The MSc in Digital Systems Engineering is a one-year full-time taught course that makes extensive use of the knowledge and expertise from our well established Intelligent Systems and Nano-Science Research Group.
It is intended to provide students with a good theoretical background and solid hands-on experience of the techniques used in modern digital systems design. Using FPGAs as a hardware platform and VHDL as a design language, the programme provides students with: -A balanced picture of state-of-the-art digital systems design methods -A sound theoretical and practical knowledge of digital devices, tools, data networks and operating systems -The ability to learn new techniques to keep up-to-date with new developments in an industrial and/or research setting -Experience of the use of industry-standard tools to make them attractive candidates for prospective employers in the field -Experience of working within a group and of the important management skills required by industry -Hands-on experience of the different stages of the design of a modern digital system, which will culminate in the construction of a complex device (for example, an FPGA-based MP3 player)
The course aims to provide a broad-based introduction to state-of-the-art digital system design techniques and to provide a solid grounding in both theory and practice. It is suitable for students wishing to pursue a career in digital electronic industry and research.
[[Group Project The aim of this substantial group project is to immerse the students in a life-like scenario of a company developing digital systems. The project will involve the design, construction and implementation of a complete FPGA-based digital system, providing students with practical experience of project management and team skills. The system will include both software (such as human-computer interface, low-level programming) and hardware (such as FPGA, A/D converters, communication interfaces) components. The project will culminate in the design and realisation of a printed circuit board hosting a FPGA interfaced to a variety of peripherals. Communication links allowing connection to a PC will enable the creation of a diverse range of multimedia, diagnostic or communication systems. Furthermore, at the end of the project, students will keep the boards they have designed, providing them with a complete FPGA development system, allowing them to further investigate digital systems design.
The project preparation will begin towards the end of the Autumn term when groups will be given a Quality Assurance manual, that will prepare the students to establish effective company policies, procedures and roles for group members, introducing the Quality Assurance processes applied to medium to large projects in industry.
In the Autumn term, a module on 'C Programming' will hone the students' skills required to effectively carry out the software components of the project. The module will provide a practical introduction to writing and running C programs as an example of a procedural programming language.
In the Spring term, the actual project will get under way. Groups of 4-6 students will be formed, assigned a target system to design, and provided with a budget. In this term, the students will prepare an implementation plan that will be followed for the remainder of the project. Detailed system specifications will be established and the budget allocated, taking into account the cost of components and off-the-shelf IP modules.
In the Summer term, the project will continue with the pre-implementation phase. Students will design a PCB with the components (FPGA, communication interfaces, displays, memories, etc.) defined in the system specifications. The design will be sent to fabrication and returned by the end of term. Along with the PCB design, the students will develop a block-level algorithmic description of the system to be implemented, defining the role of each component within the system and beginning the development of the software components of the system.
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