Education: NI shows energy in hiring, research, donations

Austin, TX—Control Engineering recently learned about efforts by National Instruments (NI) to promote university-level interest in automation, and asked for a run-down of NI’s college-level activities.

By Control Engineering Staff September 8, 2003

[Editor’s note: Control Engineering recently learned about efforts by National Instruments (NI) to promote university-level interest in automation, and asked for a run-down of NI’s college-level activities.]

Austin, TX— National Instruments ’ (NI) commitments to universities includes the model of hiring more than 80% of its employees directly from campus, an extensive academic research program, sponsorship of numerous student competitions, and a vast array of curriculum partnerships. Since inception more than 26 years ago with roots at the University of Texas, NI has made universities a fundamental part of the company’s culture.

NI focuses its research relationships on areas of emerging importance to the core success of the company. Over the last several years, control design and embedded real-time control have become focal areas that continue to drive NI’s success. The company partnered with Dr. Raul Longoria and the mechanical engineering department at the University of Texas to develop algorithms for the control of an anti-lock braking system. NI supported the research with its equipment and funds that resulted in a LabView-controlled scaled vehicle, as well as a published thesis. NI further benefited from the relationship by hiring the master’s student upon graduation into its Engineering Leadership Program.

This year NI hosted students from 15 North American universities, attending the first-ever 2003 FutureTruck Summit for advanced technical training sponsored by the Ford Motor Co., the U.S. Department of Energy, and NI. The company is a major sponsor of an annual competition that challenges student teams to redesign a Ford Explorer for lower emissions and higher fuel economy without sacrificing performance, utility, safety and affordability. The purpose of the summit was to provide hands-on training to the 15 university teams that participate in FutureTruck. Over the last three years, NI has donated more than $1 million worth of LabView software and measurement hardware to teams interested in monitoring and controlling their vehicles using NI’s technology.

Another example of NI’s commitment to academia is the recent donation of LabView software to every student in the mechanical engineering department at Virginia Tech University. Virginia Tech makes extensive use of NI LabView throughout its research and engineering education, and the software donation ensures that all mechanical engineering students can have their own personal copy of the industry standard LabView software to complete assignments in the lab and at home.

“The donation of LabView software from NI and the company’s ongoing support of the university are opening many doors for our students,” says Dr. Harry Robertshaw, professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech. “Our students have the opportunity to gain in-depth, hands-on experience using industry-standard LabView software, an invaluable skill in today’s marketplace.”

In addition, NI recently announced its partnership with the Texas Engineering and Technical Consortium (TETC). The consortium, created by the Texas’ state legislature, is made up of universities and companies, and intends to increase the number of electrical engineers and computer scientists graduating from the state. Any donation to the consortium by a company results in matching funds from Texas that are available for use at the various engineering programs at the TETC universities. NI sponsors TETC by donating LabView and its NI ELVIS technology to all TETC-member schools. The donation will make cutting-edge technology available to all the electrical engineering and computer science programs in Texas, while also securing around $400,000 in added funding from the state.

Control Engineering Daily News Deskedited by Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief