The design of an efficient digital circuit in term of low-power has become a very challenging issue. For this reason, low-power digital circuit design is a topic addressed in electrical and computer engineering curricula, but it also requires practical experiments in a laboratory. This PhD research investigates a novel approach, the low-power design laboratory system by developing a new technical and pedagogical system. The low-power design laboratory system is composed of two types of laboratories: the on-site (hands-on) laboratory and the remote laboratory. It has been developed at the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences to teach low-power techniques in the laboratory. Additionally, this thesis contributes a suggestion on how the learning objectives can be complemented by developing a remote system in order to improve the teaching process of the low-power digital circuit design. This laboratory system enables online experiments that can be performed using physical instruments and obtaining real data via the internet. The laboratory experiments use a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) as a design platform for circuit implementation by students and use image processing as an application for teaching low-power techniques.
This thesis presents the instructions for the low-power design experiments which use a top-down hierarchical design methodology. The engineering student designs his/her algorithm with a high level of abstraction and the experimental results are obtained and measured at a low level (hardware) so that more information is available to correctly estimate the power dissipation such as specification, latency, thermal effect, and technology used. Power dissipation of the digital system is influenced by specification, design, technology used, as well as operating temperature. Digital circuit designers can observe the most influential factors in power dissipation during the laboratory exercises in the on-site system and then use the remote system to supplement investigating the other factors. Furthermore, the remote system has obvious benefits such as developing learning outcomes, facilitating new teaching methods, reducing costs and maintenance, cost-saving by reducing the numbers of instructors, saving instructor time and simplifying their tasks, facilitating equipment sharing, improving reliability, and finally providing flexibility of usage the laboratories.
The assessment section of this thesis describes teaching activities performed during the four years spent designing and developing the low-power design on-site and remote systems. The on-site system and the remote system were used by Electrical Engineering students at the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. The low-power design laboratory system is the first system for low-power education and the remote system is one of only a few available laboratories in Germany. Teaching activities performed during the Summer Semester 2015 were concerned with teaching low-power techniques in the hands-on laboratory using only the on-site system, and during the Summer Semester 2016 focused on teaching the low-power design laboratory using the on-site system and the remote system. The assessment in Summer Semester 2015 evaluates the effectivity of using the laboratory system in teaching the concepts of low-power design in order to further improve and develop the system. The aim of assessment for the Summer Semester 2015, as well as Summer Semester 2016, is to study the achieved learning objectives, the laboratory reports with and without the support of the remote system, and to analyse the students’ use of the remote system by the students. The assessment and the students’ opinions provide positive feedback on this approach and verify that the low-power design on-site and remote laboratory system is indeed a successful and motivating learning tool, and also the remote system is a positive and effective complementary tool for remotely reusing the on-site system and achieving additional learning objectives that cover most conceptual theories in low-power digital circuit design.