As you may recall, earlier this year, the folks at Altium introduced their Innovation Station, which is a combination of th their unified electronics design software, Altium Designer and an extended range of Altium NanoBoard reconfigurable hardware platforms (see my article #206104574 for more details).
Well... a box containing one of these little scamps recently arrived on my desk (an Innovation Station, not someone from Altium) and it is a beauty to behold! But there's a problem, because – as always – I am up to my ears in alligators fighting fires, and I have no time to do anything with it.
I tell you, when I was younger I would have given anything for this little rascal... I can't believe that I'm too busy to even play with it, but there you are... I'm juggling so many balls in the air my head is spinning... metaphorically speaking.
So... I was chatting to Nick Martin (the founder, CEO, and CTO of Altium) and I asked him if I could offer this little beauty as part of a design competition on Programmable Logic DesignLine. And Nick said: "Let's make it interesting and offer three!"
Since then we've been bouncing ideas back and forth, and we're finally agreed on the following:
- Programmable Logic DesignLine is going to host a design competition. This competition will feature Altium's Innovation Station. The idea is to allow readers to experience this new approach to designing electronic products; to allow them an opportunity to demonstrate their prowess at electronics design, or to demonstrate their creativity for the first time.
- The competition will be open to readers (resident in the United States and Canada – I'm sorry about this restriction, but it gets to be a pain for me to ship these things anywhere else) of Programmable Logic DesignLine as well as other CMP / EE Times / TechOnline-related websites. The competition will run in various phases (see below) between October 2008 and April 2009.
- Phase 1 – A Call for Ideas: If you think you've got a suitable design project in mind, email me and tell me about it. Entice me. Flatter me (trust me, flattery goes a long way :-) What makes this project interesting? Why should I get excited about it?
- Phase 2 – Reader Vote: After a couple of weeks, I'll summarize all of the ideas in a blog and in my weekly newsletter and ask you – the readers of Programmable Logic DesignLine – to ponder them and tell me which you think are the most deserving.
- Phase 3 – Assesment: This is where I mull everything over along with the folks at Altium and we select three finalists. Sometime before the end of November, the three finalists will be presented with an Innovation Station (an Altium desktop NanoBoard, and a one-year time-based license of Altium Designer) which will allow them to create, test, debug and finalize their designs. During this Phase, I'll be posting articles and updates on the progress being made by the finalists. The deadline for the completion of these designs will be March 1, 2009.
- Phase 4 – Final Judging: As part of this competition, the three finalists will each write a 2000+ word "How To" design article explaining how they went about creating and realizing their design using the Innovation Station. All three of these articles will be published on Programmable Logic DesignLine towards the end of March 2009 (Don't panic if you hate writing, I'll help with the editing and picture formatting and "stuff".)
The three entries will be assessed by myself and Nick Martin. The winner will be announced 8 April 2009. Judging criteria will include:
- The skill demonstrated in the submission.
- The innovation in the design (embodying new ideas or new approaches) and how this innovation is demonstrated in concept and implementation.
- The experience of the designer (for example, whether the entrant is a novice or an experienced designer and whether he/she is new to FPGAs or not).
- The potential for commercialization.
OK, now onto some nitty-gritty details. First of all, All three finalists will receive an Innovation Station from Altium, each comprising a desktop NanoBoard and a one-year timed license for Altium Designer (see below for details relating to the NanoBoard), along with access under Altium's usual user terms and conditions to support from Altium for the period to the license. (Altium reserves the right to modify this level of support depending on whether the support needs of any entrant are in excess of what Altium regards as appropriate or fair.)
The three finalists will have the following elements available to them as part of the NanoBoard development platform:
- 32-bit RISC processor running at 50 MHz
- Ethernet port
- USB port
- QVGA touch screen display
- I2S stereo audio subsystem
- VGA output
- RS232 port
- I2C bus controller
- CAN controller
- DE disk controller
- SD card reader
The winning finalist will keep the Innovation Station, complete with the one-year time-based license which will be converted at renewal into a perpetual license – the value of this prize is approximately US$4,300 for the hardware + $5,000 for the core perpetual license (the two runners-up will return their Innovation Stations at the end of the competition).
Programmable Logic DesignLine and Altium will have rights to publicize all entries, including the initial submissions, the three finalists, and the final winner. The rights to publicize shall extend to any design that becomes available commercially, or which is developed by the designer for commercial use, but ownership of the intellectual property in any designs submitted in this competition will remain with the entrant.
Well, I don't know about you, but I think this is pretty exciting. If only I were a younger (or cleverer) man I'd enter myself ... so start pondering this and send me your submissions...
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.