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I'm a final year engineering student. I'm very keen to learn VHDL and FPGA synthesis. I believe choosing a final year project involving VHDL synthesis will help me a lot to learn more about it. Unfortunately, the FPGA available to me is a Xilinx Spartan 3E Basys2. It's a starter board. Do you think I can do a final year project (a project that would be accepted as a final year project) with that board?

Here's a link to the description of the Basys2: http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Detail.cfm?Prod=BASYS2

I have the 250k gates version.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We need more information on what sort of things are likely to be accepted as a project. Then your question becomes "can I implement an X on this specific FPGA" or "is this FPGA capable enough to do Y". \$\endgroup\$
    – David
    Nov 27, 2013 at 15:28

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Well, yes, you can do a final year project with a Basys2 board. These boards have a wealth of I/O capabilities and 250k gates is enough to do a fairly sophisticated project. Having said that, it is also possible to do a poor project. You should write proposal for your project and get your instructor's approval before you start.

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While it is dwarfed by its higher-end competitors, the Spartan 3E is still a very capable device. This board in particular has the additional advantage of being built for use with Digilent's peripheral modules (PMOD). This gives you access to all sorts of things: various forms of serial I/O, A/Ds, D/As, GPS, Bluetooth/Zigbee/Wifi, memory expansion, breadboarding, input and display devices, audio input and output, and more.

Here are a few possible project options:

  • Logic analyzer (this has largely been done already, quite possibly with this board, but could still qualify if you do it from scratch)
  • Low-speed oscilloscope using PMOD A/D
  • Arbitrary waveform generator using PWM and a filter, and/or PMOD DACs

Here's what I would probably do:

  • Absolute position and orientation sensor using PMOD GPS, compass, accelerometer and gyro modules
    • The FPGA is perfect to implement the digital filters required by the noisy MEMS devices
    • The GPS provides absolute positioning with localized inaccuracy (i.e. the solution does not get progressively worse over time)
    • The accelerometer provides relative positioning with very high accuracy but significant drift, which will need to be corrected for using a filtered GPS solution
    • The compass provides absolute orientation, but is very susceptible to interference and thus suspect on its own; it can be calibrated with the GPS if the GPS is in motion (to divine a trajectory)
    • The gyro provides very accurate relative orientation, but needs to be anchored against an absolute (calibrated compass) orientation solution to account for drift

There's a lot more to it than that, but this project in particular has the advantage that no matter how many times it's solved, there will always be another way to do it. People (and large corporations) have been solving this problem for decades, with varying degress of success. The difference between 1993 and 2013 in that respect is that the fiscal barrier to entry has gone down by three or more orders of magnitude ($250k+ down to $100+).

Above all, make sure you choose a project that you'd like to use when complete. When you hit snags in the design process, it'll be hard to maintain your motivation if the result is going to be ho-hum. Good luck!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow guys thank you very much for your suggestions. Do u think its possible to use this device for some thing like file compression decompression? This is bcs my previous idea was to implement a fpga based mechanism for fast file compression and decompression. (image files).from lossless large scanned documents to lossy smaller files. 1.Can it be done on this board 2.will it be a hard project (out side the scope of a fpga learner.prototype would be fine I guess? Thanks again \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2013 at 1:48

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