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CHIPKIT: 2nd Tutorial on Agile Research Test Chips @ISCA’20

May 31, 2020 @ 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Chip Gallery

Paul Whatmough (Arm Research/Harvard), Marco Donato (Harvard), Glenn Ko (Harvard), Sae-Kyu Lee (IBM Research), David Brooks (Harvard), and Gu-Yeon Wei (Harvard)

Harvard Chip Gallery



31st May 2020, 10am-1pm EDT – Live Q&A session. Pre-recorded videos available during the conference via the Whova app.

Register for tutorial


Research test chips are the ultimate experiment to demonstrate the true value of novel computer architecture innovations. They are always very highly regarded by reviewers as the most honest evaluation of a new hardware proposal. In addition, there is a huge pedagogical value in taping out test chips, as it offers insight on the impact of real hardware and microarchitecture details that are critical in guiding higher level architecture decisions and trade offs. Nonetheless, despite all this, taping out test chips remains a challenge for those who are following this path for the first time. Traditionally, research chips have been time consuming to design, fabricate and test, and often error prone – potentially requiring re-spins to fix problems.

This tutorial sets out to present a clear and straightforward template for a modern design flow for rapid, agile, and successful tape out of research test chips. We describe a front-to-back design example, drawing on many generations of test chips (shown in the illustration below) following a consistent design approach [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]. To help researchers start up their own SoC designs, the content of this tutorial is supported with the release of our CHIPKIT project[1], which provides a comprehensive set of open source resources for the design and implementation of research tapeouts. The project includes a sample SoC design which leverages this design methodology for demonstrating novel specialized hardware architectures, using the CHIPKIT infrastructure.

Open Source Project [Github]

Companion Paper [IEEEXplore] [Arxiv]

Tutorial Outline

Part 1: CHIPKIT: An agile, reusable open-source framework for rapid test chip development

 “Introduction”, Paul Whatmough
 “M-Class (Microcontroller) SoC Development”, Paul Whatmough
 “A-Class (Apps Processor) SoC Development”, Marco Donato
 “Custom IP Development”, Paul Whatmough
 “Physical Design”, Glenn Ko
 “Bring up and Testing”, Marco Donato

Part 2: Invited talks on agile chip design from the architecture community

 “OpenROAD: An open-source RTL-to-GDS tool with advanced-node capability”, Andrew Kahng (UCSD)
 “PyMTL3: A Python Framework for Open-Source Hardware Modeling, Generation, Simulation, and Verification”, Christopher Batten (Cornell)
 “Predictable Accelerator Design”, Adrian Sampson (Cornell)
 “Closing the algorithm/hardware design and verification loop with speed via high-level synthesis”, Thierry Tambe (Harvard)
 “Arm Academic Enablement Programs”, Shuojin Hang (Arm)

Previous Tutorials



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May 31, 2020
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
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