Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Providing a teaching tool for electrical engineering students is the aim of a project at Lafayette this summer focusing on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) circuits.

Farah Laiwalla ’04 (Karachi, Pakistan), an electrical and computer engineering major, is helping John A. Nestor, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, develop Java applets, or small programs that can be downloaded and run using a web browser. The applets will provide animations that illustrate a facet of how VLSI Computer-Aided Design tools operate.

Laiwalla is participating in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholar program. In EXCEL, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

“There is a certain applet Professor Nestor gave me at the beginning of the summer, showing how the parts of an electrical circuit layout are linked up,” says Laiwalla. “My work is to place an intermediate window there that shows how it happens. And I’m trying to animate it.”

“The project is moving slowly,” admits Laiwalla, who may eventually go into software design. “There are complications, as with all research. But the professor is very helpful and interested. I can go to him anytime I want to and ask him anything.”

According to Nestor, the development of VLSI circuits has meant that engineers designing large electronic systems increasingly rely on sophisticated Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools.

The use of CAD has greatly increased the productivity of designers, but it has sometimes left engineers in the dark about the implications of their high-level design decisions, he says.

“The goal of this project is to provide teaching tools to give students a qualitative ‘under the hood’ understanding of how VLSI CAD tools operate,” says Nestor. That is the purpose of the applets, which will be made available on the Internet for Lafayette students and faculty and those at other universities.

As part of the project, Laiwalla had to learn about applets and graphics, develop extensions to one applet and come up with new ones that illustrate additional CAD algorithms. Those include an applet that shows how quick estimates of wire length are calculated before routing, alternative approaches to placement, and a key logic synthesis algorithm.

Laiwalla calls EXCEL “a great opportunity.”

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” she says.

A graduate of Karachi Grammar School in Pakistan, Laiwalla has worked for The Lafayette, the school newspaper. She is a member of the Association of Lafayette Women, the International Students Association, and the Asian Cultural Association. She also hopes to become a volunteer at Easton Hospital.

Categorized in: Academic News