Remote FPGA laboratory for online teaching and prototyping

Title: Remote FPGA laboratory for online teaching and prototyping

Start date: March 2012
Client: National Institute of Ireland Galway
Investigator Dr David Nugent


Remote FPGA Lab

Researchers at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) have developed the Remote FPGA Lab. This lab-as-a-service forms part of a fully integrated online learning and assessment experience. Using a standard internet browser, students around the world can follow online tutorials and assessment exercises, whilst interacting directly with a real operating FPGA.

A video introduction to the Remote FPGA Lab can be viewed here.

Students can visualise the response of the FPGA module to altered input signal conditions. Live timing diagrams can be generated and submitted to the FPGA hardware. The system animates hierarchical logic diagrams, truth tables, state machine flow charts, FPGA lookup table/register implementation diagrams.


Each FPGA within the lab can be accessed remotely by one or more student simultaneously. This model replicates collaborative physical lab experiences. Remote FPGA lab is fully compatible with learning management systems including Moodle and Blackboard , making the service ideal as a distance learning platform.

Educators can select from pre-defined or customized modules. Alternatively, the Remote FPGA lab service can be used to design and upload a complete FPGA training course comprising textual notes and animated system diagrams. HDL-based projects can also be downloaded for each example with instructions using Electronic Design Automation (EDA) freeware.

Remote FPGA Lab has been used successfully since 2010 to support eight workshop-based and distance learning modules with group sizes up to 40 students. Reported usage experience indicates that the shared, always-on FPGA resource model is very efficient, requiring a 1:10 (FPGA:student) ratio.

At launch in September 2012 the module “Fundamentals of Digital Electronics” will be available FREE online, linking directly to the remote FPGA for real-time interactive animation of digital logic system behaviour using real FPGA hardware. The system will support automatic assessment for in class assessment, individual user and group-based assessment. Initially some 30 FPGA modules will be available, sufficient to support a large population of time-shared users.

Remote FPGA Lab is available to educators and students anywhere in the world. Access to the interactive Remote FPGA will be provided to registered users on a subscription basis.

If you are interested in trialling the demo Remote FPGA lab service, contact Dr Fearghal Morgan or Dr David Nugent.


The primary role of the Remote FPGA Lab is to enhance the learning of digital systems and FPGA applications.

Documents available for download

Morgan, F.; Cawley, S.; , "Enhancing learning of digital systems using a remote FPGA lab," Reconfigurable Communication-centric Systems-on-Chip (ReCoSoC), 2011 6th International Workshop on , vol., no., pp.1-8, 20-22 June 2011
Morgan, F.; Cawley, S.; Callaly, F.; Agnew, S.; Rocke, P.; O'Halloran, M.; Drozd, N.; Kepa, K.; McGinley, B.; , "Remote FPGA Lab with Interactive Control and Visualisation Interface," Field Programmable Logic and Applications (FPL), 2011 International Conference on , vol., no., pp.496-499, 5-7 Sept. 2011

Fearghal Morgan, Seamus Cawley, David Newell, “Remote FPGA Lab for Enhancing Learning of Digital Systems”, ACM Transactions on Reconfigurable Technology and Systems, (TRETS), Vol. 5, No. 3, pp 18:1-18:13, 2012