Dr. Chris Gould, 3rd Year Tutor for EEE, identified a need for our students on our Power Electronics module gain practical, hands-on experience of industry standard equipment to complement the theory taught in lectures.

He contacted Dr. Andy Fairweather, who works at VxI, and commissioned bespoke power boards that had to meet specific criteria and be delivered within a very short lead-time. VxI and National Instruments worked together to ensure the brief was met and The University has since bought 40 boards, which allow up to 80 students per workshop to learn essential practical knowledge.Prof Jewell, VxI, NI, Dr. Gould

Prof. Geraint Jewell (EEE), Wes Gale and Dr. Andy Fairweather (VxI), Beejal Tucker (National Instruments) and Dr. Chris Gould (EEE)

These valuable partnerships between academia and industry are reliant on strong relationships between all parties involved, with the primary focus being on continued improvement of student learning within EEE at The University of Sheffield. All EEE students have workshops in The Diamond Building which houses 17 state-of-the-art teaching laboratories, including a large electronics lab where they have access to industry standard equipment.

Professor Geraint Jewell, Head of Department for EEE, commented: “ Providing students with the opportunity to use boards made to the latest industrial standard with industrial design practices is very beneficial to their learning and after they graduate and go into employment. They gain an insight into the considerations that go into making a circuit which aren’t obvious from simply seeing a circuit diagram. It is fantastic that due to our strong partnership with VxI we have been able to work in collaboration with them to develop something that is both bespoke to us and suits our teaching needs.”

Andy Fairweather VxI, an Alumnus of EEE at Sheffield, said “Following a brief from Dr Chris Gould, we developed the MOSFET (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor) demonstration board to be used in teaching electronics labs within the University’s world class teaching facility, The Diamond.
“The devices are arranged in a three-phase bridge configuration, allowing the students to explore motor drive techniques and switched mode power supply topologies.
The board incorporates current and voltage measurement, allowing direct interface with a National Instruments’ myRIO which also provides drive signals.
“The turnaround time from brief to production was eight weeks. The total project lasted for three months from the initial consultation with Chris, prototype build and then product manufacture. It was a challenging turnaround time and one that couldn’t have been achieved if production wasn’t in the UK.”

A key specification for the power boards was that they had to be compatible with the National Instruments’ myRIO which the Department were already using in the student workshops. Beejal Tucker, Academic Field Engineer for National Instruments, advised “The myRIO device is used in different power energy occupations in industry and it is great that students are getting to use them in the power electronics lab. VxI MOSFET powerboard and NI MyRIO

A VxI MOSFET Powerboard and National Instruments MyRIO

“The University already had the MyRio device so the requirement was that the VxI system had to be controlled by it. We supported VxI by providing technical help to them to adapt the code of the MyRio to get the speed they needed.”

Hamish Sam, a 2nd Year EEE student said “The fact is, that in our future careers, this is the kind of practical work we will actually be doing. It’s unlikely that we will use much of the theory we have learned unless you go into to a very specific area of electronics so, the majority of students will most likely be using the boards and tools we are using here, whether they go on to employment in research or industry”

EEE student Hamish using a VxI Powerboard

EEE students Hamish using a VxI powerboard in a Power Electronics workshop