The Engineering Education Innovation Exchange is complete. The NI Educational Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Suite (NI ELVIS) III has been revealed and the last customer has walked out of the UT EERC Atrium to eagerly continue NIWeek festivities.
After years of work, NI ELVIS III is finally ready to make a difference for educators and students across the globe. As event coordinator, I stand over the demo unit ready to move it to its next destination.
But the magnitude of the moment leaves me frozen.
I think about the debates, meetings, and presentations that laid the foundation for the product in front of me. The customer feedback that crafted each feature resonates with me. I’m one of the younger members on the NI ELVIS III team, and this moment makes me reminisce on my time as an undergraduate engineering student. NI ELVIS III would have changed my engineering experience.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida (Go Gators!), and I will always remember three courses: circuits, microprocessors, and senior design. Each provided distinct conceptual lessons, but I recall specifically the skills I gained from each course: analysis in circuits, integration in microprocessors, and design in senior year.
Circuits, Microprocessors, and Senior Design
In my circuits lab, I worked with an older generation of NI ELVIS that was the workbench to build the simple circuit prescribed for the week. I lacked the time to explore circuits in depth and didn’t need to understand all NI ELVIS had to offer. My time and effort went into understanding the problem at hand. I couldn’t do that as well as design, build, and analyze something new and authentic on my own.
That progression and design challenge is now built into the labs developed by educators and industry experts and available with NI ELVIS III. The web-based instrument soft front panels integrated into the labs are easy to understand and always accessible. Concepts are presented in the context of real engineering problems and build from theory to complex project in a semester. And the software environment is consistent between NI ELVIS III and products such as the myRIO Student Embedded Device used in senior design and capstone courses.
I’m eager to see how the expanded set of resources for NI ELVIS III will influence courses to scale to incorporate more design elements and projects that challenge students earlier.
Study Halls to Design Studios
The electrical engineering study hall at the university was a windowless arena of practice exams and unpopulated printed circuit boards. Students commonly huddled around a single laptop and debated the validity of a signal. The occasional beep from a digital multimeter indicated someone was about to put together their final lab. Everyone wanted to troubleshoot signals coming from the latest prelab problem, whether it was an 8-bit processor or an active filter.
But the days of peering over a friend’s shoulder are gone. With NI ELVIS III, multiple people can connect and interact with a unit via a MAC, PC, or tablet to encourage collaborative troubleshooting.
Coupled with the ability to program and reconfigure the hardware being used, study halls are primed to become modern design studios. I’m excited to see how classes incorporate more collaborative learning with this new functionality.
Collaboration and Innovation
As a student, I gained invaluable engineering skills that helped me excel in my career and interact with pioneers of future innovation at leading institutions worldwide. The next generation of students must be faster, innovative team-oriented problem solvers unafraid to challenge themselves, make mistakes, and learn along the way.
NI ELVIS III will create the environment needed to produce these students. It’s not often you get to be a part of a monumental moment for a company and its customers. It’s even less often that you, as a student-turned-engineer, get to create what you would have wanted in your class.