The final project of the Digital Design Principles (DDP) course was constructed and presented at the hackathon held at the Faculty lobby

The final project of the Digital Design Principles (DDP) course was constructed

When it comes to a constantly innovating faculty, even a final project comes with a twist. The final project for the Digital Design Principles (DDP) course reached its apex in a Hackathon held on the last day of June, at the faculty lobby. “We were inspired by a Hackathon we participated in several months prior, in December 2019, focusing on RISC-V and sponsored by Western Digital,” says Dr. Adam Teman, the course’s academic supervisor. “Most participating groups in that Hackathon, winners included, used the PulpEnIX platform developed in Bar-Ilan; a group of BSc students from Bar-Ilan won third place. It was a fun, successful event. People prepared for weeks, slept on the floor – not because someone made them, but because they enjoyed it. We saw how excited people were, and to add some spice to our course (which explored similar issues), we decided to hold an end-of-course Hackathon.”

This course, designed by members of the EnICS Labs Impact Center of the faculty of Engineering, to which Dr. Teman’s research group belongs, was held for the first time this year. Dr. Teman specializes in chip design, and over the course of this past year has won the Krill prize and Rector’s award for scientific innovation, and was declared an outstanding lecturer by the university. The course was taught by Yonatan Shoshan, who is head of the EnICS Labs design team and also working on his PhD, building a controller for a quantum computer. He developed the course along with Udi Kra, an engineer with nearly 40 years of experience in the chip industry who has spearheaded the development of the PulpEnIX platform and the Israeli processor HAMSA-DI. Similar to Mr. Shoshan, Mr. Kra is also a student in the faculty - currently completing his MSc in hardware design for Artificial Intelligence.

The course also included a lab that included designing digital blocks in  System Verilog, and Dr. Teman, alongside Shoshan and Kra, were looking for ways to challenge their students. “I believe in searching for things that can make teaching more interesting and motivating for the students,” explains Teman. And so, the Hackathon was born. “We started playing around with the idea: told students, divided them into 4-person teams, introduced the topic and everyone was excited – and then the coronavirus broke out and we had to put everything on hold. When things started to get better in early June, the Hackathon was back on. We got the approval of the CEO of the university and held the event under the strict “Purple Badge” guidelines of the Ministry of Health. We also contacted companies in the chip industry and suggested that they send out representatives to act as the panel of judges, and the response was fantastic. We were even happier when Western Digital, one of the greatest supporters of the open-source RISC-V architecture, decided to sponsor the event.”

The Hackathon was the last stage of the course’s final project – the construction of an accelerator that performs a complex function – and was held following three weeks of intensive work by the students. At the event, live-streamed on the university’s Facebook page, teams concentrated their efforts towards improving the accelerator, solving last-minute problems, and finishing its construction. Course staff members were on-site to help students with various issues throughout the day. Even students who virtually attended the Hackathon (due to the understandable fear of physically coming to the university during a pandemic) collaborated via Zoom with the instructors. When the event neared its close, each team prepared a short presentation in which they explained what they did and how, and what were their results. At around 4 PM, all participants gathered at the lecture hall for a project showcase. A panel of judges from Western Digital, Marvel, Mellanox, and Cadence – some physically in attendance, others participating via Zoom – chose the winning team unanimously. The winning team was awarded a valuable prize by Western Digital, which sponsored the event, and the rest of the participants were given a participation gift. “At the end of the day, and despite the challenging situation, everyone agreed that it was a fun, educational, and highly successful event,” concludes Dr. Teman.

Last Updated Date : 07/07/2020