NI Week: Technical Sessions and Final Recap

Hello and welcome to the Digilent Blog!

Today marks the final recap of the incredible event that was NI Week 2016. We are beyond excited to have gotten the chance to participate, and walk away so inspired. Below each of our attendees have recapped their favorite memories from the technical sessions, as well as reflections on the overall 2016 NI Week experience.


I’ve always been more of a low level, do it yourself, hardware level type of person, so anything too abstract makes me nervous. Subsequently, in the past I have been more interested in the back end of LabVIEW than the user interface. However, the keynotes during NI Week highlighted the impacts researchers are making on society, with the power of LabVIEW. Without the abstraction of LabVIEW, these impacts couldn’t have been made in as quick of a time period. After this I decided to check out one of the technical sessions on reconfigurable oscilloscopes with LabVIEW. In that session I learned about how you can access the FPGA on certain oscilloscopes for added functionality. After going to this session I have a renewed passion for the Analog Discovery 2, since despite it’s wide array of analog tools it boils down to an FPGA on the inside!

Analog Discovery 2, side view (top).


Overall NI week was a great experience. I got to meet a lot of interesting people, I was exposed to new cutting edge technology, and I was able to really experience what NI is all about. On Monday I demo-ed my Analog Discovery 2 ECG at the academic forum, and I was able to talk to a lot of professors that used them in their classroom, I really enjoyed finding out all the creative ways professors were using the AD2 to facilitate the learning process. One ASU professor that spoke to me actually ended up participating in the keynote. He set out to design his electrical engineering labs so it could be taken online. This way students could learn and participate in labs from anywhere in the world on their own schedule, with the low cost, portable Analog Discovery 2 making this possible. On Tuesday and Wednesday I spent my day trying to keep the SumoBots working. We dealt with a lot of problems but it was worth it to see how excited the kids got when they got to drive them.


I also met a lot of LabVIEW Makerhub fans, they were extremely happy to find out that LINX 3.0 allowed them to target the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black. I had some great conversations with people about how much they appreciate the effort Digilent put into creating content to help them get the most out of their purchase. A large amount of the engineers I talked to identified with tinkering with electronics as the start of their interest in engineering. I left with a ton of suggested project ideas and renewed motivation to help Makers.


My favorite experience at NI Week was the final keynote where a team discussed problems they encountered while completing their project. As they stood up on the stage, one individual addressed their wiring mistakes, which caused a fire to burn through much of their previous work. As engineers (or people who try their best to engineer), we often recognize that everything does not go as planned. However, working through these times by relying on your team can turn a bad experience around, and teach you more than you would have learned by making no mistakes at all! My biggest takeaway from this presentation was when one team member said, “you need to believe in your team and their abilities”. This is something I recognize daily, for without my team and their spectacular project creations, I would be stuck in a perpetual struggle in my pursuit of understanding engineering technology.

Final NI Week Keynote


Now at the end of the week I find myself taking a moment to reflect on the most significant things that this week in Austin has presented, and two primary things come to mind. The first was the general impression I have left NI Week with. Between the keynotes, Expo hall, and technical sessions I leave with a strong sense of NI’s commitment to making a substantive impact in the world through. More than creating engineering instrumentation, the exposure of their partners, customers, and students to new technologies and engineering techniques through the Expo and informational sessions is an illustration of this drive for inspiring innovation.


The second take away that sticks out is the overall challenge of having a presence at an event like NI Week, and how our team tackled it. Each day in the week has been extremely busy. From things like attending to the booths and answering questions of Expo attendees, to setting up demos and troubleshooting them when the inevitable bug or breakdown occurs, every day presented challenges that kept the entire team on their feet throughout the week. While at times managing each of our booths got a bit overwhelming (Digilent was present at three separate locations), everyone was on board to meet any challenges as they arose. It was genuinely satisfying to see each member of the group rise to the occasion, and I am proud that I was able to be here with such a capable and hard working group of people.


Contrary to what I might have originally presumed a few weeks ago, I believe that NI Week is a much better experience when you are keeping yourself busy at a booth rather than only attending technical sessions. Not only do you get to teach people about the electronics behind the demos, you get the opportunity to talk with a wide variety of people from makers to professors to senior test engineers, all while improving your public speaking.
But there are two big things that I will definitely take with me from NI Week. The first is that Digilent plays a much larger role in the NI ecosystem than I originally believed; many of the demos shown at the Academic Keynote involved a Digilent product and a number of demos on the Expo Floor either used an FPGA for parallel processing or focused on the academic sector.
 The second is that even if all of the extra effort that is put into a booth or a video or code examples may seem like small additions that don’t contribute to the overall project. It’s that extra effort that makes a project stand out and is what people really appreciate. This realization has spurred me on to always put in that extra effort in whatever I do, whether at work or at home with my family.
“Machine learning, permutations, atom slosh, neutrino, rapid organ regeneration”. These are the types of terms I’ve been overhearing today. And where can one hear terminology like this simply in passing?
Only at NI Week!
But one must be careful as it can be tempting to belittle your own work when surrounded by
such giants. But instead of being intimadating, this experience has really reconfirmed for me why we do what we do as an educational company. So forgive me for getting a bit philosophical, but what I appreciated most about the last day here at NI Week 2016 was the opportunity see the breadth of the truly world-changing applications that the NI Platform is contributing to and understanding that those people had to come from somewhere. They had to start somewhere. And I’m very proud as a Digilent employee to be working at that starting line and doing my part to contribute to the many amazing things I saw today and throughout the week.

On Thursday I managed to attend three technical sessions. The first was a talk on targeting the Arduino through LabVIEW and how the compiler does its job. The second talk was on measuring shock waves using optical measurements, lasers and accelerometers. It also focused a bit on underwater acoustics and how to reduce your signal to noise ratio, and how LabVIEW helped with that goal. The third technical session was on how an engineering team used LabVIEW to control a flight simulator with a six-axis range of motion.

Having the opportunity to learn about how LabVIEW is used in such different ways was so fascinating and really gave me an idea as to how it can apply in almost any field.

Overall, NI Week was such a fantastic experience. Spending the week at the Digilent demo booth in the LabVIEW Zone and representing LabVIEW MakerHub gave us an opportunity to answer a range of different questions and meet so many different types of engineers and scientists. Getting to do a demo targeting the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi through LINX 3.0 was so much fun. I even had an engineer come up to me and told me I made his entire trip by showing him how to target the Raspberry Pi through LabVIEW.


I felt so lucky to represent Digilent on the floor and get to spread our message and our goal of teaching engineers to the National Instruments and engineering community. The whole week felt so successful. We reached out to what felt like hundreds of kids, parents, engineers, curious makers and tinkerers.


Although LabVIEW MakerHub was released two years ago, this year at NI Week was definitely the coming of age for the platform. Between the battle bots, the booth, and the demonstration of Linx 3.0 (Beagle Bone Black and Raspberry Pi targets being added) that I felt that the “Love LabVIEW at work? Take it Home!” message  really hit home.


NI Week was the right place to reach many LabVIEW enthusiasts in one location. As you walked around the floor, you could see people using NI Hardware + LabVIEW working together to solve some of the world’s most complicated challenges. Keeping environments stable for organ growth, controlling radar arrays, safety critical vision analysis, assembly line metrics, big data control and pipeline… there are so many places that LabVIEW and NI Hardware is making a difference.

But what happens when these brilliant minds leave the workplace, when they are away from their high-powered, high-reliability tools? How do they tinker? What options do they have to explore the low cost projects that can enhance their personal lives? What about the people who want to teach LabVIEW to their kids, and show them how to use it to control their own robots? Before LabVIEW Home & the LabVIEW MakerHub was released, tinkering didn’t have much in common with what was done at work. But this year’s NI Week has made it clear that this niche has been filled, and the audience is beyond enthusiastic.

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