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Topic: A Better FPGA Board

Name: Emily Blem

Advisor: Bruce Maxwell

The field programmable gate array (FPGA) boards currently used in E15, E25 and E90 projects are clumsy and slow to program. They use a parallel port interface and must be separately powered. The boards have limited input and output functions, and include functionality rarely used for projects at Swarthmore. I propose to design a new board with features more closely tied to departmental needs. The goal will be to offer an easy to use, compact, and robust board that can be cheaply replicated and used for a variety of projects.

One goal of the project will be to make the boards as portable and easy to use as possible. The parallel port interface will be replaced by a USB programming interface. The USB interface may use existing wireless technologies so that each computer in the lab would have a transmitter and the boards themselves would not need to be plugged into the computer, depending upon capabilities of USB chip sets already on the market. To eliminate the power cable for the board, the board will be powered off of the USB and/or use rechargeable batteries. A device driver will need to be written to allow Max-Plus II to program across the USB interface.

Input and output functionalities will be chosen based on departmental needs. Current ideas for input devices include dipswitches, an on-board clock, and easy to use external pins. Output devices may include a small LCD screen, LEDs, and external pins. The boards will have an Altera FPGA which can be swapped easily.

The project will include the complete design process, from product research to final production. I will need to select a USB chip set, chose I/O functionality based on departmental needs, desires, and constraints, design a PCB, write a USB device driver, and fully test the product. The final design will need to be well documented so that a full set of boards can be built for use at Swarthmore. The final product will be a fully functional and thoroughly tested prototype with complete documentation.