AUSTIN, Texas Drag-and-drop programming techniques and graphical user interfaces are needed to overcome the "experts-need-only-apply" mentality that now prevails in electronics system design, panelists said here Wednesday (Aug. 9).
The panel concluded a two-day "summit" on graphical system design, sponsored by National Instruments Corp. as parts of its annual NI Week event.
Now, engineers and the companies which serve them "suffer from tunnel vision, with EDA companies supporting chip design and embedded tool companies focused on software engineers," said Daya Nadamuni, an analyst at Gartner-Dataquest who tracks EDA and embedded software technologies.
Specialization tends to cut out experts who want to bring their own expertise to systems development. However, advances in graphical design tools, FPGAs, and other user-friendly technologies are empowering experts in the field of medicine, for example, the panelists agreed.
Kevin Craig, a mechatronics researcher and professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said graphical design techniques are helping young engineering students. Engineers tend to be "too specialized," causing members of a design team to become "excluded" when the project moves into the coding phase. Graphical software development techniques help student engineers to stay engaged with a project, he said.
"Sequential design (with hardware handed over to software specialists) bores students to tears," Craig said. Instead, engineering education should foster "independent thinking about how to solve a particular problem, and then bringing people together as a team to solve that problem," the RPI professor said.
James Truchard, the founder and CEO of National Instruments, said his company's LabView software has fostered techniques to "abstract the hardware so the user experience is mainly with the software, even though the hardware is paddling like mad in the background" to accomplish the system's purpose.
To create systems which solve problems in medicine and education, "domain experts" such as doctors and teachers are learning to cooperate with design engineers to create useful systems, using graphical design languages, Truchard said.
The design summit was part of NI Week, a three-day event which concludes Thursday with a speech by Segway inventor Dean Kamen.