NI is hard at work enabling young people to learn about science, math, and engineering via LabVIEW with products Lego WeDo and Mindstorms, as well as sponsorship and involvement in the FIRST Robotics Competitions. In addition to doing a great thing by helping young people learn, a side effect is that LabVIEW is being squeezed into universities. I’ll explain.
LabVIEW has been highly successful in industry, where it really has become a tool of choice for engineers who need to automate test, measurement, and control applications. Additionally, the NI platform is well poised to be a tool of choice for system design, development, and deployment, as industry sees that the graphical approach, with a fully integrated tool-chain, just makes a lot of sense (because it saves time and money).
However, universities and engineering schools are very entrenched in both older (and freely available, open) technologies. These academic institutions currently feel the top-down weight of industry demanding engineers who are proficient in LabVIEW and will soon feel the bottom-up swell of myriad youngsters who learned LabVIEW while playing with the Lego WeDo and Mindstorms and then participating in FIRST Robotics Competitions.
Universities won’t have any choice but to start using LabVIEW to teach a variety of engineering courses, because students will be demanding it — that’s the squeeze. When this happens, NI will have realized its goal of getting LabVIEW to be used everywhere from “K through Rocket Science” (an NI marketing mantra).
Now, I don’t want to undermine what an incredible thing NI is doing by helping educate our youngsters, using LabVIEW — I’m just saying that it’s a pretty smart move
Note: I wish that LabVIEW was a standard at UC Berkeley, back in the late ’90s, when I was in school. I was fortunate to get a student research assistant job at LBNL during my first year, which lasted through graduation, where I was assigned the task of learning LabVIEW and adding a couple features to spectroscopy control and data acquisition system. I loved LabVIEW and had to fight hard to get my instructors to let me use it for my assigments instead of HP (now Agilent) VEE. Anyhow, I kept using LabVIEW all through school and decided to keep using it, to this very day.