Digilent Makes an Appearance at the Hackaday SuperConference


The weekend of November 5th, a few members of the team headed over to Pasadena, Ca to the Hackaday Superconference (aptly tagged the ultimate hardware conference).  The conference was a two day event filled with talks and workshops led by people who love hardware. My personal favorite was a talk about reverse engineering analog and digital chips. Since we at Digilent love hardware, we had our very own Sam Bobrowicz give a workshop on FPGAs; Beyond Digital Logic with Microblaze and Arty.


The Arty Board. With an Artix-7 FPGA and ChipKIT shield connector, it’s an ideal choice for a wide range of projects.

The workshop covered how to get started with Microblaze, and using our new Microblaze IP cores to add the functionality of our upcoming multi-touch display shield.

The coming soon MTDS Shield.

The upcoming MTDS Shield.

Microblaze allows you to quickly get a softcore microprocessor up and running on an FPGA. This gives you the speed and flexibility of the FPGA, with a simpler design interface. With Microblaze and Pmod IP’s you can do a large variety of rapid prototyping projects, such as the multi- touch display project from the workshop.

The project from the workshop went involved placing the Microblaze processor, setting up the I/O, using the MTDS IP core in Xilinx Vivado, and programming the system in Xilinx SDK. Once all the hardware was set up using the hardware language IP, users were able to program the shield in SDK. The workshop ended with virtual slide switches on the display, controlling the RGB LEDs on the shield.

Sam B giving an FPGA primer, you never know what FPGA knowledge participants are going to come to a workshop with.

Sam B giving an FPGA primer- you never know what FPGA knowledge participants are going to come to a workshop with.

The workshop was a great success in our opinion, and hopefully each of the 30 attendees left with a new desire to learn FPGA and Microblaze. After all, this technology is inspirational between the power and flexibitly of the Arty and MTDS shield. Plus, we sent attendees home with their very own Arty and multi-touch display shield, as well as the documentation on our Wiki to jump start their FPGA projects.

Showing off the use of the FPGA, not much of it's used for such a cool application! Imagine the possibilities!

Showing off the use of the FPGA, not much of its resources are used, even for such a cool application! Imagine the possibilities!

To learn more about getting started with microblaze, check out the tutorials on the Arty reference page.To keep in touch for more information about the MTDS shield and to request information about future workshops, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter!

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When I started school I wasn’t interested in any of things I’m passionate about now. In fact originally I started out wanting to study art. But then I decided I didn’t want to have people telling me what to create, so I changed to music. Then I decided I didn’t want to ruin a hobby by making it my career. At the same time my Physics class was teaching a unit on the physics of music, and I thought that was way interesting, so I changed to physics. Then by the time physics was over I decided that the coolest part of physics was electricity and magnetism, and I may as well get a degree that transfers directly into a career. So while all this was happening, I was attending Shoreline Community College, and during that time I found my passion, or rather presented itself repeatedly, until I realized, maybe I should take a hint from the universe. While at community college, I was asked to help at the high school by tutoring chemistry students. Then I was asked to help at the elementary school by being a math Olympiad coach. I continued both because I found I really enjoyed it. I also had an opportunity, and was hired to be a tutor in the Math Learning Center at the Community College, a job I really loved. At the same time I was working as a Nanny, which I had been doing for several years, the main reason because I could and would answer the hard questions the kids asked honestly (i.e. why is the sky blue). I then was recommended by the patrons of the MLC to the transfer tutoring center (private tutoring,) and developed a wait list of students. Through all these opportunities at some point I realized that I loved watching people go from totally lost, to masters of a subject. I was also forced to admit that having all these opportunities continually renewed, I must have been somewhat good at it. So I decided I wanted to teach, which fits with my mission oriented personality. I saw a serious lack of passionate ECE professors in the institutions I attended. At WSU I continued this trend by being ask to TA for computer science and electrical engineering, being a TA for a total of 4 semesters. This continued by getting an amazing opportunity in my first semester at Washington State University to work at Digilent, an educational company. So even if I didn’t want to teach, turns out I can’t avoid it. Luckily it is my main passion.

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