Computer Science
Computer Science
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Technical Report Number TR2010-1

Leveraging Hardware Description Lanugages and Spiral Learning in an Introductory Computer Architecture Course

John Robinson, Ganesh Baliga
Department of Computer Science
Rowan College of New Jersey
Glassboro, NJ 08028

This paper describes our experience with using hardware description languages (HDLs such as VHDL) in the sophomore level Computer Architecture course for Computer Science (CS) majors. In our approach, we leverage the students understanding of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) to introduce programmatic specifications of computer components such as multiplexors, adders etc. Students will be exposed to HDLs yet again in more advanced hardware courses such as Digital Design, Computer Architecture and Embedded Systems Programming. In this manner, we plan to harvest the benefits of spiral learning, whose effectiveness in pedagogy is well accepted. The proliferation of Fully Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and modern development environments makes it feasible for CS majors to experience the creation of functioning hardware using specifications coded in VHDL. We expect our approach will result in improved learning outcomes for CS majors in the hardware field.