (Computer Design Lab), 326
(Microprocessor Lab), and 497 (Senior Design Project) as well as other Engineering courses.
The materials will be relatively self-contained and will allow any upper-level engineering
student to quickly acquire skills for developing electronic prototypes while considering
manufacturing issues. Obviously, ECE students with more hardware and software experience
will be best able to use these tools, but other engineering students will be able to do
simple designs as well as understand the manufacturing issues involved when developing the
electronic subsystems which now exist throughout almost all modern engineering.
The teaching materials will consist of video-taped lectures, written tutorials and
design examples for each of the 3 software systems. These will be available across
all Academy schools and all written materials and design
examples will be available to the larger Internet community from the course Web page
which has already been substantially developed under the previous grant.
Our use of novel video techniques in 551 will be extended in this proposed work.
In 551, a novel video of demonstrations in the UMASS computer design laboratory was developed.
This was the first time that the UMASS VIP did any video-taping outside of their studios.
We also intend to explore the use of novel methods for digital dissemination, namely
CD-ROM and video over the Internet. Both of these methods will be novel for the UMASS
Video Instructional Program but are key to the future of distance learning and
continuing education. The proposed materials provide a concise piece of video content
with which we can explore these novel methods. Initially this will consist just of
MPEG compressed versions of the video. Later, interactive techniques and
combinations of video, audio, graphics and text can be used to fully exploit
the capabilities of digital multi-media..
May 96: Development of Altera teaching materials (UMA).
June 96: Development of Altera examples, PADs and PIC written
June 96: PADs and PIC examples.
July 96: Development of Videos. Testing of software by graduate TA
Aug 96: Evaluation of materials by industrial partners
Exploration of CD-ROM and Web video clips with UMASS/VIP
Fall 96: Use of materials in courses at UMA and possibly URI
This work is an extension of a joint proposal by UMA and URI.
The results of that proposal as well as this proposal will be broadly
available to all Academy Schools. I have contacted Keith Barker at UCONN
and Godi Fischer at URI about possible uses of this material at their institutions.
The nature of the proposed teaching materials greatly simplifies their
dissemination. In addition, the relationships we have built with Altera,
Microchip and PADs should greatly facilitate introduction of similar programs
at other Academy school.
This proposal involves extensive teaming, cooperative learning and hands-on
design because of the interactive nature of the software packages.
The impact on retention is substantial because it provides students with skills
for the workplace, thus making them more marketable. It also provides students
with tangible design skills. The software packages are not merely vocational skills,
but instead, represent design methods sought by a broad variety of industries which
use electronic systems. In addition, the exposure to industry and manufacturing
should aid retention by showing direct mobility from the senior year into the
job market. We have seen similar results in a senior-level VLSI Design elective
at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The outcomes of the proposed efforts, namely the multi-media teaching materials
(videos, written materials, Web page), will be evaluated by 1) students, 2) faculty for use in their
courses, and 3) software vendors, who will hopefully be persuaded to
distribute these materials even more widely across their university programs.
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