Integrating Manufacturing into a Senior Computer Systems Design Lab

Keywords: Manufacturing Teaching Modules, Computer Systems Design, Undergradute Education

Submitted in Response to:
EASNE 1995 Request for Proposals for Curriculum Development


Dept of ECE
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

Dept of ECE
University of Rhode Island
Kingson, RI 02881

Duration: June 1, 1995 to August 31, 1996

Technical Points of Contact

W. Burleson
(413) 545-2382
fax (413) 545-1993

G. Fischer
(401) 792-5879
fax (401) 782-6422


This proposal describes the development of: 1) manufacturing modules, and 2) an inter-university Design Forum, for a required senior-level Computer Systems Design Laboratory course in Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the last 10 years, there has been a revolution in the way electronic systems are designed, prototyped and manufactured which is not reflected in our current curricula. By the senior year, students are well-prepared to see modern Integrated Product/Process Development techniques merged with computer, control and signal processing applications in innovative microprocessor system designs.

The five manufacturing modules will consist of video-taped lectures, software and other teaching materials covering: the economics of electronic system manufacturing, microprocessor system design, printed circuit board design and use of programmable logic. Design projects allow students to apply knowledge from the modules to a small microprocessor based system, typically for control or signal processing. The final Design Forum presents an opportunity for students to present their systems to an industrial panel which will give awards based on manufacturability and design innovation.


The objective of this proposal is to update senior-level Computer Systems Lab courses with modern design techniques, in particular design for manufacturability, testability, reliability and quality. 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 microprocessors 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 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. While emphasizing manufacturability, we also want to preserve the element of ``hands-on; SPMquot; design and test which has already made these courses quite successful in preparing students for the job market and graduate research. Each module has a laboratory component involving the use of software tools and actual hardware assembly and test. The final design project allows the students to develop interesting and tangible functionality, most likely in control and signal processing applications.

Description and Approach

The first two thirds of the curriculum will have 5 manufacturing modules, each of which is portable and self-contained. The modules consist of video-taped lectures by faculty and industrial guests, software, lab notes, tutorials for CAD software, and schematics. The modules include:
  1. economics of electronic system manufacturing, semiconductor fabrication methods, design re-use, design for testability, reliability and manufacture;
  2. microprocessor and DSP architectures and programming, hardware/software co-design;
  3. I/O and memory systems, bus systems, modern memory architectures, serial and parallel interfaces;
  4. HDL and programmable logic design (FPGAs), system emulation;
  5. printed circuit board design, layout, manufacture and test; costing, connectors, noise, EMI, ESD, (concludes with field trip);

The modules will be disseminated using a variety of media, primarily videotapes prepared using facilities at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Also, the World Wide Web on the Internet will be used both by students and among faculty of different schools for exchanging ideas about design projects and CAD technology. One of the PIs has used the Web in previous courses.

The final third of the course involves design projects in which groups of students develop PC or microprocessor based systems. Apart from realizing a prototype system, students will also be asked to address manufacturing issues. Typical design projects will be complete systems and will thus require interfacing of the microprocessor or DSP to sensors, actuators and other I/O devices. The use of inexpensive controllers and DSP chips from Motorola, Analog Devices and Texas Instruments will be encouraged due to their ease of interface and availability of development systems intended for student use. The projects conclude with an inter-university Design Forum in which students give oral presentations and demonstrations of their designs and an industrial panel gives awards for manufacturability and design innovation. The initial version of the Design Forum could be held via teleconference, thus reducing travel costs while exposing students to novel telecommunications. The Design Forum presents an ideal opportunity for New England employers to contact students in the course and obtain first-hand evidence of their design and communication capabilities.

Several EASNE faculty and industrial partners are directly involved in developing and implementing new approaches to the manufacture of computer systems, therefore this course presents an ongoing opportunity to directly transfer results to undergraduate education. A similar approach has been used in VLSI courses at UMASS/Amherst.

Work and Time Plan

July 95:	 Development of manufacturing module teaching materials (UMA). 
August 95:       Development of CAD software and DSP tutorials (UMA),  
		 FPGA development systems (URI). 
Fall 95: 	 Pilot version of ECE 551 at UMASS Amherst. 
Oct 95: 	 UMA Field trip to PCB manufacturing facility (DEC or Deka). 
Jan 96: 	 Evaluation of UMA pilot version 
Spring 96: 	 Pilot version of ELE 444 at URI
Apr 96: 	 URI Field trip to PCB manufacturing facility 
		 (Cherry Semiconductor). 
May 96: 	 Design Project Forum:  presentations and awards, 
 		 industrial keynote speaker
Jun 96: 	 Evaluation of URI pilot version and overall program

Retention Impact

This proposal involves extensive teaming, cooperative learning and hands-on design in the modules, the design project, and finally the Design Forum presentations.

Because this is a proposal for a required senior-level course, its impact on retention is mainly in the form of motivation for lower-level students. Publicity and exposure of the design projects and Forum can help encourage sophomores and juniors by demonstrating real applications of their fundamental engineering courses. 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.

Project Evaluation

The outcomes of the proposed efforts include the development of multi-media manufacturing modules as well as fostering cooperation between EASNE schools and industry via the Design Forum, field trips and industrial guest lecturers.

The methods of evaluation include: 1) reviews of the manufacturing modules by faculty, students and industry, 2) student and industrial evaluation of the design projects, Forum and contest. The industrial review panel which judges the design contest will also be asked to make an overall evaluation of the course and suggest future curricular revisions.


Please report any web page problems to: