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Design Verification Competition Gives Portland State Students an Industry Advantage
Design Verification Competition Gives Portland State Students an Industry Advantage

As computer hardware designs become increasingly sophisticated, the need for quick, reliable hardware verification tools and the engineering expertise to use them becomes absolutely critical. To serve this industry need, an annual student competition is connecting Portland State engineering talent to careers in this emerging field.

The Need for Speed Veloce Emulation Competition is a partnership between Mentor Graphics and Portland State University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department that encourages students to explore hardware validation by presenting them with problems one might encounter in industry. Such challenges are far beyond any that students typically run up against at the college-level, yet provide a tangible opportunity to unite many of the different areas they study.

“Unlike any other academic course, working on this project called for a broader set of skills and disciplines,” described Sameer Ghewari, a member of the 2014 winning team. “The challenge presented in the contest of demonstrating the speedup provided a hands-on opportunity to glean knowledge in RTL [register-transfer level], synthesis, verification methodologies, scripting and debugging.”

Need for Speed is designed to help participants develop a skillset that is highly attractive to potential employers. Many past participants report being directly recruited by Mentor Graphics and the other companies represented on the judging panel upon graduation.

“The competition clearly paved the way to understand the differences between emulation and simulation. Following the competition, I received a job at Mentor Graphics on the Design Verification Technology team as an Associate Rotation Engineer,” said Sanket Borhade, another previous participant and member of the first place team in 2014.

The second annual Need for Speed competition was held on October 9, 2015. Three teams competed for a total of $9,000 in prize money and the opportunity to showcase their abilities before a panel of industry executives.

First place, and $5,000 in prize money went to Hanu Karshala, Shrinivas Mathdevru, Sumit More, and Tejas Patwa for their project “Tomasulo’s Algorithm Extended to Handle Speculation Using Reorder Buffer.”

Second place and $3,000 was awarded to Ashok Raju Kothapalli for his project “MIPS Processor with Hazard Detection and Stalling.”

Third place and $1,000 went to Suma Eravatri and Praveena Jakkula for their project “I2C (Inter-Integrated Circuit) Wishbone Bus Controller.”

All participants hailed from ECE’s graduate program.

The judging panel was composed of executive and senior management representing eight leading tech companies including: ARM Inc., Avago Technologies, Broadcom Corporation, Cisco Systems, Imagination Technologies, Intel Corporation, MicroTek USA, and Qualcomm Inc.

Computer architecture professor Mark Faust and Tom Schubert, a design verification and validation instructor, served as team mentors and helped coordinate the event. Schubert, who joined PSU in 2014 after 17 years at Intel, directs a graduate track in Design Verification and Validation. Through his leadership and industry collaborations such as Need for Speed, PSU seeks to establish a nationally-recognized program in Design Verification that cultivates verification engineers that can not only keep up, but also accelerate the pace of innovation.

“I strongly recommend participating in such a competition because the hands-on knowledge, experience of competition and opportunity to share your work in front of highly-skilled people is rare to receive,” offered Borhade.

Details about the next Need for Speed competition will be publicized in spring 2016.