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FPGA or control systems class? Please help.

  1. Aug 2, 2013 #1
    Hello folks,
    I am having hard time to decide which class to take in my senior year. I have two choices: Embedded Systems with primary focus on FPGA and VHDL and another class is Control Systems design. I like both of them, but the problem is that they are offered almost at the same time, so I cant't take them both. Which one is more useful?

    FPGA is cool, but is it really a good thing to know nowadays? Circuits have shifted overseas long time ago I guess and to do something meaningful you ve got to have MA or PHD. I am not really a big fan of programming but I like programming chips. This class fits my work schedule a bit better though. And there is also a practical lab that goes along with the class. But, as I d said, is it really useful?

    Control system gives introduction on lots of things and is probably more hands on. But this class does not have any practical lab on real controls. Just some MATLAB simulation. Also it is offered at night, that is not really convenient for me.
    Which one will look better on Resume and which one does have more weight in today's tough economy?
    Thanks for any input.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    FPGA programming and design is a very important skill in my area of work in Silicon Valley. VHDL is good to learn, but Verilog RTL is more important, because that is the universal language between designers and chip implementers...
  4. Aug 3, 2013 #3

    jim hardy

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    Perhaps it depends on where you see yourself working after graduation.

    Control theory is very useful around machinery, and it gives insight to a lot of natural phenomena,

    but I know too little of fpga's to comment on that course.
  5. Aug 4, 2013 #4


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    I would choose FPGA's, but that's my IC design bias. VHDL will give you insight into HDL synthesizable constructs (although verilog is more pervasive HDL in the US), and the synthesis and PNR tools will give you experience with the backend issues. Also you will gain an understanding of the internal structures, system macros, IO concerns, clocking systems, and all other issues that permeate digital systems. FPGA's are a large part of the digital verification and algorithm research flow in many companies. Programming (HDL) a complex system, implementing it in an FPGA, and getting it to work is a very satisfying and almost magical experience (hear my bias?).

    Control system theory is useful if you are more interested in analog design or digital signal processing systems utilizing feedback for control. Loop equations, control matricies, system stability, truncation effects, etc. Very useful stuff, but more math oriented. Learning Matlab is cool though.

    In reality, you would be a more powerful designer if you could implement your own digital control system architecture on an fpga, rather than throwing it over the wall to a digital guy. I see FPGA's as a building block for complex systems. You will be able to make use of FPGA design skills in any digital systems design environment.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2013
  6. Aug 4, 2013 #5
    I disagree the circuits have shifted overseas. I'm an IC designer and my friends and I are constantly getting headhunted by companies in Silicon Valley. IC Design is getting more international to be sure, but the biggest talent pool is still in the USA. Did you know that Asian IC companies like Samsung, Hauwei, Toshiba, and Mediatek (to name a VERY few) have large IC design centers in the US? (I wonder if there are any Chinese forums where the posters are complaining about big companies shipping their jobs off to the USA ;) )

    Also, I will echo berkeman's assertion that Verilog is the universal electronics language in the USA. Now that we have Verilog-AMS (Verilog with analog extensions), even analog designers (like me) need to know it, and know it well. Typically chips are designed more and more top-down these days, starting with a full-chip behavioral Verilog model (with maybe a MATLAB feasibility study first) and then the behavioral blocks get turned into RTL if digital or schematics if analog, while the chip functionality is constantly checked and rechecked.

    On the other hand, you're quite right that the MS is becoming the entry-level degree in the integrated circuits design field. However, there are a LOT of other jobs in circuits like apps engineer, test engineer, verification engineer, etc etc that take entry-level people right out of undergrad.

    *edit* I should add that there are plenty of FPGA development jobs available with a BS. Unless you are interested in getting into deep ASIC design or SoC development, the MS isn't a *must* but it's still good to have.
  7. May 2, 2014 #6
    Hi, I would like to know how to model the speed droop I just saw a block about it but I don't know what inside please, help me about this
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