Tag: National Instruments

Engineering Innovation at National Instruments’ NIWeek

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Crash Test Dummy in the Big Analytics Booth at NIWeek Photo courtesy of National Instruments

Crash Test Dummy in the Big Analytics Booth at NIWeek Photo courtesy of National Instruments

One of the next big trends in technology is in biometric data analytics in which sensors gather information from people and adjust machines automatically from that data.
“Eventually devices – automobiles and so on – will be able to not just capture information but then actuate or control machines around you based on biometrics coming off your own body,” said Brad Armstrong, National Instruments’ Senior Marketing Communications Manager, East Asia.
For example, a car’s controls could adjust the temperature and music in response to your mood.
That’s just one of the applications of National Instruments’ LabVIEW software that was on display at NIWeek at the Austin Convention Center. NI, founded in Austin in 1976, has 35,000 customers worldwide and annual revenue of more than $1.1 billion. NIWeek, which ran Monday through Thursday, is one of the largest engineering test and measurement conferences in the world. About 4,000 people attended. The exhibits showcased the latest in engineering for robotics, space, automotive, Internet connectivity in Intel’s “The Internet of Things” booth and even sports. NI engineers showed off how its LabVIEW software can be used to measure an athlete’s response time in an obstacle course or a golfer’s swing.
The exhibits showed off the vast range of applications for NI’s engineering tools which companies use to test and measure applications in a variety of industries.
North American Eagle Team, photo courtesy of National Instruments

North American Eagle Team, photo courtesy of National Instruments

LandSpeed.com had its 56-foot long North American Eagle vehicle, which is attempting to break the world land speed record of 763 miles per hour held by the British since 1997. The 13,000 pound vehicle runs on turbo jet engines and uses NI’s LabVIEW software to measure and improve performance. The team is attempting to break the record at speeds of 771 miles per hour in October.
NI also had its LabVIEW Campus Tour bus on exhibit. The bus and its staff of engineers have travelled around the country to college campuses to educate students about engineering applications.
In a demonstration of NI’s LabVIEW software in robotics, some researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have created Zeno, a robotic kid, which interacts with children for the early diagnosis and detection of autism. Zeno detects the range of motor skills in kids as early as six months to a year old.
“Ideally people will be able to take this robot home and interact with children on a daily basis,” said Monica Beltran with the UT Arlington Research Institute.
The goal is to get the robot, which currently costs around $2,500, to a price where families can buy one and use it in therapy at home to correct social behaviors. Zeno is currently in clinical trials and is not yet commercially available.
At another exhibit, students from the FIRST Robotics competition showed off their robots and attended NIWeek. NI has a K-12 outreach program to encourage students to pursue degrees in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields. It has been working with the FIRST robotics team to provide the teams with its software for the robots’ controllers.
Astronaut Leland Melvin speaking at NIWeek, photo courtesy of National Instruments

Astronaut Leland Melvin speaking at NIWeek, photo courtesy of National Instruments

During an afternoon session on Wednesday, Astronaut Leland Melvin, now associate administrator for education at NASA, gave an inspirational talk to encourage kids to pursue their dreams.
Melvin, a former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions in the National Football League and an engineer, said he asked his dad for a skateboard in middle school and his dad said they didn’t have money for it. So he went to the wood shop and created his own skateboard.
“I became an engineer,” Melvin said.
Then his mom gave him a chemistry kit and that inspired him to become an engineer. He mixed up some chemicals, caused an explosion and burnt a hole in the living room carpet. His father gave him a swat on the bottom as feedback on his project, but that didn’t discourage him.
In engineering, it’s about failing, learning, not giving up and going on to succeed, Melvin said.
He knows that firsthand.
Melvin recounted the time his high school football team was down by a touchdown and he missed a touchdown pass during the final minutes of his senior homecoming game. His coach looked him in the eyes, grabbed his face mask and told him he believed in him and told him to catch the ball. He sent him back into the game to run the play again. The second time Melvin caught the ball and they won the game.
NASA selected Melvin to become an astronaut in 1998 but during the spacewalk simulation training underwater at NASA he had an issue with clearing his ears and he emerged from the water with bleeding ears and he was completely deaf for six months. He left the program to do training for NASA. He worked closely with the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia Crew. The shuttle disintegrated in 2003 upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere. Melvin lost some good friends. He promised Astronaut Dave M. Brown’s father that he would not let the work his son did, along with the other astronauts, be forgotten. Melvin got clearance from a flight doctor and rejoined the 17th class of astronauts, nicknamed the Penguins. He completed two missions to space. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as mission specialist on STS-122 and as mission specialist on STS-129.
“I had never flown an airplane before I joined NASA,” Melvin said.

National Instruments Helps Train Teachers in the STEM Fields

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Earthquake simulator that runs on National Instruments' LabView software.

An earthquake simulator that runs on National Instruments’ LabView software.

Simulating an earthquake on a wooden building model equipped with sensors or studying energy flow on a miniature power plant and power grid.
Those are a few of the hands-on activities for high school kids to learn about physics thanks to a program created by National Instruments.
The Austin-based company has created a curriculum for Texas physics teachers to give their students hands-on experience with different subjects and concepts and to teach them how to apply mathematical models to real-world data.
The programs, powered by National Instrument’s LabVIEW software, provide real-life experiments that bring textbooks to life.
And on Wednesday and Thursday, 29 high school science teachers learned about new ways to teach physics at National Instruments’ corporate headquarters.
They are part of the Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching’s first program at National Instruments to expose the teachers to real-world applications of physics and engineering and show them how to teach that in a compelling way to students in a classroom. More than 60 teachers applied for the program, said Carol Fletcher, associate director of TRC. She chose teachers from many disadvantaged school districts and those who would have the best ability to train others, she said.
All of the technology and entertainment kids get exposed to today tends to dilute their curiosity, said Antonio Gomez Pedroso, physics teacher at Longview High School in East, Texas, who was attending the training.
“You have to do big stuff to get their attention,” Pedroso said.
Ray Hsu, Senior Program Manager, K-12 Education at National Instruments

Ray Hsu, Senior Program Manager, K-12 Education
at National Instruments

Ray Hsu, senior program manager with National Instruments, understands that challenge. He has been designing K-12 education programs for students for the last three years. National Instruments needs engineers and they know about the shortage of workers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, known as STEM, fields in the United States.
“We can be viewed as a customer of the education system,” Hsu said. “We’re trying to reach out and be an industry involved in bringing real world experiences to the classroom.”
National Instruments, which has been involved in the First Robotics program since 2006, is committed to making a substantial impact on the STEM education of kids, Hsu said.
The idea comes from the principle of shared value “which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges,” according to the Harvard Business Review. “Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center.”
National Instruments has taken that philosophy to heart, Hsu said.
In 1998, NI engineers created a version of its LabVIEW software for Lego Mindstorms designed for use with the Lego Education robotics platform. And all of the robotic controllers and robots used for the First Robotics competition run on the LabVIEW software platform.
LabVIEW is a system design software used by engineers and scientists to design and control applications. Elon Musk’s SpaceX uses LabVIEW “systems to control launchpad equipment and to command and monitor the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles and its Dragon spacecraft,” according to National Instruments. Those are the kinds of cool applications that spark student’s interest, Hsu said.
“Engineering is not as well understood in the K-12 space,” Hsu said. “We want to change that. We want to take it to another level. We want to change the classroom.”
National Instruments created a data acquisition tool called myDAQ, which sells for $175, and connects via a USB port to a computer. It partnered with Pitsco Education to create an earthquake table. With the myDAQ device and the earthquake table students can study the effects of earthquakes. National Instruments also created a curriculum as a guide for teachers and students “Understanding Structures & Earthquakes.” The booklet is the first of 12 specialized physics curriculum National Instruments is creating. The other two that are currently available include “Discover Heat Transfer” and “Explore Power and Energy.”
“Teaching is an art,” Hsu said. “If they can get students to start asking questions then they’ve got them.”
National Instruments is also working with Carnegie Mellon University to create a pathway for students to get certified in LabVIEW with a badging system to mark each of their milestones. It’s all about making real life engineering work relevant and engaging to students, Hsu said.
During this week’s two-day training session at National Instruments, teachers learned how to teach lessons on the properties of waves and sound including frequency, wavelengths, the Doppler effect, resonance and more.
Manos Chaniotakis, with Ergopedia and one of the authors of a new physics textbook.

Manos Chaniotakis, with Ergopedia and one of the authors of a new physics textbook.

Tom Hsu and Manos Chaniotakis, with Ergopedia and authors of a new physics textbook, led the instruction.
“Our focus is to make sure we get reality into the curriculum,” Chaniotakis said.
Texas is going through adoption of a new physics textbook for the first time in 11 years. The latest book emphasis hands-on learning, said Chaniotakis. It has an e-book component, which can be accessed by computer, tablet or smartphone. It features videos, illustrations and more features that extend the paper textbook and provide the student with more opportunities for learning.
“Hands on is the key,” Chaniotakis said. “You learn better by doing something.”
Unfortunately, Texas lawmakers just passed H.B. 5, which makes physics and optional class for high school students, Hsu said.
IMG_0341Joni Milanovich, a physics teacher with Roosevelt High School in San Antonio, liked the training at National Instruments and the new textbook and the interactive approach to teaching.
“It’s vey hands on,” she said.
If she gives her students a paper assignment, they won’t do it often, she said. But if it’s on the computer, they are more engaged, she said.
“They are used to using electronics and equipment to do their homework and labs,” she said.

National Instruments’ technology focused on the K-12 market will be on display next week at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference, June 17-19 at the Austin Convention Center.

Entrepreneurial Insights from Dr. T of National Instruments

Photo courtesy of 1 Semester Startup

James Truchard couldn’t find a job that he liked so he created one.
That’s what the co-founder, known as Dr. T, president and CEO of National Instruments, said last week during an interview with Bob Metcalfe, University of Texas professor of innovation and coinventor of Ethernet and cofounder of 3Com.
Unlike some of today’s technology billionaires by the name of Bill, Michael and Mark, both Truchard and Metcalfe finished college and obtained PhDs before becoming entrepreneurs.
Metcalfe interviewed Truchard at 1 Semester Startup Demo Day last Thursday evening in the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium at the LBJ Library and Museum. Metcalfe said Truchard played a huge role in convincing him to move to Austin from Boston more than a year ago.
Metcalfe quizzed Truchard on his background. He was born and raised in Austin County. Neither of his parents had a college degree. He received his bachelors and masters degrees in physics and a PhD in electrical engineering from UT. And in 1976, he cofounded National Instruments, in his garage in Austin with Bill Nowlin and Jeff Kodosky. The company makes test equipment and software including LabVIEW, a graphical development program. The company just reported revenue of $262 million for the first quarter of 2012, up 10 percent from a year ago and a profit of $18.6 million. It had revenue of more than $1 billion in 2011.
“I was always determined to be successful, I never thought of any other option,” Truchard said.
Truchard didn’t have a business plan when he started National Instruments.
“We just started working,” he said.
They also never sought out venture capital. Instead, they secured a $10,000 bank loan and they ran the company by bootstrapping operations.
Truchard also read hundreds of books on entrepreneurs including Crossing the Chasm and Thriving on Chaos. He also consulted with the IC2 Institute at UT.
“Keep as much of your capital to yourself as possible.” Truchard advised the crowd of student entrepreneurs. He also told them to make sure they have a good idea and to find as many mentors as possible. And great technology is at the base of innovation.
And nothing beats dumb luck, he said. “Don’t exclude it.”
Truchard took National Instruments public in 1995 to offer liquidity to its employees, not because they needed to raise money.
The company culture was born when National Instruments started, Truchard said. He tries to make the company a fun place to work and focuses on cultivating a leadership culture as the company grows. The company regularly makes it on Forbes’ best places to work lists.
In response to a question from a student about how he communicates the company vision to 6,200 employees.
“Well, I’m very repetitive,” Truchard said.
To share his ideas, Truchard has used 1,500 slides throughout the years in presentations to employees. His employees took all of those slides, shrunk them and then they made a portrait of him out them and presented to him as a gift.

© 2024 SiliconHills

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑