Master Course Description

No: EE 476

Title: Introduction to VLSI Design

Credits: 5

UW Course Catalog Description

Coordinator: Visvesh S. Sathe


  1. Provide an introduction to VLSI design which will synthesize concepts of digital logic design. basic circuit analysis and design best-practices.
  2. Understand the basic operation of CMOS logic gates, and the rich variety of VLSI structures from arithmetic, memory to control logic that are enabled by this dominant logic family. Concepts of delay and power dissipation, central to VLSI systems, are introduced here.
  3. Use industry standard design tools to design VLSI structures that complement lecture material.
  4. Project: student will work in teams to design a rigorous full-custom VLSI datapath structure. Team-based projects encourage effective team and project management in the context of a rigorous technical design experience.

Learning Objectives:

  1. A strong grasp of the fundamentals of VLSI circuits and systems, including basic CMOS fabrication, the mask-design of logic gates and timing elements, timing analysis, and techniques for energy-efficient circuit design.
  2. A good command of planning, preparation, and execution of high-quality circuit designs
  3. An understanding of how basic results in algorithms and optimization map effectively into VLSI design

Textbook: Weste & Harris, CMOS VLSI Design: A Circuits and Systems Perspective, 4th ed., Addison-Wesley, 2010

Prerequisites by Topic:

  1. Basic Digital Design Experience.
  2. Basic Circuit Theory (RC circuit analysis)


  1. Detailed examination of CMOS logic gates and sequential elements (Noise, Delay, Power)
  2. Common VLSI structures (Memories, Adders, Multipliers, Shifters)
  3. Techniques for robust digital design, simulation and analysis

Course Structure: There are 4 hours of lecture per week, plus 1 hour of design review coupled with a 10 minute quiz aimed at obtaining quick feedback on the class command of lecture material. A robust lab component is also involved consisting of a number of individual Computer Aided Design (CAD) projects leading up to a final team project that involves full-custom design of a real-world VLSI design problem. A significant portion of the learning in this course happens in the student design labs through peer interaction, and that with the TA who holds regular office hours in the design lab.

Computer Resources: The above mentioned VLSI CAD tools are set up on the department Linux servers for the students to use and managed by the CADTA.

Laboratory: Students have access to the Sieg 118 computer lab, where they can work on the design projects.


Outcome coverage:

1) (high) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics. Much of the class is heavily based on application of math, physics, and engineering knowledge. This is emphasized in class and assessed through application in project hand calculations and planning. For each of the design projects, the student must analyze the requirements, then design, implement, and test the design, to verify its performance and characteristics.

2)(Medium) an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors. In the final project, students are posed with a design problem and design specifications for a real-world application. The project provides an opportunity to develop hardware designs that are dependable and robust, essential for silicon systems that continue to drive growth and improve our quality of life.

3) (high) an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences. Effective communication, managing team-dynamics, and documentation is heavily emphasized and evaluated through team project efforts and team presentations.

4) (medium) an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts. We discuss the tradeoffs in different engineering approaches and the greater societal consequences of developing VLSI systems.

5) (high) an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives. Team projects are a major component of this course, and seek to foster a collaborative, inclusive environment even in a competitive design situation. Students' effectiveness with social media will be leveraged to encourage discussions on the online discussion boards, incentivised by bonus credits.

6) (high) an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions. Each of the CAD projects require a significant amount of experimentation, evaluation of resulting simulation data and judgement to determine the optimal choices for design.

7) (high) an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies. The lectures and CAD assignments are co-designed to effectively train students to continually translate newly learned concepts into actual designs.

VLSI Design Contest:

Students team up in groups of 3 to solve two design problems. One that centers around the design of a register file (full-custom layout), and another that varies as determined by the instructor. An example of a final project is the design of a custom 8-tap FIR filter (schmatic only). The teams are judged on correctness, validation methodology, quality of design, speed and energy-delay product. Each group's project serves as an entry into the proposed Micron VLSI design contest. The contest will be judged by two engineers from Micron with (optional) consultation with the instructor. A cash prize of $500 is proposed for the winning team of 3 at the final judging event. A $300 second place prize can be awarded. It is recommended that the engineers make a 30-45m presentation on a Micron/Engineering related topic that is mutually agreed upon to be suitable for the audience. Given that the class is offered in Fall, Micron may choose to set aside an internship position for the winners of the VLSI design contest for the following summer.

Proposed Budget:



Prize (1st + 2nd place)


Catering for class during Judging event




Prepared By: Visvesh S Sathe

Last Revised: 11/29/18