An industry-university partnership to train young engineers to work in the embedded computing industry has chocked up some impressive results in its nearly three years of existence. But organizers are still looking for more partners to join the group.
The Consortium for Embedded and Inter-Networking Technologies, also called CEINT, was started in April 2001 by Motorola, Intel and Arizona State University with the goal of making the Valley a center for the industry.
Embedded computing refers to microchips that are "embedded" in other devices and control the operation of those devices. Examples range from a steam iron that can shut itself off to power plants that contain huge networks of embedded systems to monitor and predict power supply and demand.
And the field is growing. The average automobile has 35 embedded systems, and that number is likely to increase as consumers want more features such as automatic temperature controls and optimized fuel efficiency.
Since the beginning of the program, the consortium has created more than 100 internships for ASU engineering students to work on real-world projects at Motorola and Intel.
Also the consortium has funding the development of 14 new undergraduate courses offered by ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering that relate specifically to embedded systems and provided 39 scholarships to undergraduate engineering students who specialize in the field.
The consortium has also provided $1.6 million for 23
research projects under- taken by ASU faculty and students.
This semester the program has launched two graduate-level initiatives — an online master’s degree program and a $90,000 grant for a new graduate-level class and laboratory on codesigning hardware and software embedded systems.
Scott Coleman, the consortium’s executive director, also hopes to recruit two distinguished professors in the field to join the ASU engineering faculty. The consortium will fund the professorships for up to two years, he said.
"We have the programs in place, and now that things are picking up economically, we’re hoping more jobs will be available for our students," he said.
The consortium’s organizers also hope an improving economy will encourage more companies to join the program.
Several major Arizona employers such as Honeywell, Raytheon, ST Microelectronics, General Dynamics and Boeing are involved in embedded systems and could benefit, Coleman said. But the slow economy has made them reluctant to inject money into the program.
"When you are trying to survive, this kind of activity takes a lower priority," said Prenav Mehta, director of the embedded Intel architecture lab in Chandler. "But we have talked to several companies, and they know this is the right kind of model. So I’m hoping as the economy improves we will get them on board."
He added that Intel has provided nearly 30 internships since the beginning of the program and has hired six of the interns to full-time positions.
"We would have liked to have hired everyone, but unfortunately, due to the economic situation, we didn’t have that many openings," he said.
Chau Pham, chief technology officer at the Motorola Computer Group in Tempe, said Motorola’s reasons for investing in the consortium remain valid in a slow economy.
"It’s important to us to establish Arizona as a center of excellence for embedded systems," he said.