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Alexander Sudnitson Tallinn University of Technology. EWDTS’2009 Moscow, September 18 - 20, 2009. Advanced Topics of FSM Design Using FPGA Educational Boards and Web-Based Tools “LEARNING BY DOING”. Motivation.

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Ewdts 2009 moscow september 18 20 2009

Alexander Sudnitson

Tallinn University of Technology

EWDTS’2009 Moscow, September 18-20, 2009

Advanced Topics of FSM Design Using FPGA Educational Boards and Web-Based Tools



  • Digital design courses are offered at technical universities throughout the world. However, there is still an extensive search over the best way to organize them.

  • Educational tool that can be used to enhance the teaching of reconfigurable systems and the self-learning process that is critical for all engineering students.

  • Encourage students to learn advanced topics of digital design using new web-based tools.

Laboratory e quip ment
Laboratory equipment

  • Our approach is related to educational methods based on the principle "learning by doing", and uses as support FPGA boards because they are low-cost and powerful.

  • Students are provided with three models of development boards: Digilent's Spartan‑3 Starter Kit board and Spartan‑3E Starter Kit board, and SLS's UP3 Education Kit board. Boards feature FPGAs from Xilinx and Altera, two of the leading programmable logic devices manufacturers.

Educational board
Educational Board

Educational boards combine the advanced features of FPGA with straightforward power supply and I/O circuits, making it the perfect platform for designs ranging from simple logic circuits to complex digital systems.

Professional software environment
Professional software environment

  • Manufacturers provide all the necessary software for FPGA design flow (Integrated Software Environment (WebPack for Xilinx devices, Quartus-II Web Edition for Altera devices).

  • The design suites support all steps of the FPGA design flow (design entry, simulation, synthesis, translation and device configuration). Both may be freely downloaded (after registration) by students, which permits to continue working on projects outside university.

Fsm decomposition


Sub-FSM 1







Sub-FSM 2



Network of FSMs

FSM Decomposition

Problem of representing prototype FSM by network of interconnected and interacting sub-FSMs

Web based tools
Web-based tools

  • Provide easily accessible tools for educational and demonstration purposes

  • Be powerful enough in order to carry out scientific experiments

  • Result: D&S environment

Workflow process

1) Prepare source data

2) Perform decomposition

3) Analyze and export results


Probabilities Analyzer



Complexity Analyzer

Built-in libraries

Random Generator

Partition Search


VHDL,BLIF (network),

KISS2 (sub-FSMs)



Workflow process

Education specific

  • GUI version of software

  • Can be accessed over Internet or run locally

  • Web-page that describes theoretical background and contains manuals

  • A lot of examples

Research specific

  • GUI modules are duplicated by their command-line versions

  • Built-in libraries that contain set of benchmarks

  • Supports several formats to import source data and export results (BLIF, KISS2, VHDL)

Fsm stochastic explorer


p4 = 0.2348


p3 = 0.2348


p5 = 0.2348

p2 = 0.0783



p0 = 0.1130


p1 = 0.1043

FSM Stochastic Explorer

Concluding r emarks
Concluding remarks

  • The main goal was to find a compromise of what students would like to do and what they are actually able to fulfill. Students enjoyed project-like nature of the assignments and were very active in proposing their own tasks and ideas.

  • The use of FPGA technology in digital design education can add a certain level of realism to the learning experience. It may simply help to boost students' motivation, as they see their ideas get actually implemented and working.