Software tools continue to thrive
Ranging from simple software for beginners to complex integrated development environments (IDEs) capable of designing entire systems, we have a lot of technology available for students working on developing their skills. While schools have smart classes with digital study content to make learning easier, graduate and postgraduate colleges are also taking up smart teaching techniques using automation and simulation tools to make students understand or see the impact of certain design decisions.
This has helped in getting the attention of students in class and increased student participation in class discussions. A report by Inderpreet Kaur Chachra on the effectiveness of smart learning found a significant improvement in student performance after exposure to smart learning solutions. You can read about it on the next page in the box titled ‘Case studies on smart classes.’
In engineering, tools like MATLAB are very popular and already part of the syllabus in many universities. Other popular tools that students use today include National Instrument’s LABVIEW, Proteus and Allegro PCB Designer.
That said, free alternatives to popular paid software are gaining steam with tools like SageMath, which is an open source mathematical software. Other popular tools include CadSoft EAGLE for PCB design, FreePCB, gEDA, Quite Universal Circuit Simulator, Ngspice, Icarus Verilog and KiCad.
One area that has seen a rapid increase in interest in getting started with software development tools is in the Internet of Things (IoT), which we cover next.
Covering the IoT for beginners
“There is a growing demand for connected devices,” says Compella. “Since the demand for IoT products is now higher, working with IoT development boards helps in speeding up product development.”
Dr Joshi adds, “ARM mbed boards have also come as a solution for college graduates in understanding IoT products.”
Such solutions that can develop products for the up-and-coming technologies and not for soon-to-be-outdated ones are ideally suited to learning. “People are spending on home automation and students can easily make home automation products for earning good money,” added Jain.
RIOT is one of the popular free operating systems for the development of IoT projects. Tools such as these are developed by a grassroots community, thus helping reduce product development costs. People have started using technology in fields that usually do not care for it, because of the significantly-lowered (it does not get lower than free) cost of entry.
Similarly-named RIoT is an ARM based board that is available for IoT developers. Variants of Arduino boards continue to be very popular for IoT projects, too.
Pathy Iyer, head of business development at Keysight Technologies, says, “Speaking about the IoT, we are already setting up a lab in NASSCOMM where students can come over and try out their designs. Device-to-device communications and new protocols specific to the IoT that are emerging can be tested here.”
Whatever happened to the college lab
Any electronics lab in a college would have at least a simple, low-frequency function generator for performing the basic electronics experiments. Similar basic test and measurement tools continue to sell, as usual. While conventional labs continue to exist in a majority of colleges, we are now seeing an increased interest in the setting up of remote labs and virtual labs in colleges.
“Equipment-wise, one area where we are seeing good interest coming from colleges is on the devices and semiconductor side. The new semiconductor fab coming up in Gujarat is a good example of something that can drive jobs in this high-technology sector. We are partnering with Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing (HSMC) for this,” adds Iyer. Arbitrary waveform generation, oscilloscopes, RF signal and function generators, design tools like Advanced Design System (ADS) and SystemVue electronic system-level design are what Iyer sees to be the most required.
3D printers have also made a strong presence in college labs, led by forward-thinking academia. B.M. Shah, proprietor, Edkits Electronics, says, “Costing for 3D printers has gone low, hence it is impacting big time.”