Monday, July 12, 2010

VDAT 2010: Encourage Indian students to come up with product ideas and specs

I completely agree with headline! Yes, there is a pressing need to encourage our Indian students to develop their own product ideas and come up with the specifications as well. That will surely trigger off a new wave of product development in the country!

I am extremely grateful to the organizers of VDAT 2010, and specifically, to the VSI (VLSI Society of India) Secretariat for sharing these inputs on the panel discussion on electronic design for Indian markets, which was held during the VDAT 2010 event at Chitkara University Campus, Himachal Pradesh.

The panel discussion in VDAT 2010 focused on “Electronic Design for Indian Markets – Challenges and Opportunities.” Moderated by Dr. C.P. Ravikumar, secretary, VLSI Society of India, and technical director, University Relations, Texas Instruments India, the discussion intended to understand what the killer applications were for the Indian market, how the Indian markets were different from the world market, what the challenges of product design are, and whether the graduating engineers are ready to meet the challenges of product design.The panelists included Saugat Sen, vice president R&D of Cadence Design Systems, Aninda Roy, senior design leader from Intel, and Prof. M. Balakrishnan of IIT Delhi.

Need to inculcate skill sets in students to meet challenges
“Not only cost and power, the issue of customer support and post-sale service will also be important in India when we target the bottom of the pyramid,” said Dr. Ravikumar. He felt that the dream of “Made in India, Made by India, Made for India” should drive the Indian electronics industry.

“We need to inculcate a number of skill sets into our graduating engineers to meet the challenge of electronic product design – board-level design and optimization, embedded software development are two areas that need immediate attention."

He added: “Product design is a team effort. The Indian education system has traditionally not emphasized on team effort. We have rewarded individual effort and deeper understanding of building blocks and algorithms. In product design, which involves integration of building blocks to cut down design time, it may be necessary to take a black-box view of components and focus on system-level design issues.

"A change in the mindset and grading mechanism may be necessary if we have to encourage product design in the academic institutions. Over the years, electronic design kits have become affordable thanks to Moore’s law, and this should help the academic institutions enormously to set up innovation labs.”

Curriculum changes required to grow embedded system design
Prof. Balakrishnan sounded very optimistic about product design activities in India. He related his experiences working with students from IIT Delhi and other Indian colleges on electronic gadgets to help the disabled. "Changes in the curriculum are needed to grow talent in embedded system design. There is a great deal of talent in Indian students, which needs to be encouraged," he said.

Saugat Sen noted that VDAT has overseen the transformation of India from being a fledgling in the area of VLSI design to becoming a worldwide VLSI design hub. He felt that Indian engineers have already proved themselves in project execution. Now, it is the time to prove themselves as innovators.

He added: “Instead of waiting for someone to give the specifications, let us encourage our students to come up with product ideas and specifications. Only Indians can understand the Indian markets, Indian operating conditions and the Indian priorities. If we go out to our rural areas, we will see so many problems waiting to be solved through innovation. This opens up many opportunities for Indian electronic engineers to come up with innovations relevant to India.”

Need to mentor students
The panel also discussed the topic of mentoring students. While students in some selected institutions were lucky to find mentors, this is not the case in most colleges.

Aninda Roy felt that a six-month to one-year internships in industries can help bridge this gap. He also encouraged the faculty members to look for internship opportunities in the industry. Several industrial, as well as governmental organizations, are conducting design contests to encourage product innovations.

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