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A bit of background, challenges and opportunities

The miniaturization of transistors and their further integration into enormously dense and complex mixed signal (analog/digital) integrated application systems, has lead to the incredible technology advances we rely upon for our daily life (including for example the device you are using to read this).

However, the large complexity of such systems, the numerous layers of abstraction from the user, and the sophisticated tools required to model devices and circuits at these advanced technology nodes has made IC engineering less familiar and less accessible to newer generations or returning students.

Furthermore, another challenge with the move towards integration relates to the difficulty of experiential learning, i.e. learning by tinkering with discrete circuits to gain some intuition about their inner workings. Indeed, the move towards digitization at the source and the integration of functionality on single-chip solutions has invariably removed this opportunity to probe, tune and inspect physically which was at the heart of learning.

Experiential learning is especially important nowadays, where the the attention span of new learners for the engagement in a new subject has decreased dramatically hence requiring quick feedback reward cycles (much akin to that employed in software disciplines). The latter reason especially poses problems for the more traditional theory-first bottom-up approach of delayed gratification rewards, which may drive away otherwise bright students or simply those who are not in an academic stream.

For the reasons above, in today's integrated world, it is especially important to ease the exposure of students to the visualization of circuit functionality first, in order to engage their attention and motivate deeper learning of the fundamentals. Hence our emphasis on a top-down application-to-circuits approach to learning.

Enabling vision

Not all is doom and gloom however, many facets of learning have been profoundly changed by technology. The internet has made possible the dissemination of information in ways not possible in our past: before our learning was largely limited by our access to information (books, references, formal education ...etc) and hardware, nowadays information is readily available in electronic format -- if you know what you are looking for. Additionally, the enormous gains in computing power have made exceptional computer aided tools possible.

Coming back to the learning of hardware IC engineering, we strongly believe a simulations first approach can help provide the much needed experiential learning to attract and engage students and even to serve as a means of recalling and re-learning information for more experienced engineers. Fortunately, many outstanding open tools exist that allow us to achieve our educational purpose outlined above.

Our vision forward is one of application and functionality first (hence showing contextual relevance to the student) to ease engagement through simulations, then circuits to show how it works and fundamentals to show why it works.

Our hope is to ultimately help those motivated to learn more about this field, and also to help prepare students for more rigorous education in academia (where they will be introduced to advanced CAD tools) and more specialized practical applications in industry.

ICclopedia mission

The mission of ICclopedia is to serve as a community library of elementary building blocks for learning about integrated circuits. A living reference to learn, recall and educate.

Core principles

Specifically, we will strive to fulfill this mission through the following core principles (the section below will continue to be polished over time for conciseness).

  • Top-down, application-to-circuits experiential approach to learning:
    • Introducing application, showing functionality through simulations, describing circuits to explain how they work and ultimately the fundamentals of why they work.
  • Credit for contributions and efforts:
    • Recognition and appreciation for everyone's work in making ICclopedia possible.
  • Encourage collaborative ICclopedia growth:
    • ICclopedia is a large project and will only be possible through joint incremental community efforts.
  • Reproducible simulations and results:
    • Via open tools and provided circuit netlists and testbenches required for each circuit entry.
    • To facilitate transparency and constructive feedback for improvement and learning.
  • All material provided in good faith:
    • Leaving ample room for growth.
  • Respect for non-disclosure of proprietary IP

Please let us know your feedback in the discussion tab for this page.

-- The ICclopedia Community