New T&M Tools for Academia Boost Learning, R&D and Industry Readiness

Abhishek A. Mutha is a senior technical correspondent at EFY

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Test and measurement (T&M) companies have been serving the education vertical for a very long time now. The education sector consumes a variety of products ranging from basic instruments, like power and signal sources, to oscilloscopes, analysers and digital multimeters. T&M instruments are vital to any electronics lab.

Apart from being high on the ease-of-use and learnability factor, today’s latest T&M equipment provide a platform for students to bring their imaginative ideas to life and develop their skills right from basic engineering to advanced level. Available at pocket-friendly prices to expensive but highly featureful, these instruments also aid academicians in their research and development (R&D) activities as well as performing and writing up new experiments. Let us take a look at the current trends and latest arrivals in the T&M domain targeting colleges and universities.

Emphasis on adapting industry-grade products for academia
Industry experts feel that the trend of products singularly manufactured for academia has decreased over the years. Although some of the T&M companies produce instruments particularly targeting the education sector, others are focusing on pitching industry-grade products for academia, be it oscilloscopes, spectrum analysers, signal generators or even digital multimeters today.

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Employing the same full-featured set of T&M tools operated by professionals helps students to comfortably transition into the industry without having to start from scratch. Talking from National Instruments’ philosophical standpoint, Satish Mohanram, technical marketing manager, National Instruments, says, “We believe in teaching engineering through experiential learning. Therefore we feel there should be no separation between T&M tools used by academia or industry.”

He adds, “When we come up with a product, apart from it being used by the industry, we consider in getting students trained on that tool as they learn their engineering so that eventually when they graduate, they do not have to start from scratch in learning new tools to become productive. From that standpoint, we have been launching quite a few products that significantly affect the industry and could be used in the academic scenario to teach some really important concepts very effectively.”

For academia, Keysight Technologies provide the same equipment that they provide industries for T&M measurement purposes. There is no specific focus on products for academia. Pathy V.V., business development manager-education, Keysight Technologies India Pvt Ltd, says, “Academia is just one of the markets. We have launched products for all domains.” He adds, “We identify what makes sense for education and then position those products for educational institutes.”

Current focus areas of T&M companies for academia
Apart from recommending industry-grade tools for colleges and universities, T&M vendors are introducing teaching kits and labs to ease the learning and teaching processes for students and academicians, respectively. Today, oscilloscopes are also embedded with training-mode features, enabling users to investigate and educate themselves.

From a product perspective, Keysight focuses on three areas for educational institutes. Pathy says, “One is basic equipment for faculty and students who can use and put together some experiments. Next are teaching labs that are a bundled solution, where we not only provide the equipment but also teaching kits. Last offering focuses on postgraduate (PG) curriculum and research in a chosen domain.” He goes on to add, “For example, at Keysight we have equipment and design tools for anything to do with electronics, be it radio frequency (RF), wireless, nanotechnology, high-speed digital or semiconductor. If a college has a PG program on wireless communications, we have solutions where we supply the complete lab—equipment, teaching kits, design solutions and even structured training programs for faculty.”

Companies like Tektronix and Rohde & Schwarz are focusing on incorporating an integrated courseware system and training mode into their instruments, respectively. To help students and professors acquire in-depth knowledge through their instruments, Scientech Technologies is working on high-end VLSI products and automated test equipment (ATE), which can help students get the actual feel of ATE testing processes.

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