Course Details

Course Code COMP4601
Course Title Design Project B
Units of Credit 6
Course Website
Handbook Entry

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Course Summary

COMP4601 is a team-based project development course involving the design and implementation of embedded and/or high performance and/or low power systems using FPGAs.

Teams develop a solution to one of a number of suggested project problems. Project teams are expected to investigate possible approaches, develop their proposal, implement their design, present their solution, and to report on their investigation and implementation.

The course involves lectures, seminars, lab exercises and project work. Lectures will provide some context for the problems being studied and some background on solution approaches. Students will prepare and assess seminars on related research publications. Project teams will present the results of their investigations and developments.

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Course Timetable

The course timetable is available here .

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Course Aims

This course is expected to enhance research skills, sharpen design, implementation and presentation skills, allow students to explore solutions to open-ended problems, and provide opportunities to practice the rapid acquisition of new technical skills with state-of-the-art systems.

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Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • design and implement digital systems that incorporate programable logic,
  • explain and put into practice techniques for accelerating computation in hardware,
  • independently study advanced techniques in digital design and implementation, and
  • document and present their developments in a professional manner.

This course contributes to the development of the following graduate capabilities:

Graduate Capability Acquired in
scholarship: understanding of their discipline in its interdisciplinary context Design & implementation tasks; Seminars
scholarship: capable of independent and collaborative enquiry Design & implementation tasks; Team activities
scholarship: rigorous in their analysis, critique, and reflection Design & implementation tasks; Presentation & documentation tasks; Lab exercises
scholarship: able to apply their knowledge and skills to solving problems Design & implementation tasks
scholarship: capable of effective communication Presentation & documentation tasks; Seminars
leadership: enterprising, innovative and creative Design & implementation tasks; Team activities
leadership: collaborative team workers Team activities
professionalism: capable of independent, self-directed practice Lab exercises; Design & implementation tasks
professionalism: capable of lifelong learning Seminars
global citizens: culturally aware and capable of respecting diversity and acting in socially just/responsible ways Team activities

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Assumed Knowledge

The formal pre-requisites for this course are COMP3211 and COMP3601.

It is assumed that, prior to taking this course, students:

  • know a hardware description language,
  • have experience programming an FPGA,
  • have the background to architect solutions to computational problems,
  • understand the concepts of sequential programming and know an imperative programming language such as C, and
  • understand the purpose and structure of an operating system.

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Teaching Rationale

Hardware design and systems prototyping using field-programmable gate arrays is increasingly important and supports a booming embedded systems and hardware accelerator industry. In order to develop essential skills and to be industrially relevant, computer engineering students need to gain experience designing and implementing systems and components using programmable logic devices. Increasingly, these devices include hard processors, and therefore require designers to consider the appropriate mix of hardware and software approaches. The background necessary to understand the design problem, processors and programmable logic technology will be outlined in classes. Students will work in teams to study and develop solutions using current methodologies to a computationally demanding and relevant problem.

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Teaching Strategies

Formally, the course comprises three lecture hours and three lab hours per week for 10 weeks. However, since this is a 4th year project course, there is an emphasis on working informally with your peers to solve problems. It is expected that you will spend a good deal of time both independently and jointly solving problems you encounter and trying to understand vaguely stated, but important information.

Course participants will study motivating problems during class and undertake practical tasks to gain an appreciation of the main concepts touched upon in the course, namely: hardware acceleration, hardware/software co-design, parallel architectures and reconfigurable systems design.The problems to be studied and possible solution approaches will be introduced via lectures.

A suite of laboratory exercises has been provided to facilitate the acquisition of the skills required to make use of the hardware/software provided in the course. At the completion of key lab exercises, students are expected to reflect upon their learning via brief written reports.

In this course you will partner up with fellow students in two types of groups: project and seminar groups. Your project group will decide which problem to study and will jointly work towards an efficient implementation. Your seminar group will study a relevant topic or theme and prepare a joint presentation. The project and seminar tasks each have both team and individual evaluation components. Overall, your individual efforts will contribute 70% to your final mark in the course.

Project teams are required to report on their progress as they develop solutions to the unique design challenges posed by their projects. A project plan is to be developed and presented to the class during Week 5 - a written plan will also be submitted at this stage. A design review involving a demonstration of progress will take place in Week 8. A final report, demonstration and presentation are due in Week 11. These formal reporting requirements encourage students to manage their project systematically and to plan their work. Regular feedback on the direction and approach being taken will be provided during the lab sessions.

The preparation and presentation of seminars is intended to provide students with research experience, practice effective communications, and develop professional skills. Audience members are expected to participate in the discussion and to assess the presentation of seminars.

There are no formal examinations in this course.

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Assessment in this course will be based on the following:

Week(s) Criterion Contribution
1-10 Individual project contribution 25% i(individual)
2-4 Lab reports 15% i
5 Project plan (presentation & report) 5% T(eam)
7-10 Seminar presentations 15% i + 5% T
7-10 Seminar participation & assessment 15% i
8 Design review (lab demonstration) 5% T
11 Final project presentation, lab demonstration & report 15% T

Individual assessments will be based on individual efforts, individual contributions to team successes, your learning, and ability to adapt to circumstances.

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Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

UNSW has an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of learning informed by academic integrity. All UNSW staff and students have a responsibility to adhere to this principle of academic integrity. Plagiarism undermines academic integrity and is not tolerated at UNSW. Plagiarism at UNSW is defined as using the words or ideas of others and presenting them as your own.

If you haven't done so yet, please take the time to read the full text of

The pages below describe the policies and procedures in more detail:

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Course Schedule

Lectures are scheduled to occur in Weeks 1-4 & Week 6, and as needed thereafter.

Teams will present and submit their Project Plans during Week 5. Individual discussions will be held with teams during the lab sessions.

Students will commence lab work in Week 1 and submit brief reports on their impressions, implementations and suggestions by the following Monday in Weeks 2-4.

During the lecture periods of Weeks 7-9, groups of students will present a seminar and lead a panel discussion on related research publications chosen during Weeks 1-2. Audience members are expected to participate in the discussion and to assess the presentation of the seminars.

A Progress Review, involving a demonstration of progress will occur during the lab session of Week 8.

On Tuesday 30 April commencing at 11 am, teams will present and demonstrate their solutions to the problems they studied. A Final Report will also be submitted.

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Resources for Students

There is no prescribed text for this course. However, students will need to refer to research papers, product data sheets, application notes, standards, system documentation, reference books and technical articles to gain the background needed to design and implement the project systems. Some of these references will be identified during the course. Please ask the lecturer and/or demonstrator for assistance if you are lost.

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Course Evaluation and Development

Student feedback on this course will be obtained via electronic survey (myExperience) at the end of session and will be used to make improvements to the course. Students are encouraged to provide informal feedback during the session and to let the lecturer in charge know of any problems as soon as they arise. Every reasonable effort to address concerns will be made.

Students have commented that they enjoyed the in-depth exposure to reconfigurable technology and project experience gained in Design Project B. With the change in course duration, in 2019 we will begin to examine the industry shift towards productivity tools, such as the use of high-level synthesis to create programmable logic accelerators. To ease the learning burden and provide more guidance, we plan to provide demonstrations of the tools via lab walk-throughs. Seminars will be presented by panels so as to reduce the individual load and provide a more coherent view of each seminar theme.

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Resource created Tuesday 12 February 2019, 05:08:19 PM, last modified Thursday 14 February 2019, 04:39:52 PM.

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