National Instruments is working hard to make STEM education more accessible to both students and teachers. Last year, National Instruments (NI) announced the release of LabVIEW for Education, an academic version of its widely popular and very customizable system design and development software. Also recently, NI overcame the hurdles of costs and accessibility to data acquisition by delivering myDAQ, an inexpensive, durable unit that allowed kids to work at home and freed up teachers to tackle more complex concepts in the classroom.
This year, the Austin-based company upped the ante for STEM education once again by introducing a number of hardware add-ons that allow students to have access to equipment at a low cost, allowing for education, experimentation, and innovation outside of the classroom. These miniaturized systems provide students the opportunity to explore everything from electrical grids to dynamometers to air foils and shaker tables. The miniSystems give students an experience that fits in the palms of their hands, rather than a theoretical idea from a textbook.
NI’s Brad Armstrong says, “Our inspiration was Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park where he brought in the best and brightest and gave them equipment and said ‘do what you want.’ That drove a lot of innovation and that’s what we’re trying to do with kids — not just limit learning to the classroom.
“The students can take [the miniSystems] home,” continues Armstrong. “It’s a legitimate miniature version of something they might work with in industry and the programming that they use with it, though not as complex, is very similar.”
So the next time a student asks “When will I ever use this?,” the answer can be, “Right now.”