Green engineering, and science and engineering education were the featured topics Aug. 5-7 at NI Week—the annual customer conference for Austin, Texas-based instrumentation and automation supplier National Instruments Corp. (NI). If anyone left Austin on Aug. 7 and missed these focus points, they spent too much time on 6th Street, the city’s noted music and entertainment district.
Green engineering topics and products were featured early in the conference, but the splash given to education was even bigger. From the public introduction of WeDo (the Lego/NI robot development kit for grade school students) to the keynote featuring the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition, NI continued its focus on ways that it—and all engineers—can promote technical education.
The public demonstration of WeDo was most impressive because of the person demonstrating how to program a robot using LabView—11-year-old Sarah Almgren. The message was clear—take a WeDo to your local elementary school and voluteer to help them learn to build and program; or take a Lego Mindstorms kit to older kids; or volunteer to help out at FIRST robotics.
LabView 8.6 debut
On Aug. 5, opening day of the conference, NI announced LabView 8.6, the latest version of the graphical system design software platform for control, test and embedded system development. Building on the inherent parallel nature of graphical programming, LabView 8.6 delivers new tools to help engineers and scientists take advantage of the benefits of multicore processors, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and wireless communication.
“To meet the performance and efficiency demands of cutting-edge applications such as controlling robotic systems, testing wireless devices and designing hybrid vehicles, users must have the ability to quickly incorporate the latest technologies such as multicore processors, FPGAs and wireless communication,” said James Truchard, Ph.D., president, chief executive officer and co-founder of National Instruments. “LabView offers the shortest path to apply these technologies, using parallel programming while providing users the flexibility to define their solutions with application-specific optimizations.”
Built-in multi-threading technology in LabView enables the company to claim supercomputing performance on mulicore-optimized processors. The new software includes more than 1,200 advanced analysis functions optimized for faster math and signal processing on multicore systems for control and test applications. Some of these include the NI Vision Development Module that automatically distributes data sets across multiple cores. Also using new multicore features, test engineers can develop applications to test wireless devices up to four times faster with the latest version of the NI Modulation Toolkit for LabView, and control system engineers can execute simulation models in parallel up to five times faster with the LabView 8.6 Control Design and Simulation Module. Additionally, engineers now can better identify parallel sections of code using a new feature that reorganizes LabView diagrams.
LabView 8.6 continues to make FPGAs more accessible to domain experts without experience in low-level hardware description languages or board-level design. It also supports wireless network connectivity. Engineers now can configure data acquisition applications easily to use NI Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) data acquisition (DAQ) hardware without making code changes in LabView 8.6. New 3D visualization tools in LabView 8.6 help engineers integrate remote measurements with design models to accelerate design validation.