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Wind River donates more than $2 million in software to engineering

A California-based company has donated more than $2 million worth of computer software to Mizzou Engineering, paving the way for electrical and computer engineering students to practice classroom theory and compete more effectively for jobs upon graduation.

Wind River, which sells commercial “real-time” software operating systems that are embedded in electronic devices of all sorts, responded in November to a request from the MU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) by contributing 40 licenses for real-time operating systems and another 20 licenses for a software development toolkit that allows users to create and customize those systems. Real-time operating systems generally are used in embedded systems and industrial control environments—such as in aircraft and robotics—in which software programs must perform under strict time constraints.

The Wind River General Purpose Platform, VxWorks Edition 3.6, the Wind River VxWorks Developers Toolkit and the Wind River Linux 2.0 General Purpose Platform software donations are valued at about $2.11 million, company representatives said. Those who teach ECE’s real-time computing classes tout the software’s educational value.

“Now, we actually can do embedded computing in this class, instead of using simulations,” said ECE graduate student Tim Havens, who is teaching this semester’s computing for embedded systems course. “It makes the class experience authentic, and is an excellent tool for properly teaching this course.”

Wind River has donated software for classes and research projects to more than 200 universities throughout the world, the company’s Web site said. Its technology is used in devices made by such industry giants as Apple Inc. and Motorola Inc., the Web site said.

At Mizzou Engineering, Wind River’s donation will be used to teach both the ECE department’s embedded systems computing class as well as its real-time embedded computing course, said Assistant Professor Tony Han, who taught the department’s course in embedded computing last semester. Han said his previous course made do with a “bare-bones system,” but students using the donated technology will have the ability to experiment with the theory they learn in class.

“In order to practice the method of theory they learn in the course, they have to experiment,” Han said.

Students using Wind River’s real-time systems will gain real-world experience as well as theoretical practice. Industries of all sorts use real-time systems, said Jim Fischer, an ECE resident instructor who worked with Wind River to obtain the donation.

“This donation gives us the means to introduce our students to the same commercial-grade real-time operating systems they will be using as practicing engineers out in industry. We feel this is an exceptional opportunity for our students,” Fischer said. “Having knowledge of Wind River’s real-time operating systems and software development tools will help make our students more valuable to potential employers and more competitive in today’s global economy.”