Design and Verification Hands-on Learning

On 10 May, I participated in a session of design and verification project presentations at the Faculty of Electronics and Computer Science, Transilvania University of Brașov.

This post details my experience and comes in recognition of the effort both professors and students put into improving the quality of education. It is also an acknowledgement of the effort both professors and students put into this session.

Pre-silicon Verification Program

Prof. PhD Petre Ogrutan and Project Director PhD Alexandru Dinu were responsible for creating and promoting the Pre-silicon Verification Program within the faculty. They began with AMIQ’s Pre-Silicon Verification course, which was made available in March 2020 (see here), in order for the faculty to bootstrap the pre-silicon verification curriculum. Since then they have been teaching students the principles of pre-silicon verification through hands-on design and verification projects, some of which were the subject of this session.

Location, Participants, Projects

The presentations were held in Building N at Transilvania University of Brașov. A nice location in the historical center of Brașov that was perfectly matched by the nice weather outside.

Beside the project teams and the organizers already mentioned, industry representatives were also in attendance in the shape of verification engineers from AMIQ, Intel, and Tobii. Events such as these are critical for the health of the industry’s ecosystem, providing an opportunity for students and industry professionals to meet, exchange ideas, and hold meaningful conversations.

Five projects were presented by students from the MSc and BSc programs. The students chose the following project themes:

  • Complex Number Multiplication Accelerator
  • Generic ALU
  • IRQ Controller
  • Systolic Matrix Multiplication Accelerator
  • Electrical Oven Controller

Each project was developed by a team of 3 to 5 students who had roles such as architects, design engineers and verification engineers. This meant the projects closely resembled commercial projects.

Project Implementation

The project implementation approach adopted was very close to what happens in real life:

  • the architect gathered information and proposed an implementation architecture
  • the design engineer implemented the solution and fixed reported issues
  • the verification engineers defined the verification plan, the verification environment and ran simulations

At the time of the presentation, there was a slight difference in the state of completion achieved by the different teams, with those that were part of the MSc program having made more progress than those on the BSc program. Some were around 90% done, while others were about 60% complete. This difference is reasonable given that those on the MSc program had time allocated in their study schedule, while for the BSc students the project was done concurrently with the BSc. thesis development. I recognise the effort put in by all teams and I admire those who showed the initiative to take part in these projects in their spare time.

The students implemented their designs in Verilog. The verification environment was implemented either using SystemVerilog/UVM (the MSc teams) or pure SystemVerilog (BSc). Although some of the verification environments did not use UVM, they followed the UVM architecture closely, which from my point of view is a plus, as it showed they knew what the ideal verification environment should look like.

The simulations were run using EDA Playground or the simulator that is normally part of the FPGA development toolkit. They also collected metrics such as code coverage, functional coverage and passing rate. They were quite inventive and didn’t seem to be deterred by the “lack of time” students usually suffer from.

Project Presentations

The presentations were divided into three sections:

  • design architecture
  • design implementation
  • verification environment architecture, verification plan and verification results

The presentations were not pitch perfect but did cover the most important aspects of their subject matter. The students were able to answer questions from the industry representatives and in doing so demonstrated that they had assimilated a very high degree of design and verification knowledge. They were able to explain the architectural and implementation decisions they had taken. They were able to explain the functional coverage they defined and also to provide on the spot new coverage points for the verification issues raised. Some showed they had the knack for digital design and verification. Some were so good they would qualify for an AMIQ internship.

The presenters were a little nervous, which was a good sign from my point of view: it showed they cared about their work, that it was important to them. All in all, the presentations were enjoyable, informative and helped us assess the state of progress and the level of competency.

Conclusions

At the end of the session we discussed what improvements might be made from an industry perspective. In my opinion, the most important thing is for the department to continue to provide these opportunities for applied learning, both in terms of offering a good learning experience and giving a chance to students to demonstrate practical abilities in an interview setting. Another thing that I hope to see is increased industry participation in such events to help the faculty bridge the gap between itself and the industry, and to support professors in their efforts to improve the curriculum. We also discussed various technical and project management improvements that could be made.

I believe the session was an important achievement for the professors and students alike.

AMIQ Education Program Contribution History

AMIQ is a company that focuses on growing people and the community it is part of. Our core belief is that one cannot improve without improving the community one is part of. And this is more than a belief, it is a basic rule of life: we grow together, never alone.

We designed and implemented a Pre-silicon Verification course in 2017 for the Advanced Computing in Embedded Systems MSc Program at the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Politehnica University of Bucharest. The course package contains both the theoretical materials and practical applications (i.e. labs); it also includes the original sources for the presentations and lab solutions.

Timeline of our delivery of this course at different academic institutions:

  • 2017 and 2018: I and other AMIQ staff delivered the course to the students on the Advanced Computing in Embedded Systems MSc Program at the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Politehnica University of Bucharest
  • 2019: the course was handed over to Mihai Antonescu PhD, Teaching Assistant on the program
  • 2020: the course was handed over to Alexandru Dinu PhD, Lecturer, Faculty of Electronics and Computer Science, Transilvania University of Brașov
  • 2024: the course was handed over to Arcadie Cracan, Faculty of Electronics and Computers, Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iași

The following people made possible the inclusion of pre-silicon verification in electronics curricula:

  • Radu Hobincu PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Politehnica University of Bucharest
  • Mihai Antonescu PhD, Teaching Assistant,  Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Politehnica University of Bucharest
  • Petre Ogrutan PhD, Professor, Faculty of Electronics and Computer Science, Transilvania University of Brașov
  • Alexandru Dinu PhD, Lecturer, Faculty of Electronics and Computer Science, Transilvania University of Brașov
  • Arcadie Cracan PhD, Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iași
  • Andrei Maiorescu, Lecturer, Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iași

Acknowledgements

I appreciate the effort the students put into these projects. I appreciate their passion and industriousness in getting the job done.

I would also like to thank all those listed above for their work in updating the education curriculum to reflect the latest industry trends, for their efforts in pushing Romanian higher education forward. This is all the more important as the semiconductor industry will be partly shifting chip production from Asia to Europe and the US.

Have a good one!

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Do you want to be up to date with our latest articles?