The University of St. Thomas today will become one of only two universities in the country to have one of the most sophisticated computer chip signal testing devices available.
The university will receive an SIA-3000 signal integrity analyzer as a gift from its Eden Prairie-based manufacturer, Wavecrest Corp.
Wavecrest president and CEO Dennis Leisz, who received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Thomas in 1977, will present the analyzer to the Rev. Dennis Dease, the university’s president, at 11 a.m. today, Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the electrical engineering lab located in the university’s O’Shaughnessy Science Hall.
All are welcome to attend, and punch and cookies will be served. Anyone who spills punch on the SIA-3000 will be in big trouble, however; it’s worth $125,000.
The analyzer, which has only been on the market for several months, will be a perfect fit for the kind of study and research conducted by the university’s new bachelor of science in electrical engineering program.
The B.S.E.E. program focuses on embedded systems, more commonly known as those small computers that help control an ever-growing number of consumer products, ranging from automobile engines to computer games to coffee makers.
Embedded systems also are used extensively in the communications industry. The SIA-3000 will help students analyze semiconductors used, for example, in high-speed Internet components.
Signals that come from the semiconductors in those devices are measured in units as small as a nanosecond (a billionth of one second), a picosecond (a trillionth of one second) or even a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of one second).
It’s hard to imagine slices of time that short, but that’s the world the SIA-3000 lives in. The device is used to develop and test semiconductors to eliminate problems like “jitter,” or what happens if the pulses are not perfectly uniform. Bad jitter can result in a crashed computer or a fuzzy picture on a television screen.
Dr. Jeffrey Jalkio, a member of the engineering faculty who will be in charge of caring and feeding the SIA-3000, explained that the device measures extremely tiny durations of time somewhat like the way a microscope examines extremely tiny matter.
“The 3000 is going to be a real star in our electrical engineering lab,” he said. “Our students will be using the same equipment used by the world’s top computer and semiconductor companies.”
Companies using Wavecrest devices include Intel, Motorola, IBM and Sony. The SIA-3000, which went on the market in August 2001, recently was named one of the 2002 “Best in Test” winners by the industry magazine Test and Measurement World. Wavecrest also won the Minnesota Technology Innovation Award in 1997, the first year it was conferred.
While the SIA-3000 initially will be used by students in the electrical engineering program, it also is expected to see use by St. Thomas’ physics, computer science and graduate-level software engineering programs.
Leisz, who founded Wavecrest in 1984, has volunteered his time in recent years as an adviser to the university’s electrical engineering program. He also lectures to graduate business classes on topics ranging from strategic planning to business ethics. In 1999 he received the Ethical Leadership Award, presented annually by St. Thomas’ College of Business.
For the past three years his company was named to Deloitte & Touche’s Fast 50 Program, which is a ranking of the 50 fastest-growing technology companies in Minnesota. In addition to its Eden Prairie headquarters, the company has offices in California, Texas, New York, Japan and Europe.