WPI Wire, Vol. 10, No. 2 - Summer 1996

Professor, alum provide access to sophisticated software

A textbook and CD-ROM package soon to be published by Prentice-Hall is giving students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department access to sophisticated software for computer-aided design. Based on cutting-edge software from Viewlogic Systems, Inc. of Marlborough, Mass., the scaled-down version designed for students includes a textbook written by R. James Duckworth, associate professor of ECE, and a student edition of Viewlogic's Workview Office developed by Preetinder Virk, a consultant at Viewlogic who earned his master's degree in electrical engineering at WPI in 1990.

Duckworth says the package provides an introduction to the rapidly changing field of computer-aided engineering. His text includes comprehensive tutorials showing how to use the Workview Office tools, and 10 digital laboratory exercises that begin with simple combinational circuits and progress to the design of finite-state machines.

"The book and software combination provides students and universities with the industry's premier design tools for obtaining real-world design solutions," says Duckworth. "Students can now draw and simulate circuit designs on their own personal computers, using tools identical to commercial electronic design automation (EDA) tools sold by Viewlogic."

Virk, who helped design Viewlogic's Workview and Powerview commercial software suite in 1993, initiated and coordinated the donation of 55 copies of that package to WPI at a substantial discount. Valued at $5 million, it was the largest gift of equipment or products in WPI's history, according to Ronald C. Baird, former director of corporate relations. The software, which is installed on workstations and personal computers in the ECE Department, enables students to design circuits, run performance simulations, test alternate configurations, and document their designs in a variety of forms.

"The value of such a gift to WPI and to students' educational and career goals is immeasurable," says Baird. "If a company officer looks at a student's resume and sees that he or she has used the Viewlogic software, they'll hire the student on the spot. In the current job market, it is becoming more and more important to have this state-of-the-art system in house for students to use."

Virk agrees. "We need to teach students how to do design the way they will do it when they get out of college," he says. "WPI's curriculum teaches them theory, but they need experience with up-to-date tools that they will be using on the job."

There are many benefits to introducing students to these versatile programs, says Virk. "You will have more people coming out of technical institutions who are prepared to do design with the leading-edge technology. That has to be good for ensuring a supply of well-trained, technically skilled workers for the country as a whole. And I have to believe that some of the students will end up working for Viewlogic--or will become our customers."

Companies that use Viewlogic software include Cascade Communications Chrysler, Digital Equipment Corp., Ford Motor Co., Rockwell International, and many others.

A native of Punjab, India, Virk came to WPI on the recommendation of the electrical engineering faculty of Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, where he earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, and his father- and brothers-in-law, who also attended WPI. He worked briefly for Teradyne before joining Viewlogic in 1990.

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