A "sweet" suite

Jul 6, 2007

Mentor Graphics, a technology leader in electronic design automation, supplies Kettering with a suite of electronic design software that allows students to model, simulate, verify and synthesize electronic systems. These tools will also enable students to design and analyze distributed mechatronic systems before they are manufactured.

Like all college kids, Kettering University students are always on the lookout for a sweet deal. But in this case, the "sweet" is actually a software suite of leading edge design tools that will make Kettering graduates even more marketable to prospective employers.

In the last decade, the job of embedded design engineers has changed dramatically. Since electrical and electronic systems are now much smaller, utilize low power, run much faster and are more complex, today's engineers must manage multiple domains such as digital, analog, electric, magnetic, fluid and thermal. This requires engineers to design systems using several tools to simulate, synthesize, verify, test and implement new designs. But how does one go about doing all of this in a timely fashion and manage to get a full night of sleep?

The answer: cutting edge technological resources from Mentor Graphics Inc. (www.mentor.com).

Mentor Graphics, a leader in electronic design automation (EDA) with its U.S. headquarters in Wilsonville, Ore., recently provided the Kettering University Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Dept. with a suite of software used to model, simulate, verify and synthesize electronic systems. These tools also enable students to design and analyze distributed mechatronic systems before they are manufactured.

According to Dr. Nozar Tabrizi of Grand Blanc, Mich., assistant professor of ECE, the software is "a must in the electronics field. The experience that students gain in using these tools will be an impressive addition to their resumes, which will make them even more attractive as engineers to prospective employers."

Mentor is providing these resources through the company's Higher Education Program (HEP), an endeavor founded in 1985 to further the development of skilled engineers within the electronics industry. The program supports colleges and universities with leading edge design tools for classroom instruction and academic research to ensure that engineering graduates enter into industry proficient with state-of-the-art tools. And because Kettering University has the country's most advanced co-op program, a partnership between the school and Mentor represents a natural fit, since graduates of the institution leave with more than two-and-a-half years of professional engineering experience.

Kettering received a total of five Mentor Graphics packages that utilize a host of software. The packages are IC Nanometer Design, Design, Verification & Test, PCB Expedition, PCP-PADS and Embedded Software Development. One software resource-SystemVision? under the Design, Verification & Test package-has great potential for use as the primary tool for most courses in ECE and in other engineering courses at the University, explained Dr. Juan Pimentel, professor of ECE. SystemVision is based on the language VHDL-AMS, accepted and used throughout the world. It's also an IEEE standard for modeling and synthesis of systems based on multi-physics (e.g., digital, analog, thermal, mechanical, electrical, and fluid).

"SystemVision? is ideal for courses that deal with digital systems, microcontrollers, control systems, automotive power trains and communications among others," he said. Currently, several faculty in the ECE Dept. have begun to develop course materials using SystemVision. Additionally, there are a number of students involved with SystemVision as their primary tool for fifth year thesis projects and independent studies. As a result, some courses in the ECE curriculum will use examples and case studies created using SystemVision that can also be shared with other universities. The system is also used in supporting research involving efficient powertrains for hybrid-electric vehicles, an effort overseen by Kettering's Dr. Jim Gover of the ECE Dept.

Tabrizi, who is coordinating the effort to incorporate these resources into various courses and serves as liaison between Kettering and Mentor, said the tools reduce the time-to-market period for the development and incorporation of electronic systems in vehicles.

"Using this software, we can design a microprocessor, for example, by starting with a hardware descriptive language and develop appropriate codes. From this point, the software automatically completes the process. Once the final design is sent to manufacturing and fabricated, it comes back to us for verification and validation," he said, adding that this example of a full chip design "is a vast improvement in how things were previously designed and manufactured."

Ian Burgess, director of the HEP at Mentor Graphics, is happy to add Kettering University to the company's list of educational partners. "This is a win-win for all parties. Universities that incorporate leading design methodologies and tools into their academic programs provide a valuable service to both their students and the electronics industry as a whole," said Burgess. "Students gain experience in the latest technologies before they graduate and have a distinct advantage in obtaining jobs in the industry. Electronics companies have access to new graduates with the design skills they need and who can make a key contribution from day one," he added.

Thus far, students who have used some of these resources in CE 422-Computer Architecture and Organization are pleased with what they can accomplish in less time. And although a specific dollar figure on this contribution is unavailable, Tabrizi said that these resources donated to Kettering are worth in excess of $1 million. More importantly, this contribution will directly impact the experience of Kettering students, which in turn could help various industries develop products faster for many consumer markets.

To learn more about this contribution, contact Dr. Nozar Tabrizi at (810) 762-7826, or via email at ntabrizi@kettering.edu.

Written by Gary J. Erwin