Motorola, Intel Corp. and Arizona State University have renewed a partnership designed to produce engineers for the Valley's embedded computing industry.
Embedded technology refers to microchips that are “embedded” in other devices and control the operation of that device. 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.
The three partners have agreed to spend nearly $3.4 million during the next two years for scholarships, internships, faculty recruitment, curriculum development and other programs that will produce workers with specialized training in embedded technology.
Called the Consortium for Embedded and Inter-Networking Technologies, it was created by Motorola, Intel and ASU in April 2001 and was set to expire March 30. By extending the consortium for another two years, the parties are indicating they are pleased with the results of the collaboration so far, which has a long term goal of making the Valley a globally recognized center for the embedded and inter-networking industry, said executive director Scott Coleman.
“We have come a remarkable way in just a few years,” he said. “By renewing this commitment in these tough times, that is a real validation of the value the consortium brings to this area.”
Engineers working on the development of embedded systems need specialized skills that cannot be obtained through a general curriculum offered at most engineering schools. In the past, companies hiring engineering graduates had to train them for as long as 18 months to deal with such systems.
The consortium, also known as CEINT, has developed specialized courses offered to juniors and seniors at ASU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The program also offers scholarships for students interested in embedded technologies and internships with Intel and Motorola working on embedded projects.
The consortium also has funded research at ASU on embedded technologies and is recruiting visiting professors from other universities to teach specialized courses for one or two years at ASU. Finally, the consortium plans to recruit graduate students specializing in embedded technologies to the ASU engineering college.
Another goal for the next two years is to recruit more technology companies and engineering schools to the consortium, Coleman said.
“We are especially focusing on the Tucson area because of the companies based there,” he said.
Other competing centers of embedded technology are Silicon Valley and other parts of California, Boston and Research Triangle Park, N.C., Coleman said. Because of the slow economy, the ASU program has been almost too successful. Last fall, the consortium had 46 qualified applicants for only 22 available internships, he said.
“But when things pick back up, we will have the talent coming out of the Valley to fill the positions that will turn up,” he said. Chau Pham, chief technology officer for the Motorola Computer Group in Tempe, said the program has helped Motorola develop new products and find two new full-time employees, who were hired by the company after the completion of their internships.
“From the internship standpoint, they have . . . contributed to products that we either have shipped or are ready to ship,” he said. “These are real-life working assignments.”
He said a top priority is to recruit more corporate members, which would allow the consortium to conduct more research, pay for development of more courses and train more interns. But the weak economy has made recruiting difficult.
“We have had companies that are very interested, but they have been unable to (join the consortium) in the past couple of years,” he said. “This year we feel we should be able to sign up new members.”