The software may be the instrument, but at NIWeek, the hardware is the entertainer. It’s the hardware demos that help attract thousands of engineers to enjoy the 100 degree Texas heat. Software demos spark the mind, but the image of senior vice president of R&D Tim Dehne swinging a bat or test driving a virtual car while wearing a helmet prompt greater response.
Dehne demonstrated the performance of CompactDAQ by hitting a baseball. Using a bat equipped with an accelerometer, temperature and strain gauge sensors, he showed the 3 Msamples per second speed of the modular hardware without causing concern that he will be tested under baseball’s steroid crackdown.
Another colorful demo showed NI’s hardware in the loop testing capability. A compactRio-based antilock braking system was tied to a vehicle/road simulator. The vehicle skidded out during a turn made without the aid of the ABS hardware, courtesy of invisible black ice that was built into the program. When Dehne drove across the icy surface with the ABS unit enabled, the vehicle remained manageable until it stopped.
The hardware demos also included outsiders. Two recent grads from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute explained how they used NI’s Graphical Design System concept to create a Human and Object Transport Vehicle that’s akin to the Segway People Mover.
The two created virtual sensors to test out the performance of the inclinometer and MEMS gyroscope that help keep the HOT-V upright as it travels. When they progressed to building hardware, they used the same software to run it through its paces. Reusing software let them focus on the higher level aspects of design, so finalizing the vehicle’s operation required only three days.
Software reuse helped students develop the HOT-V during a single semester.
In many engineering workplaces, there’s a generational conflict between recent engineering graduates and older, more experienced engineers. However, a recent study published in the psychology journal Cognition suggests that both may have something to learn from another group: 4 year olds.
Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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