Improving Student Comprehension Through Interactive Microarchitecture Simulation and Visualization

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Andrew Brownfield (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Cindy Norris

Abstract: The curricula of most Computer Science departments include at least one course on computer organization and assembly language. The seminal concepts covered by such courses bridge the gap between hardware and software by introducing multiple layers of abstraction. Appalachian State University introduces this material in the course “Introduction to Computer Systems.” The course uses the hypothetical LC-3 processor, as presented in Patt and Patel’s textbook “Introduction to Computing Systems: From Bits & Gates to C & Beyond (2nd edition).” Prior to the completion of the work presented in this thesis, tools existed for the assembly of LC-3 programs and simulation of the assembled code; however, no simulator existed to demonstrate the function of the microarchitectural level. In this thesis, research on educational simulators is presented, with an emphasis on microarchitectural and graphical style simulators. Multiple simulators were reviewed to determine which elements are pedagogically e?ective. Based on these ?ndings, a graphical microarchitecture simulator named lc3uarch was implemented. The simulator targets the microarchitectural level of the LC-3 processor. Student surveys responses indicated that the use of lc3uarch can help students comprehend the logic components of the LC-3 microarchitecture and provided ideas for making the tool more e?ective.

Additional Information

Brownfield, A. (2013). Improving Student Comprehension Through Interactive Microarchitecture Simulation and Visualization. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2013
microarchitecture, computer organization, datapath, computer science education, graphical simulation

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