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Cornell University FPGA Class Projects for 2008 112

Posted by timothy
from the ok-dad-now-about-that-money-I-asked-for dept.
Matt writes "The new crop of Cornell University ECE 5760 projects are now online. Some really cool projects, as well as the previous two years' worth of projects." Since it's mid-December, many other schools, too, have either just let out or are about to; can you point to any other online collections of cool technical projects?
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Cornell University FPGA Class Projects for 2008

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  • by Rozine (1345911) on Saturday December 13, 2008 @11:24PM (#26108163)
    I took the microcontroller equivalent of this class at Cornell when I was there. (I couldn't fit 576 into my schedule, unfortunately.) I have to say, that despite the weeks of all nighters we put into the projects, Bruce Land's class was the best I've ever had, and it did more to keep my interest in ECE and computers than all of the other CS and ECE classes I took. I literally got sick from working on the project too much, but it was so fun that it was worth it. If you ever want to try your hand at microcontrollers or FPGA's, and don't have much of a background in them, I recommend trying this out. The equipment you need is fairly cheap, the labs are fun, and the knowledge is priceless. There's a lot of toil in the workplace, but remembering this class (and working on similar things on the side) keeps my interest in electronics and programming ticking.
    • by rcb1974 (654474)
      I also took this course at Cornell from Land. The things I learned in his class were incredibly valuable. It was a lot of work but very fun.
      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        I didn't take 576, but I did take 476 from Land. I still consider it the best class I've ever taken in school, undergraduate or graduate.

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      It's too bad we don't get to do these types of projects in the "real world".

      I did more fun stuff in my 5 years of college than I've done in the 10 years since then. The only good news is that now my pay is better (negative $28/hour in college versus positive $50/hour at work).

      • There's nothing except your own priorities from stopping you doing fun stuff as a hobby at home! I'm sure you could pick up a cheap FPGA board if that's your interest, and it's easy to do software development using free tools under both Linux and Windows.

        Most jobs come with a trade off of interesting work (more rare) and good pay/commute/environment/etc. A reasonable compromise is to take the good pay/etc (gotta pay the bills), then do the fun/interesting stuff at home. You never know - you may be able to m

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          Maybe this is why my former adviser suggested I go into teaching at the college level. He said when he quit industry and became a professor his pay was cut 40%, but he found his new job much more enjoyable.

        • There's nothing except your own priorities from stopping you doing fun stuff as a hobby at home! I'm sure you could pick up a cheap FPGA board if that's your interest, and it's easy to do software development using free tools under both Linux and Windows.

          Yes, the boards are cheap, and the tools are free, but the test equipment is not. When you work with real hardware, it becomes an issue.

          I recently took a class from John's Hopkins on FPGA VHDL development, and we used inexpensive project boards. The early

  • A lot of these projects use wikipedia references extensively. Also, most of the other references are websites. There are very few text references.

    Does Cornell have an engineering library?
    • by Rozine (1345911)
      Cornell does have a very good engineering library (I've used it myself for research.) Most student work nowadays is done at a computer, at 4 AM, though, which doesn't lend itself to looking through the stacks for a book. For projects like this, it doesn't make sense to go to the library unless there's no available reference on the Internet (including the online reference materials and articles provided by the library). For serious research, the libraries are of course where you need to be still.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pallmall1 (882819)

        Most student work nowadays is done at a computer, at 4 AM, though, which doesn't lend itself to looking through the stacks for a book.

        You're right about that. What surprised me was that, with this being a graduate level course, confirming legitimate references were not also present.

        I only had a chance to look at a few projects, though, before the Cornell site slowed to a crawl likely due to the Slashdot traffic. They are pretty cool.

        Too bad I can't get the academic pricing on the Altera board.

        • How many books are out there on FPGA development that would be in a university library?

          My Physics department stopped adding to its stacks quite some time ago. Half of the library is slated to be converted into grad student offices within the next year. (Insert whine here about department not caring about undergrads)

          In any event, a great majority of the books that are there aren't remotely recent (eg. 50+ years old), and are often way above the comfort level of an undergrad.

          Although this seems to be genera

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          Also, keep in mind that as an engineering project, the final thing that REALLY matters is:

          Does it work and perform the function it was designed to do?

      • As I sit here procrastinating well on my way to still being working on my project at 4, it is cold out and the library is too far away. I do however look at the references cited by Wikipedia for the relevant sections and use them as my own.
    • I once tried to use the engineering library at my school... *shudder*.... the internet is a godsend.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I tried to use the library at my school (Nebraska - Omaha) and after discovering most of the books are from the 60s and 70s it turns out over half are falling apart and the other half have disintegrated long ago. It was kinda sad but then again the stuff I was looking for was all about analog power supplies and while I can imagine that the digital stuff is in better shape that is still no excuse for having unusable books. Wiki pages and Google searches also beat out the new bajillion dollar search engine

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      More importantly, do the students know it exists? I bet that most didn't even consider those dusty old things called books.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      No, we have multiple engineering libraries.

    • by billsnow (1334685)
      Eh, give them a break. Yeah, have notes referencing wikipedia is laughable, but it's an undergrad course. It has a grad course number, but I suspect it's mostly an elective for undergrads. I've taken similar undergrad courses at Purdue ECE, and documentation notes are usually limited to white paper specs for whatever standards or commercial/proprietary components are used for the project. It's not typical for undergrads, who are limited to only about a month (many times less) for most final projects, to dw
  • ...provide hosting for Cornell University FPGA Class Project during Slashdotting.
    • by kelnos (564113)
      Heh... while I was at Cornell I worked at CIT as my campus job. Unless they've upgraded it (unlikely, unless the budget fairy has been drastically nicer in recent years), I seem to remember that was a single not-really-new Sun box... impressive that it's handing /. traffic as well as it is.
  • by themacks (1197889) <<ude.hcetag> <ta> <yhtraccmkram>> on Saturday December 13, 2008 @11:45PM (#26108265) Homepage
    The websites for Georgia Tech's senior design projects can be found here: []
    • Huh... I guess they removed all the older project pages? They used to have the older project pages up there too, and you could look over past projects and choose to add to them instead of starting from scratch...
  • by aliquis (678370) <> on Saturday December 13, 2008 @11:51PM (#26108311) Homepage

    Looks like they should had made a "web accelerator."

  • MIT's lab (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward has FPGA projects with videos, documentation and code

  • We've got something like that at MIT... They've done some pretty cool stuff as well, its not a senior thing though.. just a normal class. The voice controlled chess is pretty cool though. []
  • by gbrayut (715117) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:09AM (#26108367) Homepage
    I used the same board during my senior project at the University of Utah. It is a great FPGA with tons of options. Our group was sponsored by Micron and built a testing platform for NAND Flash memory [] that got us a spot presenting at the 2008 FLASH Memory Summit. []
  • I'm in the computer science program at RHIT and we're required to take two courses on computer architecture. In the first course, we implement a simple processor using an FPGA, then we design and build our own. Of course, this is before we learn about pipelining, but it's still a lot of fun. In the prereq course where we learn digital circuits, my section's final project was to build a judging system for a pinewood derby race using an FPGA, and other sections had to do such things as implement an alarm cloc
  • by jbf (30261) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:52AM (#26108535) []

    Includes some crazy stuff like a photographing UAV, a PC-based oscilloscope, and a combination lock brute-forcer.

  • I'm eFamous! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mach7 (1431175) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:58AM (#26108565)

    I'm in this class. I worked on the Speaker Recognition project. It was very hard. Some comments and responses to other posts:

    • This is not a shitty program. In fact, it's probably one of the top programs in Cornell Engineering.
    • Both this class and the microcontroller class are taught by Bruce Land, an excellent professor. He's been at Cornell forever and knows just about everything.
    • Bear in mind that these projects were done in 4-5 weeks and this is only one of several courses that each student takes.
    • No one goes to the library for books any more. In five years at Cornell, I've had to get a library book once to find something I couldn't find online.
    • Wikipedia is an excellent reference. If nothing else, it is useful as a platform for finding the keywords necessary to more fully investigate a subject.
    • Our project does reference "real" publications - these are easily found using Google Scholar.

    If you have any questions about the class, I'd be happy to answer them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      Shameless plug:

      William & Mary [] offers a very similar class [] as an undergraduate Physics elective that I just completed.

      Mirroring the parent poster's comment: "It was very hard" (damn interesting though...)

  • Its cool to get to see what everyone's doing, I'm a senior electrical engineering student, and I'm working on a sonar project where we are using phased-array radar techniques on ultrasound to do sensing. We recently had to give 1/2 way presentations (full-year project), and its amazing what we're able to do when we get to finally unleash three long years worth of learning. Glad to see so many people are getting their hard work viewed by the public. Hope it helps land them a job, or some VC money to start a
  • So freaking what? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    News for nerds? Hardly. Circle-jerk publicity for Cornell, home of Andy Bernard? Probably. Total waste of space? Definitely.

    There are thousands of cool class projects, so why pick the frankly sub-par efforts of Cornell here? Someone blow someone who wears the right color tie today?

  • My school (Texas) has a course where were build up this OS, step by step. Right from the bootloader to it's full multitasking glory. By far the most useful/fun course I have ever taken in my life. Link: []
  • has some pretty interesting projects of various kinds, both on the website and the more frequently updated blog section, he's more hardware than software though.

  • Freshman course (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We have a course like this at our school, but it is for freshman only. The Altera DE2 boards are used as well, but we are not allowed to use NIOS. Instead we had to make our own architecture. I'm not too impressed with the projects on this site this semester.

    I just noticed someone did a brute force attack on DES with an FPGA. How the hell is that a senior project? That's like a quick weekend project.

  • by compumike (454538) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @02:31AM (#26108893) Homepage

    For a slightly more holistic project approach, take a look at a MIT 2.009 Product Engineering [] class (Mechanical Engineering dept), which now has videos from their projects for this semester: microwave fire extinguisher, self-adjusting electric cook-top array, basketball player tracking system, etc. There are also some neat projects for microcontroller beginners on the NerdKits videos [] page. DIY digital scale interface over USB, morse code decoder, iPhone R/C car control, and more. (Disclaimer: I did some of the electronics design for the 2.009 Purple Team, and am one of the NerdKits team.)

    • by Zackbass (457384)

      Hey there, I'm the guy that ended up designing and building the final electronics system for the Purple team. Did you get a chance to see the system I ended up doing? I was able to get some pretty good performance, reliably detecting a single infrared LED out to about 40 feet in an extremely noisy environment.

  • (Score:3, Informative)

    by zackhugh (127338) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @03:07AM (#26109033)

    To answer the poster's question, the site provides a wealth of free FPGA hardware designs.

    You can find a full list of their projects here [].

  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @03:09AM (#26109043) Journal

    A disclaimer: i hold a phd degree in physics and am working in research. When i studied, libraries were still the most common way to acquire knowledge, so i am biased.

    However, i observe the following thing: AFAIR Wikipedia itself says it is not meant to be a "first source". Wikipedia can give you hints where to search in detail, and for sure that *is* great. However, a citation in a paper or your report serves two purposes:

    a) make your work understandable for the reader (being nice to the reader)
    b) give credit to the original author (being nice to the original author)
    c) make clear what you have done/not done (being nice to yourself by specifically avoiding to be accused of scientific misconduct)

    The traditional approach is that general text books should seldom be cited, and if so, very specifically. To me, if a student cites a specific wikipedia page the latter condition is fulfilled. So if a reasearch group somewhere on the world used FPGAS in a certain way, it is fair to cite their works and not an wikipedia article which was written from an enthousiast about an article which cooked the results of that group down in an popular science journal. However i suggest, if the wikipedia version is well written, to insert a sentence in the introductory part of the report like "Technique x using y is now widely researched and review reports and intodudory materials are commonly available [a,c,b]", which [a,b,c] beeing wikipedia, a textbook or something (not that you may put several references in a single citation). If it helped you, it can be mentioned. Dont however mention textbook knowledge which is expected from you and your peers.

    The following things should be kepti in mind:

    a) anything referring to a standard should carry the standards official publisher in the reference
    Bad example: cite [] for the standard instead of the standard itself. *However* iff the article on wikipedia contains additional information like ABOUT the standard and you want to mention this informally in a meta-sentence (e.g. "IEEE 801.11 is seen by the broad public as the only WLAN standard [quote to wikipedia]"), then it is for sure allowed.

    b) dont fall for the illusion that wikipedia is faster than the scientic journals. i assure you its not. In the subjet i work, wikipedia is at least 4 years behind the *published* knowledge and understanding.

    c) Wikipedia tends to be good for general knowledge and bad for specific in depth-knowledge. The theory behind the subject i am researching in mentioned only on the surface, but even the context with some papers from the beginning of the *last* century is missing (i'll add it when i find time).

    So all in all: Saying to a student: "start at wikipedia" might be ok. One should also say "but follow the threads".

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647)

      Interesting comment, but I find something odd: for someone who purports to be a PhD researcher, your style is decidedly crude. If you want to criticize the informality of a paper, using capitalization and punctuation correctly is always helpful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drolli (522659)

        a) English is not my native language, and English punctuation is hard.

        b) this was not a critical of anything specific, just my view on the wikipedia discussion, which sadly boils down to ideological wars sometimes (and does so here in other threads).

        c) for sure typing a 5 minutes comment in slashdot has lower standards on capitalization and punctuation than a submitted comment on a paper.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by LaskoVortex (1153471)

        Interesting comment, but I find something odd: for someone who purports to be a PhD researcher, your style is decidedly crude.

        It's a PhD in physics, not English grammar. Also, punctuation has little to do with scholarship, which is what GP discusses. I hold a PhD and can write circles around 99% of my colleagues, but I focused on the content and not the style of the GP post, so I didn't notice the lowercase "i"s, etc. Time to graduate from your middle school mindset, kid.

      • someone who purports to be a PhD researcher, [...] using capitalization and punctuation correctly

        I think you're mixing up physics and linguistics ;)

    • by Chees0rz (1194661)
      As a recent college graduate, I have one thing to say-

      Any student that violates the above should be removed from College. NO REFUND
      I had to work in a couple of groups where other students would not only use Wikipedia as their primary source of information (not beyond it), but they would also copy and paste right from the website and submit it for peer review as a "rough draft."

      I assume these are C students.... but they should be failing.
      • by drolli (522659)

        Copying in science classes existed well before wikipedia. I nearly killed a co-student who "evaluated" the data from a lab course we did together. Sadly she (studying to be a teacher) was too stupid to even replace the numbers in the evaluation she copied from five years ago. Sadly the lab course involved an radioactive source which decayed, so the supervisor immediately knew something was wrong when he saw her "evaluation". It was also funny that on the day before she did not mention this to me. This thoug

  • The Tangible User Interfaces class (which I was in) at the School of Information at UC Berkeley just had its final presentations. You can see press coverage (including video and pictures) here: [] []

    Includes a projected digital shadow around your body, an elevator where you can play with a butterfly, blowing virtual bubbles and a coffee table that tracks the cups on its surface.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @03:47AM (#26109203) Homepage

    I just saw the poster presentations from CS 229 [], Machine Learning, at Stanford. The current batch of projects aren't on line yet, but the ones from previous years are.

    The projects were very impressive. A vision-guided autonomous helicopter. A system for separating out instruments and vocals from existing audio. A CAPTCHA solver. De-blurring of out of of focus images. Flower recognition. Recognition of hostile network traffic. And those were just a few of the projects. Machine learning really works now.

  • I was disappointed by "All Digital, FPGA Based, Lock-in Amplifier". I was imagining the following scenario:

    Grunt: Sir, we're rapidly loosing market share to Apple and Linux.
    Ballmer: Engage the lock-in amplifier. Muhahahaha.

  • There's a time and place for each project. The Tetris game and most video games are not good FPGA projects. Tetris is something you could write just as well or better using a general purpose processor. No one would ever turn to an FPGA to write a video game nowadays. Implementing a CPU and searching DES space seem reasonable, though. When I took a similar course I remembering thinking, "What a waste," back then, too. We only had 10k gate-equivalents on our Xilinx FPGAs, though.

  • All I can do is sigh at yet another Altera bought and paid-for university that won't teach kids more than one FPGA toolchain.

    • by mach7 (1431175)

      I don't think this argument is valid

      • There are, after all, only two major FPGA vendors (Altera and Xilinx) out there. It makes sense to me in a learning environment to choose one and avoid spending extra time learning the quirks of two systems. That time would be better spent learning the course material.
      • It is not difficult to move from one vendor to another once one toolchain has been mastered.
      • I've heard from a 3rd party that Altera tools are easier to use than the Xilinx, which again suits an education
      • by mako1138 (837520)

        Yeah, all FPGA toolchains are pretty much the same. I went through a course at Berkeley that used Xilinx, and at work we're a Xilinx shop, but I've tried out Altera and Lattice toolsets and found them to be very similar. The big differences are when you get down to nitty-gritty timing and area constraints, but those are tied to low-level architecture, and in a intro class that's not something you need to worry about.

        All FPGA manufacturers offer a free version of their tools, so the price argument is moot.

        • by mako1138 (837520)

          I should add, though, that Altera's Nios and Xilinx's Microblaze do represent a form of vendor lock-in. They're heavily marketed and the results are starting to show, I guess.

    • Ha. And Xilinx marketing don't do the same? Don't make me laugh. Xilinx marketing are well known for being the pushiest in the industry. I think you will find that worldwide, the Xilinx university program is bigger than Altera's.
      • by EmagGeek (574360)

        I didn't make any statements with respect to Xilinx. Don't put words in my mouth.

        • Fair enough, but reading between the lines (I was in the FPGA industry for 7 years), most people were polarised between X and A (nobody cared about Actel/Lattice/QuickLogic enough) why so anti-Altera? So can you explain your sentiments instead of just slating them? Their tool chain has the same pro's and con's as everyone else. Sorry, but you did sound like a Xilinx fanboy..
          • by EmagGeek (574360)

            I did not even remotely sound like a Xilinx "fanboy," as you put it, neither was my post anti-Altera.

            My post was meant to call attention to the forced polarization of education by corporate interests. Instead of "learning to learn," students are "trained" in the use of one particular toolchain to the exclusion of all others. Instead, students should be taught to learn things, not taught to use things.

            One thing that bugs me to no end when I hire kids out of school is that they don't know how to DO anything.

  • I don't know if public schools rate high enough to be included in this discussion, but if so, the computer engineering senior projects for Univ. of California, Santa Barbara can be found at I'm involved in the ThermIN project. These projects span 2 quarters. In the first quarter the project is designed to the PCB. The next quarter is spent fabricating the boards so we have no input on the project at that point. In the Spring quarter we implement the desig

    • Hey, I was in the first year of ECE 189 back in '03 (also in the first graduating class of their newfangled CE major). Very cool class.

      And hey: my project was a portable* laptop drive-based MP3 player and five years later, I'm working one one again. But this time it's for a well-known company in Cupertino...

      * "Portable" MP3 player turned out to be about half the size of a lunchbox. Don't forget mounting holes in your PCB: other mounting solutions are difficult and large!

  • The Digital|Vita system was designed by a team of masters students in human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. It allows users to manage biographical information, output this information into several commonly used formats (e.g. NIH biosketches), and assemble research teams through expertise location and a social network. The system is currently in the prototype stage. See video of the prototype (8 min): []

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun