COMPREHENSIVE LEARNING OF DIGITAL ELECTRONICS THROUGH FPGAS
1 University of Almeria (SPAIN)
2 University of Almeria, CIAMBITAL (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:In the degree on Industrial Electronics at the Universidad de Almería, Spain, students were able to physically interact with basic digital elements by means of designing and testing digital circuits. A much more up-to-date way to reinforce the concepts taught in Digital Electronics is using FPGAs, programmable hardware with the capabilities of performing as the previously used discrete components and much more. FPGAs were introduced in this year's Digital Electronics curriculum, while coexisting with the previous methodology, based on discrete integrated circuits focused on the theoretical contents, establishing in the laboratory sessions or practical sessions exercises that complement these theoretical contents. The FPGAs were introduced in the last part of the course, by means of an autonomous individual project based on the use of Finite State Machine (FSM) with hardware programming, using a specific device to validate the design. Regarding the autonomous part of the design, for each step students are provided with robust tests, allowing them to check their code and rewrite any incorrect parts, if necessary.
Despite the challenge that learning a new programming language and mastering a new technology over the course of one subject poses, students favour the inclusion of FPGAs in the curriculum of Digital Electronics. They are aware of the current wide spreading of this technology and acknowledge that it will be useful for them in the future.
95% of the student highly agree (>=7) that the initiation to the VHDL programming is interesting for their professional career, and 90% for personal purposes. This year, with the development of the new methodology in practice, the students’ grades have improved, with a higher number of students with grades between "B" and "A", as well as a higher number of passes (63%), while the number of students who did not present themselves for the exams was close to 26%. It should be noted that the students who have not passed the practical part of the subject where the new methodology has been established coincide in most cases with the students who did not present themselves for the evaluation of the same.
This methodology has enabled the knowledge of the students who have passed the course to be considerably reinforced, pointing how students understand that one of the most critical working skill is to be able to put their knowledge to use, being able to translate from theoretical concepts to a practical implementation that a machine can understand.
Keywords: FPGA, Digital Electronics, Project based, Opinion survey.