Closing the gap betweeen business and academia. An interview with Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) is a global semiconductor design and manufacturing company that develops analog integrated circuits (ICs) and embedded processors. By employing the world’s brightest minds, TI creates innovations that shape the future of technology. TI is helping approximately 100,000 customers transform the future, today.

Texas Instruments contributes to technological innovation worldwide. You are doing so, not only through producing and selling your products, but you also attach great importance to education. Why?  What is your motivation here? What is the Texas Instruments University Program?

Alexandre Titin-Snaider: Texas Instruments has a 75-year history of innovation with a strong commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, which started with the company‘s founders and remains stronger than ever today. We believe in investing in education in order to fuel the talent base needed to continue advancing engineering innovation across the world. The Texas Instruments University Program is dedicated to supporting engineering educators, researchers and students worldwide. Since 1982, the program has facilitated the inclusion of TI analog and embedded processing technology in the learning experience for engineering students, including the creation of teaching materials, support of research and teaching labs, supporting university course curricula, etc. By doing this, TI aims to bridge the gap between the worlds of business and academia, bringing real world engineering concepts to life for thousands of students every year.

You already have participated twice in the Tech Challenge as an Industry Partner. Students, who worked on TI challenges, could use the so-called TI Robotics Systems Learning Kit (TI-RSLK). What is the TI-RSLK and how does it help the students further with the challenges?

Nuria Llin: The TI Robotics Systems Learning Kit (TI-RSLK) is a low-cost robotics kit and classroom curriculum, which provides students with a deeper understanding of how electronic system designs work. It contains 20 online learning modules (lecture videos, slides, lab documentation) covering basic to advanced topics. The beauty of it is that it’s a modular system, allowing students with no previous knowledge on programming or electronics to rapidly jump in and create their own robot. For the ones having already an understanding of electronic topics, it allows them to create more advanced systems by adding more advanced modules to their robots.

The winners of the first Tech Challenge edition, used the TI-RSLK to develop an educational robot to be used by high-school students and students in African countries. They intended to make robotics accessible to everyone and managed to create a great STEM tool to learn how to code. In the second Tech Challenge edition, the winners developed a traction system for skateboards, using the MSP432 LaunchPad included in the RSLK to help skateboard users control their boards.

f.l.: Team eduboTIcs, Winners of the Robotics Challenge WS17/18: Harish Reddy Mareddy, Simon Leschek, Anna Hart and Tatjana Krug, Alexandre Titin-Snaider, Education Technology Director, Europe, Nuria Llin, University Program Manager, Europe; Copyright: UnternehmerTUM f.l.: Team eduboTIcs, Winners of the Robotics Challenge WS17/18: Harish Reddy Mareddy, Simon Leschek, Anna Hart and Tatjana Krug, Alexandre Titin-Snaider, Education Technology Director, Europe, Nuria Llin, University Program Manager, Europe; Copyright: UnternehmerTUM

What challenges did you prepare for the students and did they come up with some great solutions?

Nuria Llin: In both editions, we invited multidisciplinary teams to use their skills to solve real-world problems related to robotics, in the first edition in the context of robotics education and in the second edition in the Automotive context. Participants received the TI-RSLK and a prototyping budget to explore further their ideas. Most teams came with impressive solutions for the short time-frame that they had to complete the project. We are very satisfied to see the results: the students worked on projects of their interest, while learning and, most important, having fun!

Are you also engaged in other programs or courses at the TUM?

Nuria Llin: Yes, many of them! We are directly supporting multiple TUM courses in several Departments with TI hardware and software, covering many aspects of technology. In addition, TI organizes a workshop for students of the Real Time Computer Systems (RTCS) chair twice a year, where specialist colleagues prepare lab and project exercises covering real applications based on TI microcontrollers. Apart from that, we are collaborating with several student initiatives, mostly the TUfast formula racing team.

What kind of career opportunities does TI offer to students and graduates?

Alexandre Titin-Snaider: Texas Instruments in Germany offers opportunities throughout the studies as well as afterwards. We offer internships in nearly every area within TI and also provide the opportunity to write the final thesis in cooperation with Texas Instruments. For everybody who recently graduated or is about to graduate we offer a variety of so called “Rotation Programs” as well as direct entry-level positions. Our Rotation Programs allow the participants to gather a broad knowledge about their role through different assignments in different areas or even countries. For both options after graduation we’ve designed a program called “Make an Impact”, which contains sections for career development, networking, soft-skill trainings as well as technical trainings.

Which soft skills are relevant for you when hiring new employees?

Alexandre Titin-Snaider: A quality that we value a lot is the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams and experience of being involved in this kind of projects. TI is a very diverse company (in our headquarters in Freising we have more than 60 different nationalities!) and we value colleagues that can bring an out-of-the-box mindset and team work approach.

This interview is part of our Soft Skills Handbook (German).