Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are revolutionizing the way that digital logic circuits are designed and built. Because FPGAs can be completely configured using design software from a desktop PC, hardware designs that used to take months to design and implement can now be developed in a fraction of the time and cost. Graduates with knowledge and skills in FPGA design are highly sought after by companies that use digital technology such as Northrop Grumman.
Recently, FPGA design technology has been introduced in a sophomore-level digital logic laboratory taken by all electrical and computer engineering majors. The students used the Basys 3 board, one of the latest FPGA development boards from Xilinx Corp., the leading manufacturer of FPGAs. The FPGA boards and design software were donated to the Loyola by Xilinx for student courses and research.
Some student testimonials include:
- “The lab was very compact and fast because the FPGA board did everything. We did not need a breadboard or any IC’s (integrated circuits) and did not have to do any wiring. For these reasons the FPGA lab was fun. It grabbed my attention and caught my interest on all the different applications there can be for this emerging kind of technology.” (William Torres, Loyola Class of 2020)
- “It was exciting to be able to build a circuit using just code with no logic board or IC’s. It’s also interesting the way the design software can create the logic gate schematic from the code.” (Chet Pajardo II, Loyola Class of 2020)
A new course dedicated to FPGA Design for students in the Computer Engineering concentration was started in the Fall 2015 semester. Engineers from Northrop Grumman gave a lecture in the FPGA Design course last fall, providing the students with insight on how FPGA technology is applied in the aerospace industry. Two seniors from the FPGA Design class received good job offers from Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital ATK) to work on FPGA designs in satellites. They began working there in June 2018.