A new curriculum

At 18 years of age, many students are undecided about which university course to choose. I was one of those folks.

Andywilson 1211vsd

At 18 years of age, many students are undecided about which university course to choose. I was one of those folks. But my father explained that studying a subject such as ancient Greek literature was not perhaps the best way to obtain a lucrative position. Back then, universities did not offer such an array of subjects as they do now. Most degree courses were based on broad subjects in the arts and sciences.

And so it was that on one late September day, I was enrolled in a course to study physics. After three years, I was presented with a black gown and a piece of paper that documented my efforts. After a few months of celebrating, it was time to find that high-paying position. With little practical experience, this task was more difficult that I had imagined. After applying for what seemed like more than 100 positions, I managed to obtain a less than lucrative job.

Today, the world economy is in as poor a shape as it was 35 years ago. Despite this, the idea of meeting the needs of industry with more relevant university courses has changed drastically. It is possible to study very specific subjects such asFPGA design, biomolecular engineering, and object-oriented programming. Such courses are often more practical and allow students to work in conjunction with industry partners to gain experience. And because of the dearth of students who obtain degrees in these subjects, large corporations hold seminars at universities to headhunt the best and the brightest for their companies. Some students go on to found companies based on the knowledge they have obtained.

While obtaining specialized knowledge is commendable, the practical experience gained may also be highly focused. In the world of machine vision, this may be a hindrance rather than an advantage. Most system integrators are required to develop systems for a broad range of applications. Before any vision systems can be developed, designers must have an intimate knowledge of the best products, technologies, optics, lighting methods, and software tools that are available.

There are a number of magazines, tradeshows, associations, blogs, and books where such information can be obtained. I would like to think that our magazine, web site, newsletters, webcasts, and technical white papers are certainly a good first place to start.

In this our tenthCamera Directory issue, you will find numerous companies our Buyer's Guide department has categorized by name, interface, and other specifications. Here you will also find how cameras can be specified for use in applications varying from medical imaging to military operations.

But I know of no practical degree course that encompasses all of the aspects of vision systems design. What is required is a curriculum that educates engineers on the practical aspects of how and why specific products can be and have been used in such systems. For instance, rather than how to program image-processing algorithms, students would learn how algorithms are used to solve specific problems.

Any graduate of such a course would then be more fully equipped to engineer complex systems in industrial applications.

Andywilson 1211vsd
Andy Wilson, Editor in Chief
andyw@pennwell.com
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