Each of the modules includes periods of formal study, directed learning, review and assignment work. The module tutors are available to give direction and help where problems arise in any of these activities and students are encouraged to discuss matters with them early.
The prescribed study for each module comprises a series of chapters, each of which is downloaded from the internet. Each chapter includes references to internet sites, books and journals and some include interactive work within the presentation itself. Some chapters also involve design using electronic design automation (EDA) software remotely.
Directed learning gives the opportunity to explore the subject to greater depth using web sites, books and library resources. Familiarity with EDA software and competence in its use arises only from repeated exposure and time to experiment. Where modules involve EDA tools the student will be encouraged to spend time exploring the packages online as part of the directed learning.
Each chapter within a module includes a number of self-assessment questions (SAQs), for which worked solutions are available. Students are encouraged to discuss any difficulties with the module tutor.
The time that is expected to be spent on each, and the allocation of marks to different assignments may be found in module specifications. Tutors will be particularly willing to assist and answer questions during the period allocated to assignments. Completed assignments should be emailed, faxed or posted to the CET Postgraduate Programmes Office where they will be logged, acknowledged and forwarded to the course tutor for marking. Most tutors find it easier to mark typed assignments, but handwritten work is acceptable and may save time, for example where mathematical symbols are involved.
AMI teaches practical design of integrated circuits using the industry standard EDA software package, Cadence. This software is far too extensive and costly to distribute, so is accessed remotely.
Example of Cadence window and instructions for a design "walkthrough"
Until recently remote access involved large amounts of additional data transfer
in both directions and consequently a direct telephone connection was required.
The availability of server software supporting the thin client model on the
Solaris operating system has changed matters dramatically and it is now possible
to run remote access quite satisfactorily using IP protocols, a 56k modem and
virtually any PC, MAC or unix platform and operating system.
The sequence of modules involving EDA tools is designed to provide instruction and practical expertise in the following three main areas:
The organisation, structure and principles of operation are covered for the complete range of microelectronic technologies. These include Simple Programmable Logic Devices (SPLD), Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLD), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), digital, analogue and mixed signal ASICs and full custom devices. Learners progress through the technologies evaluating their respective characteristics and analysing their suitability for specific applications.
Considerable emphasis is placed on teaching students the tools and techniques associated with microelectronic design. These include schematic and hardware description language entry, system and gate level simulation, circuit level simulation, fault simulation, logic synthesis, manual and automatic placement and routing techniques. Popular packages such as VHDL, Verilog, SPICE etc. are utilised within the CADENCE design environment. This common environment enables learners to achieve proficiency in each new tool or technique on an incremental basis without the distracting requirement to learn many different packages.
Skills acquired in EDA tools and techniques are applied in a number of extensive design exercises and projects. The exercises introduce appropriate design flows and methodologies for the technologies. The projects provide substantial realistic experience in implementing the complete design, manufacturing and testing process.
The project is the distinguishing feature of a Masters Degree over a Postgraduate Diploma. It normally takes 9 months and is intended to develop competence in planning, gathering information (research), analysis, design and communication. The topic chosen should include elements of investigation and design or development and offer scope for the student to work independently at an advanced technical level. As part of the project the student is expected to submit a project plan and an interim report, and to give a presentation. Finally the work of the project is presented in full in a formal dissertation.
Wherever possible the topic of the project should be relevant to the student's work since the company will be expected to appoint a senior member of staff to act as mentor and provide day-to-day supervision. EDA tools will be available for the project by remote access under the same arrangements as for the taught modules.
An academic supervisor will be appointed and is to be kept informed of progress regularly by telephone and email. Special arrangements can be made where a project involves company confidential information. The academic supervisor will ensure that criteria for academic rigour are met in the specification, implementation and reporting of the project.
For more details, please refer to the MSc project guidelines.
Last updated 18.05.03 RA