Application module board for the GateMate FPGA evaluation board E1, suitable for computer science education and FPGA training.

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The GM-STUDY-MAX board is an application module board for the GateMate FPGA evaluation board E1, made by Cologne Chip. It connects to the evaluation board through all six GPIO headers, and the input/output components are designed after popular FPGA trainer boards commonly used in electrical engineering and embedded systems education (e.g. Digilent Basys or Altera DE10-lite).


GM-Study-Max is a FPGA trainer board designed for the Gatemate E1 evaluation board. In 2020, Cologne Chip launched a new FPGA product line, which uses a innovative FPGA blueprint with 8-input LUT trees. For a brand-new FPGA design, it also includes function blocks for JTAG, SerDes, PLLs, dual-port SRAM. Such a market entry is remarkable and deserves to be considered for real-world adoption.

What functions does it have?

The first design iteration has below set of devices:

  • 4x push buttons
  • 16x DIP slide switches
  • 16x LED
  • 6x 7-Segment display modules (non-multiplexed)
  • 1x 4 Khz buzzer
  • 1x 3.5mm Stereo Audio jack
  • J1 11-pin 2.54mm pitch header with 3.3 or 5V signal translation

Why did I make it?

The E1 evaluation board from Cologne Chip only has a bare minimum of one push-button and 8 LEDs as input/output. This is insufficient to learn a new platform, or to use it in a FPGA training environment.

What makes it special?

Precision Alignment: The application board has to fit exactly into the E1 evaluation board's six expansion headers. This required perfect alignment at hundreds of a millimeter precision to match the 276 pins (6x46pins) at 1.27mm pitch. The Evaluation board's original design envisioned up to six individual expansion boards, which would be too small for any user interface.

Adding to the challenge was a lack of E1 board CAD drawings, which meant that the measurements had to be taken directly from the board itself.

Special care had to be taken to keep space for potentially soldered E1 JTAG and SPI headers, which resulted in the reduced space of the lower-left PCB corner on GM-Study-Max.

The GM-Study-Max daughter board distance from E1 is tight, but additional distance can be achieved by using a different type of 1.27mm pitch headers. Under the typical usage of an FGPA trainer board, the A1 FPGA chip won't get hot, which would otherwise be a problem, with the design preventing the installation of a heatsink.

Signal level translation: Because Gatemate FPGA's operate at maximum 2.5V signal levels, this can be too low for interaction with an Arduino, or for some LCD display types. The onboard power booster translates the signals for the header J1 up to either 3.3V or 5V TTL level. The output signal level can be selected with a jumper (JP1).


For cost and simplicity, the GM-Study-Max PCB is designed as two-layers only. While this can affect use of high-frequency signals, the trainer board components do not use HF, but run at sufficiently low frequency.

During design prototyping, cost is major concern. It always takes a few iterations to validate the routing, component selection and interaction. For the same cost reasons, I am using a hybrid component assembly, with only SMD components assembled at the PCB Fab.

However, the PCB Fab service is made for high-volume and standard components, which meant I needed to go for a through-hole design on the expansion header connectors. Manually soldering 276 pins at 1.27 mm pitch is taxing my eyesight and needs steady hands.


The design documentation is available in the published Github repository. It includes both the fabrication files, and the example code that demonstrate all board components.

License Information

GM-Study-Max is published under Open Source licensing:

Gatemate FPGA and related products are under commercial copyright by Cologne Chip AG

What is the latest State?

A set of prototype boards have been manufactured, assembled and tested. Photographs and a demo video visualize the board functions. I hope this project shows that Gatemate FPGA's are more than a technology study, and can already be used for real-world applications. The use of an FPGA trainer enables students to become familiar with the advantages of the Gatemate  FPGA product line,...

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THT Component Bill of Materials

sheet - 20.10 kB - 04/21/2023 at 07:54



SMD Component Bill of Materials

sheet - 20.49 kB - 04/21/2023 at 07:53


x-zip-compressed - 194.97 kB - 04/21/2023 at 07:49


Adobe Portable Document Format - 1.42 MB - 04/21/2023 at 07:48


  • Mastering Technology - Fail Early

    Frank04/20/2023 at 11:29 0 comments

    This project GM-Study-Max only succeeded because I progressed through earlier prototypes GM-Proto-E1 and GM-Study-E1, before committing to the final and complex SMD design of GM-Study-Max.

    GM-PROTO-E1 finished built
    GM-PROTO-E1 finished built

    In the 1st milestone GM-Proto-E1 project, I built a much simpler daughter board, purely in through-hole technology. It achieved three goals: 

    1. Validate the connector measurements and PCB production is sufficiently precise.
    2. Check if I am able to solder the 276 pins at fine 1.27mm pitch reliably.
    3. Get a prototype board that exposes pins in standard 2.54mm pitch for easy testing.
    GM-PROTO-E1 dimensions
    GM-PROTO-E1 dimensions

    Because the PCB design is only using THT, a failure would not be costly since PCB manufacturing without SMD assembly has fast turnaround and is very reasonable priced. Being able to prototype with general-purpose IO THT components gives confidence for the final design before switching to surface-mount components. SMD parts are hard to test, specs are easily misread, and SMD production re-runs for mistakes increase cost and time.

    GM-PROTO-E1 assembly
    GM-PROTO-E1 assembly

    The board layout has been created in KiCAD, which is ideal for such tasks.

    GM-PROTO-E1 in KiCad
    GM-PROTO-E1 in KiCad

    Finally, Verilog code verifies the basic set of onboard components: 4 LEDs, 2 buttons, 4 switches, and 2 7-Segment display modules. A demo video is available here: 

  • Training Lessons for GM-Study-Max

    Frank04/10/2023 at 09:18 3 comments

    The main purpose of the GM-STUDY-MAX board is student education in digital logic and FPGA code design. For this use case, sample lessons have been created that demonstrate the board is suitable. Below four sample lessons cover the introduction to digital logic for binary addition through adders:

    Lesson-1 introduces the implementation of a 1-bit Half Adder

    Lesson-2 uses the Half-Adder from Lesson-1 to build the 1-bit Full-Adder

    Lesson-3 uses the Full-Adder from Lesson-2 to build the 8-bit Ripple-Carry Adder

    Lesson-4 converts the 8-bit Ripple-Carry Adder into the Carry-Lookahead Adder

    Here is a photo of running Lesson-3 on the GM-Study-Max board:

    The board is running the 8-bit Ripple-Carry Adder logic, per logic design below:

    The 8-bit Ripple-Carry Adder logic is implemented by using the two DIP switch modules for the 8-bits of A and B input. The output sum is shown on the 7-Segment display, both in decimal and hex.

    Finally, the iVerilog simulation testbench shows sample calculations in GTKWave.

  • Demo Video available

    Frank04/02/2023 at 10:30 0 comments

    A demonstration video has been created and uploaded to Youtube. It shows the execution of hardware test programs. The programs are located in the Github repository, under the examples folder.

    The link is:

  • 1st Set of Example Programs

    Frank04/02/2023 at 10:22 0 comments

    Example Programs:

    A set of example programs were written in Verilog, which demonstrate how to use the trainer board's hardware components under the Open Source toolchain. Below is a screenshot showing the workflow of editing the Verilog source code, and the 'make all' command in a different window doing the heavy lifting of synthesis, place&route, bitstream generation and upload to the board.

View all 4 project logs

Enjoy this project?



stevenaughtonnsx11 wrote 06/16/2023 at 14:32 point

It is specifically designed for use with the GateMate FPGA E1 evaluation board. With GM-Study-Max you can dive deeper into the world of FPGA programming and learning. Recently discovered essay types and read about this module there, you can read more if you want. This module provides a secure connection and advanced learning capabilities to unleash the potential of FPGA technology. It opens up new opportunities for students and professionals in the field of computer science, helping them to master advanced skills and apply them in practice. GM-Study-Max is a handy tool to help you research and teach exciting computer science and FPGA technologies.

  Are you sure? yes | no

margaret wrote 06/16/2023 at 14:26 point

What is it exactly for?

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stevenaughtonnsx11 wrote 06/16/2023 at 14:26 point

What exactly

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margaret wrote 06/16/2023 at 14:25 point

Do not quite understood

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