Electrical Engineering News
Intel Equipment Donation Supports USC Research
Intel’s Columbia Design Center operations in Columbia SC have donated two high-end logic analyzers to research labs in Electrical Engineering at USC. Sam Vause and Tonia Morris of Intel presented the equipment to professors Paul Huray and Herbert Ginn III. The labs of Drs. Huray and Ginn present an interesting diversity of applications – from signal integrity on low-voltage high-speed computing equipment to signal integrity in electronic power converters that process a dozen homes worth of power. Both labs are great examples of how collaboration yields outstanding results.
Working together over the past decade, Intel and USC established a joint program in Signal Integrity that covered both research and graduate education. It was the first such program in the US and is now regarded by many as the premier program. The joint research projects pioneered with Professor Huray have resulted in new capabilities that touch virtually every Intel-Architecture based computer system in some way and have consequently become commonplace in the industry. Specifically, these joint research projects have resulted in new modeling and simulation techniques that allow engineers to accurately design the interconnections between chips on the motherboards of high-performance computers. These new techniques have enabled engineers to remove significant performance impediments so the historical pace of computer development as described by “Moore’s Law” can be sustained. Currently, joint research projects continue to push the limits of technology by developing new ways to design the chip interconnections in ultra-small, high performance computational devices.
Although the strongest ties between USC EE and Intel are through the Signal Integrity program, other areas within the Electrical Engineering Department benefit from the relationship. Dr. Ginn’s lab, which received the second logic analyzer, specializes in electronic power conversion – definitely not your usual computing environment! In his lab dozens of power semiconductors, each the size of your fist, turn on and off many thousands of times per second to modulate power flow in a smart microgrid. Mis-timing the operation of any device by even billionths of a second would destroy the equipment, producing short circuit currents of many thousands of amps. To prevent such a catastrophe, one of the donated Agilent Logic Analyzers is used to monitor the system while the hybrid digital/analog controls are being developed. These controls are actually high performance computing platforms themselves, comprising multiple field programmable gate arrays and digital signal processors that put some of the smarts into the smart grid.
The relationship between USC and Intel has been mutually beneficial. Intel supports USC graduate research by providing travel funds and stipends, graduate and undergraduate fellowships, and opportunities for students to use state-of-the-art equipment at Intel sites. USC offers back highly educated human resources (more than 50 interns and permanent employees to date) and opportunities for existing Intel personnel to pursue MS and PhD degrees. Furthering the reciprocity, some of Intel’s leading engineers participate in classes at USC, while USC faculty provide colloquia to Intel engineers on-site at their research facilities. That’s what this is all about – winning positions for both teams!
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