Cultivating the Next Generation of Cypress Engineers: A Q&A with Cypress University Alliance Director Patrick Kane

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Samer Bahou

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The Cypress University Alliance Program (CUA) is a community of universities across the world using Cypress systems in teaching and research programs. The Cypress University Alliance Program includes free of charge access to Cypress’s full suite of software tools, as well as low-cost hardware development boards for research, graduate and undergraduate teaching.

In May 2016, Cypress launched its Maker of the Month program which recognizes unique projects created by the maker community and Cypress’s efforts to empower up-and-coming engineers via the Cypress University Alliance (CUA). Read our Q&A with the director of the CUA program, Patrick Kane, to learn more about Cypress’s efforts to provide tools and resources for teaching and research programs worldwide.

How many academic institutions are part of the CUA program? Is there anything specific that’s driving adoption growth rates? 

There are currently nearly 300 schools in North America and over 1,100 schools worldwide using Cypress’s technology. The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving growth not only in universities, but in the commercial and Maker spaces as well. With Cypress’s March 2015 merger with Spansion and July 2016 acquisition of the Broadcom IoT business unit, Cypress now provides solutions for the entire IoT food chain, enabling students and developers alike to design complete IoT projects with Cypress kits.

Tell us more about the online software tools, hardware devices and development boards available through the program. Are devices ever given to a student, professor or university free of charge?

When students are using Cypress software and hardware tools, they are using the same tools our commercial customers use. All Cypress software tools are free of charge and anyone can get up to ten samples of most of the chips Cypress manufactures. The kits cost between $4 to $100, but the most popular kits are in the $10 to $49 range. The two most popular kits at the moment are the $10 CY8CKIT-059 PSoC 5LP kit and the $49 CY8CKIT-042-BLE (PSoC 4 BLE) kit.

Cypress has a donation program in which a professor can request kits. CUA also has a partnership with the ARM University Program (AUP) in which professors can receive a semester’s worth of lecture materials and labs, 100 Keil IDE licenses and 10 kits from Cypress.   

How frequently do you receive Technology Grant Proposals (TGRs)? How many are you able to accept a year?

The number that we’re able to accept depends upon the types and number of kits being requested. We typically ship somewhere between 500 and 1,000 kits per quarter to universities in response to TGRs.                                                                                                                                     

Tell us more about the tools available for professors, including training, technical support and curriculum development assistance.

I travel the world presenting PSoC and FM workshops to professors and students alike. Sometime these workshops are at academic conferences and other times they are on campuses where Cypress hosts “PSoC and Pizza” events. As previously mentioned, CUA has a partnership with AUP to get curricula, software licenses and kits into professors’ hands – all free of charge. When CUA sponsors student projects, I make sure that there is a Cypress mentor involved to help ensure that the project meets its goals. Anyone can open a technical support case online and receive a quick response.  

What are some cool projects that Cypress University Alliance participants have made?

Some of my favorites CUA projects include: a PSoC 5 LP based oscilloscope and function generator for under $20 (developed at CalPoly, SLO), a PSoC 4 BLE based “low-fi” synth that remotely plays “chip music” by sending MIDI to the PSoC 4 BLE (created at a UCSD hackathon), a DriveBot that was the focal point of a Cypress IAP session at MIT in January 2015, and many other robotics projects. CUA also sponsors the FIRST robotics program by donating PSoC 5LP kits to each team.

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What is EduVance and what role does it play in the Cypress University Alliance program?

EduVance is the official CUA training partner in India, led by CEO Dr. Jonathan Joshi. Joshi was an intern here at Cypress in San Jose while he was working on his PhD at USC several years ago. He decided to return to India to start a company to train students on embedded systems technology. In addition to the same type of workshops that Cypress holds, Joshi hosts longer 30-day sessions in the summer, as well as remote labs where students can access the technology over the internet. Jonathan has also developed an m-learning app for PSoC that can be found on the Android Play Store.

How does the CUA program prepare engineering and computer science students for jobs in their field? Does the program offer job opportunities for students after graduation?

When students are using Cypress technology, they are using the same software and hardware tools that our customers use. This means they are performing real world tasks and are learning skills that are needed in the field. Cypress has a history of hiring New College Grads (NCGs) and we certainly like to see PSoC experience on their resumes. For more information, email careers@cypress.com.

What sets the CUA program apart from other semiconductor academic programs and initiatives?

The first thing that sets us apart is PSoC. PSoC is a unique combination of programmable analog, programmable digital, and an ARM Cortex MCU all on one chip. We also have a version that includes a BLE radio. No other technology offers this level of integration. As Dr. James Truchard, president and CEO of National Instruments, stated at his keynote at the ECEDHA conference in Austin a few years ago, “PSoC is all of ECE on a single chip.” Additionally, we have the ARM FM4 Cortex series of MCUs that includes DSP and floating point, and I am in the process of integrating the Cypress (previously Broadcom) IoT offering into the CUA. This includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE and ZigBee.

Other than providing online training tools and access to low cost hardware, what is Cypress doing inside and outside of classrooms to support academic growth?

We support various student projects at universities around the world. Cypress funded the Cypress Engineering Design Studio at MIT and we have Cypress engineering labs at many universities in China including Tsinghua University in Beijing, universities in India including PSG College of Technology and BITS Pilani campuses, and U.S. universities including UC San Diego, Georgia Tech and Purdue. CUA also supports several hackathons each year, with the most recent one having taken place at the Sensors Expo and Conference in San Jose in June 2016. The grand prize winners were from a student team from the University of Sonoma. Cypress featured the team in an earlier Maker of the Month post.

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