LONG BEACH, Calif. Cadence Design Systems Inc. will fund coursework at California State University at Long Beach intended to give students a better understanding of IC design. Cadence plans to give CalState $2 million over three years, and said it is likely to spend another $4.2 million to expand the program to other California universities.
In ceremonies here this week, Cadence said it will augment its donations with company executives who will serve as visiting instructors. Cadence has been among the many Silicon Valley companies that have decried the shortage of technical workers.
University officials said the Cadence program is more involved than the donations the school receives from many other corporations.
"Many times, companies give us software, but often those programs are very complex," said Sandra Cynar, chairwoman of the Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department at CalState in Long Beach. "I have 11 labs and 1,400 students taking 100 sections of courses. Neither I nor my state-paid technician can take the time to understand all that software and keep it running. Cadence gave us the money to hire people to take care of this software, and they sent someone here to set it up and help us get the curriculum together. Keeping the system running is critical. When you've only got 15 weeks, losing one day in the lab really sets things back."
In addition to support staff, Cadence will also assist instructors with their coursework preparation. Without this assistance, it could have taken the university years to prepare a complete curriculum, Cynar said.
"Our faculty is a teaching faculty, they're not off doing R&D while aides teach," she said. "Cadence people have helped us build the project."
Cadence executives said they hope their contributions will help students be better prepared to enter the workforce. Students at many other colleges won't get nearly the same level of hands-on learning, a university spokesman said.
"We like this program because it's very practical," said Jake Buurma, senior vice president of worldwide research and development for Cadence (San Jose, Calif.). "Students will develop good skills in mixed-signal, digital and analog, in both full-custom and semi-custom. Students will walk away not just with an understanding of theory, but they'll actually build parts, actually fabricating FPGAs designed here."
Though Cadence is deeply involved with the program, Cynar said she viewed the coursework as more than a training ground on the use of Cadence software.
"To say this is just a place for learning Cadence software is not true," she said. "Students learn how to design a complete chip. Otherwise, class work is kind of like revealing the elephant they never get to see the whole thing at once, only a small portion. When we do this, we will teach theory in class and then go out and actually work with tools, going into the lab with the same faculty, and the faculty then gets instant feedback. When students ask questions, they're asking the same faculty member who taught them the theory," Cynar said.