NIISim, a Simulator for Computer Engineering Education
Students at KTH can take a course called IS1200 Computer Engineering. This course teaches some of the basic aspects of computer engineering. One important part of the course is the labs which are carried out on an Altera DE2 Development and Educational board. The labs utilize many of the buttons and LEDs on this board. Unfortunately, these boards are only available during the course lab sessions meaning students have no way of fully testing their programs at home. Altera does provide a simulator, but it is not able to simulate the features on the board. NIISim aims to solve this problem.
NIISim (Nios II Simulator) is a simulator that will be able to simulate all the functionality on the DE2 board that is necessary to complete all the IS1200 course labs. It comes with support for the Nios II CPU from Altera, several of Altera’s I/O devices and many features on the DE2 board. With a simple graphical user interface the user is able to quickly load the appropriate files and start the simulation. The user is also able to communicate with the simulated program using a console that supports both text input and output.
Testing has shown that NIISim simulates the IS1200 course labs without problems. This is a great success. Furthermore, the simulation is performed at a much faster rate than the simulator provided by Altera. The intention is now that NIISim will be used in the IS1200 course to help increase students learning experience as they will have much more time to experiment with the DE2 board features. NIISim also makes a great starting platform for future master’s thesis projects such as implementing a cache simulator or multi-core simulation support.
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