Spring 2017 CSCI 255 Syllabus

Who, when, where and what

The instructor for CSCI 255 is J Dean Brock. The course lectures will be delivered on Monday and Friday from 12:30 PM to 1:45 PM in Robinson 217.


There are two labs held on Wednesday, one from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM and the other from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM in Robinson 223. You need to attend the one lab in which you are enrolled.

Class home page

All class handouts, including assignments, can be accessed through the following URL:

Catalog Course Description

Computer Organization

Organization of digital computers including data representation, logic design and architectural features needed to support high-level languages. Includes a formal laboratory section using circuit design tools. Prerequisite: CSCI 181 or 182.

Degree requirements fulfilled

CSCI 255 is a required course in the Computer Science major and minor.

Of course, all students can use CSCI 255 to fulfill 4 credit hours of the required 120 for graduation.

Learning objectives

CSCI 255 introduces students to the fundamentals of computer engineering with an emphasis on embedded systems. After taking this course you will have a better understanding of how a program is translated into instructions for execution on hardware, how the hardware executes those commands, and how microcontrollers manage consumer devices.

You should also learn how to accomplish the following specific tasks in this course.

  1. Carry out arithmetic computations in binary and hexadecimal number systems.
  2. Translate between Boolean expressions, truth tables, and acyclic logic gate implementations.
  3. Design combinational and sequential logic circuits from functional descriptions of digital systems.
  4. Translate small sections of pseudo-code to assembly language.
  5. Write C programs for a microcontroller.
  6. Build a single board microcontroller system.
  7. Write simple SystemVerilog programs.

Textbook and readings

The required textbook for the course is Digital Design and Computer Architecture, written by David Harris and Sarah Harris. This book is published by Morgan Kauffman (ISBN 978-0-12-370497-9). and has a useful collection of companion materials.

You can access a copy of the book on-line for free from Ramsey Library. Don’t worry about not having a copy for the exam: All exams are closed book.

Software and hardware

The logic circuit simulation tool Logisim will be used for some early assignments in the course. (If you are running OS X El Capitan, you should download an updated version: logisim-evolution.) We will also use the starter edition of Altera’s ModelSim in one lab to write and test a SystemVerilog program. ModelSim is available for Linux and Windows. The installed program requires about 4 GB of disk space, so you may want to just use the lab computers. There is an on-line simulator for SystemVerilog available from EDA playground. You may try it out as an alternative to ModelSim.

During the second half of the semester, we will use the MPLAB® X IDE and MPLAB® XC compilers (XC32) to write programs for the Microchip PIC32 MCU. These programs are free and available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Finally, there is the hardware. We will use Arduino and Raspberry Pi devices in some labs along with breadboards, resistors, chips, etc. These will be provided by the department. We may use Audodesk Circuits simulator. It’s fun but a little slow.



The following weights are used in computing the course grade.

Grade component Weight
Two in-class exams
Final exam
Quizes & Homework


The following numerical scale will be used in assigning grades based on Score, the score computed using the weights described above.

Score ≥ 93A
Score ≥ 90 & Score < 93A-
Score ≥ 87 & Score < 90B+
Score ≥ 83 & Score < 87B
Score ≥ 80 & Score < 83B-
Score ≥ 77 & Score < 80C+
Score ≥ 73 & Score < 77C
Score ≥ 70 & Score < 73C-
Score ≥ 67 & Score < 70D+
Score ≥ 60 & Score < 67D
Score < 60F


Two equally-weighted 75-minute in-class exams will be given during the semester along with one final exam.

All exams will be closed book and closed notes. No electronic devices, including calculators, may be used during the exam.

A reference sheet will be provided which lists detailed information, such as the syntax of the C language or or examples of SystemVerilog programs or the MIPS instruction set architecture, which would be burdensome (and unproductive) to memorize.

Exam attendance

UNC Asheville’s Academic Policies and Procedures do provide excused absences for “travel on university-sanctioned business” and “up to two excused absences per semester for religious observances” when seven days notice is given. The seven day notice will allow the instructor to reschedule exams to avoid excused absenses. For this reason, attendance at all exams is mandatory.

Providing the instructor with a list of planned university-sanctioned absences at the beginning of the course does not constitute adequate notice.

Quizes and Homework

Quizes and homeworks occur frequently to keep everyone current. Quizes will be annouced at least a week in advance and occur in the first 15 minutes of class. Every quiz announcement will contain by a list of interesting problems to review before the question.

Every couple of weeks there will be homework assignments that can be turned in at class or submitted via the UNC Asheville moodle system. In general, homework requires programming, circuit design, or some serious figuring.

All homework has a specific due time. Late homework submissions must be downloaded to moodle. A penalty of 1% per hour, rounded up to the next hour, will be applied to late homework.

Unless explicitly stated in the description of a homework assignment, a submitted assignment must be the result of the student’s individual effort. Students are required to cite any sources, including the work of other students, used in completing their assignments. If this is not done, no credit will be given for the homework and, as required by university policy, a report will be made to the Assistant Provost for Academic Administration.


In general, the lab grade is based on participation and graded on a 10-point scale.

If there are not enough hardware setups or microcontroller boards for every student to work individually, some students will be assigned to work in pairs.

The lowest lab grade will be dropped in computing the lab grade average.

Classroom expectations

The classroom is a place where students and faculty behave professionally. We are polite and attentive. We avoid talk of politics and religion. We do not use offensive language. We show up on time.

Electronics in the classroom

You are welcome to use your electronic devices to take notes. However, you should read the article Why students using laptops learn less in class even when they really are taking notes from the Washington Post before you give up on handwritten notes.

Electronic devices should not be used for gaming and social media during class. This distracts others in the class.

Sometimes you may need to discretely respond to a TXT message received during class. In these cases, it usually is best to leave the room. Do not use TXT messages to communicate to others in class. That is very impolite.

Required attendance

Some class activities, such as exams, generate grades. You will receive a grade of 0 for those activities you miss. If you have an authorized excuse, you will be given an opportunity for a make-up.

Some class periods may be dedicated to student presentations. You are expected to attend all presentations by your fellow students. If you do not, your grade for own presentation will be adjusted.

Academic misconduct

It is never proper to claim another’s work as your own in graded work.

Unless explicitly stated in the description of an assignment, a submitted assignment must be the result of your individual effort. Your are required to cite any sources, including the work of other students, used in completing their assignments.

This is similar to the expectations of the professional workplace. If a co-worker helps you with a task, you must acknowledge their contribution. It’s only fair. If you incorporate any code from the Internet, you must cite the source. Your company does not want to be sued.

Impermissible actions

There are several impermissible actions that will result in the imposition of course or university sanctions. Impermissible actions in homework assignments include the following:

Impermissible actions on exams include the following:

Sometimes these rules may be modified or clarified for specific assignments and exams. For example, ”pair“ programming may be allowed for an assignment, or simple scientific calculators may be allowed during an exam.

Course sanctions for impermissible actions

The first offense will result in a grade of 0 for the related assignment or exam. The second offense will result in a grade of F for the course. These are the expected sanctions for courses at UNC Asheville.

University policy on academic misconduct

The UNC Asheville Student Handbook has a section devoted to Academic Misconduct. It states the following:

A student accused of academic dishonesty should talk with his or her instructor. In all situations where a student has been disciplined for plagiarism or cheating, the instructor is to submit to the VCAA a brief statement of the case; the student is to receive a copy of this document. Depending upon the severity and/or repetition of the offense, the VCAA may choose to impose a penalty of cancellation of graduation with honors; cancellation of scholarships; dismissal from the university; or any other penalty which he or she deems logical and deserved. A student has 10 class days to respond to this document, in writing; this response is to be sent to the VCAA for attachment to the document submitted by the instructor.

In practice, students who have been involved in academic misconduct in three courses will be suspended for a semester. However a single significant offense, such as the submission of a plagiarized paper in entirety, can result in immediate dismissal.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Statement from the Office of Academic Accessibility

University of North Carolina at Asheville is committed to making courses, programs and activities accessible to persons with documented disabilities. Students requesting accommodations and/or academic adjustments must do so through the Office of Academic Accessibility and may be required to provide supporting documentation. All information provided will remain confidential. For more information please contact the Office of Academic Accessibility at (828)232-5050 or academicaccess@unca.edu, visit them in the OneStop Student Services Center or at their website https://oaa.unca.edu/ .

Specific clarifications for CSCI 255

Students who have been approved for extended time for exams by the Office of Academic Accessibility must have their exams administered by the Office of Academic Accessibility and must take their exams at a time overlapping the scheduled in-class exam.

Students who need additional time for CSCI 255 labs should register for the first lab period and plan on attending the two successive lab periods.

Email communications

Information protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act should only be sent to official university email addresses. Information related to recorded grades is clearly protected, as is any discussion that would allow a reader to draw conclusions about your performance or attendance in class.

Email sent to me, even if it does not involve the use of state-maintained computers, may be subject to the North Carolina Public Records Law and, as such, may be disclosed to third parties.

For more information and help

I have office hours on Tuesday from 2:30 to 4:00 and Wednesday 1:0o to 3:30. The best way to get in touch with me quickly is to send email to brock@unca.edu.

I get lots of email, so please include CSCI 255 in the subject line.