Students working together | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University has partnered with Texas Instruments (TI) to develop the power management circuits and systems course using TI Power Management Lab Kits (TI-PMLK), a series of labs and kits that offer a practical application of the fundamentals of power management. This course was developed with the collaboration of Dr. Jose Silva-Martinez, Dr. Edgar Sanchez-Sinencio and Dr. Prasad Enjeti.

Silva, TI Professor I in Analog Engineering, is one of the instructors of the course. A few years ago the power management group at Texas Instruments approached the Analog and Mixed-Signal Center at Texas A&M, of which Silva is a member, about developing courses in this area of study. TI’s university team saw there was a skills gap in this area, so they developed the TI-PMLK in collaboration with Dr. Nicola Femia, a power expert from the University of Salerno, that was then incorporated into the power electronics course taught at Texas A&M.

This collaboration is mutually beneficial to companies in industry, as well as faculty and students alike. Companies benefit because this course prepares students for this specific area that is very important for them. This also fuels research for the faculty members in the electrical and computer engineering department, and because of courses like this they are able to more quickly introduce students to a new area of study. Through guest lectures and hands-on lab assignments, students gain practical knowledge that can be used immediately upon graduation.

“Thanks to this type of collaboration you can tailor your labs and examples used in class to practical applications,” Silva said. “Those guys in industry will come to our class and advise us we are doing relevant research that helps them to maintain their worldwide leadership. Texas A&M students and faculty are willing to address challenging open problems in today’s industry.”

The students are not only exposed to these challenges, they are able to collaborate with the engineers who are developing the actual products to address these concerns. This course provides students the opportunity to obtain a full understanding of power management fundamentals, allowing them to adapt to the always evolving world of technology.

“If you learn very well how to bike, it doesn’t really matter if you use this bike or a new model of the bike, you know how to ride the bike and that is what is important,” Silva said. “It’s the same thing with technology. We see new devices, new things coming every day, but the real essence of the technology, the roots, the fundamentals are very much the same. If you learn those things very well, and as many aspects of the technology as possible, you are prepared to adapt to all these changes.”

The objective of this course is to equip students as leaders in this field. This course is a senior level course, however about 50 percent of enrollment has been graduate students for the past two years. Silva hopes to eventually turn this course into a stacked course, which means that different types of students within the class will be given separate and more challenging assignments based on their level of study.

Ayesha Mayhugh from Texas Instruments has been a part of this project. Silva, Sanchez, the TI Jack Kilby Chair Professor, Distinguished Professor and director of the Analog and Mixed-Signal Center; and Enjeti, TI Professor III in Analog Engineering and associate dean for academic affairs, are partnering within the department to make this course possible and to continue its path to success.

“The Texas A&M electrical and computer engineering department consistently produces highly capable engineering graduates”, said Kyle Flessner, senior vice president of the TI technology and manufacturing group. “They are consistently a top producer of engineering talent for Texas Instruments.”