The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $600,000 grant to the Configurable Space Microsystems Innovations and Applications Center (COSMIAC) to advance reconfigurable electronics education in community colleges.  The project "Developing the Digital Technologist for the new Millennium" was funded under the Advanced Technology Education (ATE) program at NSF.

COSMIAC is a research center under the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of New Mexico predominantly sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Phillips Technology Institute at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Nothing touches our era of exponential growth and change more than digital electronics. In a few short decades these systems have grown from a few transistors per device to over a billion on a single chip. This unprecedented growth in technology has led to entirely new design techniques where traditional schematic designs have been replaced with Hardware Description Languages (HDLs) that look like computer code, but are actually descriptions of hardware. These languages are used to design nearly all modern electronics from microprocessors to controllers, and a host of other circuits.

This ATE proposal will greatly advance community college education by bringing technicians up-to-date with these techniques and give them experience in a particular family of digital logic, namely "reconfigurable" electronics that can be easily modified by the designer. In particular, we will use Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) which are "chameleon chips" that can be reconfigured to teach complex concepts quickly and easily.

The project builds on collaboration with Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Glendale Community College, Central Arizona College, J.F. Drake State Technical College and the University of New Mexico. These institutions understand the problems and challenges of teaching design with HDLs and have already started some significant efforts to get a head start. The University of New Mexico and COSMIAC will collaborate with the four colleges to develop a full digital logic curriculum for the modern technician. Community colleges will be actively involved in all phases of the process from curriculum development through evaluation.

For more information on COSMIAC visit our website at or contact Craig Kief at