Texas-based National Instruments (NI), a global leader in virtual instrumentation, recently donated LabVIEW software to each of the 250 junior-year students in Virginia Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME).

Every student in ME Lab I, a required course for ME juniors, received a copy of the graphical development software as well as a software license to use in completing assignments in the lab and at home. This donation enables ME students to gain hands-on programming experience as part of their nationally-ranked undergraduate curriculum.

"The donation of LabVIEW software from NI and their ongoing support of the university are opening many doors for our students," said ME professor Harry Robertshaw. "They now have the unique opportunity to gain in-depth, hands-on experience using industry-standard LabVIEW software, an invaluable skill in today's marketplace."

The students use LabVIEW to configure virtual instruments and to acquire, analyze and present data for a multitude of applications, from calibrating a pressure transducer to opening a soda can. With LabVIEW installed on their personal computers, Robertshaw said, the students can quickly and conveniently create virtual instruments for lab assignments. The ME juniors can also use the software in some of their senior-year courses.

As part of its commitment to Virginia Tech, NI also is training faculty to use LabVIEW and offering technical support.

"Learning to program with LabVIEW and build virtual instruments gives students an edge after graduation, and working with Virginia Tech is an exciting chance for us to give students that opportunity," said Ray Almgren, NI's vice president of product marketing and academic relations. "Now, with access to LabVIEW outside the classroom, students can explore its intuitive features and develop programming skills that can go beyond the curriculum."