Participation Soars for this Year’s “Intel Cup”

An Interview with professor Xu Guozhi of Shanghai Jiao Tong University

By Jane Lin-Li, China Edition Editor

Promoting technology through educational systems has long been an Intel tradition. In 2002, the company was granted the opportunity of corporate sponsorship of the Chinese National Undergraduate Electronic Design Contest (NUEDC)—a student competition that started in 1994. What followed was the birth of the Intel Cup Undergraduate Electronic Design Contest: Embedded System Design Invitational.

“Intel Cup” is a bi-annual invitational contest focused on embeddedsystems design. It provides an opportunity to expose undergraduate students to high-level, real-life technical expertise and challenges. It also gives the students a chance to apply innovation and creativity using the assigned embedded platforms. The inception of NUEDC was initiated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Information Industry (MII) of China. These government agencies continue to be key forces behind the event today. Shanghai Jiao Tong University is another key contributor that continues to play host to the competition (see Figure 1). The following is an interview with Professor Xu Guozhi, secretary-general of the contest’s organizing committee and a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Figure 1: Opening of a training session at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

EIS: Registration for 2008’s competition surpassed all previous years. What were the factors that contributed to this success?

Xu: 160 teams from 72 schools participated in 2008’s “Intel Cup” including the University of Massachusetts from the United States, Anna University of India, Indian Institute of Technology, National Institute of Technology Karmataka, National University of Singapore, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Multimedia University of Malaysia, etc. This is the first time that the United States and India participated in this event.

Logo of the Chinese National Undergraduate Electronic Design Contest (NUEDC)

So many teams and countries signed up this time because, first of all, the organizing committee’s ability to offer the latest lowpower Intel®, multicore processor as the underlying platform for the contest truly exemplified the caliber of the competition. And for the students to be given complete freedom in conjuring up the project theme, design scheme, and implementation strategy—it was simply a real-life, hands-on learning opportunity too good to pass up. Essentially, the competition provided a stage for students to showcase their creativity and innovation. The second reason why 2008’s event was so successful was the commitment from Intel Corp. As the corporate sponsor, Intel ensured that the contestants were given training that was necessary to be successful in this endeavor. The company was from day one committed to the students’ knowledge and fluency of the latest processor technology.

EIS: What was the theme of 2008’s competition? Was there a special purpose for the chosen theme?

Xu: The theme was “Multi-core, Multi-thread Embedded Systems.” Its purpose was to enable the academia to stay closely abreast of the industry’s technology development trends, to provide the latest curricular materials, and to further raise the bar of technology education.

EIS: What were some of the key judging criteria?

Xu: First and foremost, we insisted on fairness and openness. Given the diverse nature of the submissions, originality was an important judging criterion. And within that, how effectively and efficiently projects actually fulfilled their purposes was an important factor. As a principle, we encourage practical and simple solutions (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 : Professor Xu Guozhi (second from right) discussing the contest with participating students.

EIS: What resources did the industry provide to the students and universities for this event?

Xu: We were very fortunate to have Intel Corp. as our sponsor. Dr. Wong Wenhan and several senior members from Intel worked closely with the organizing committee, contributing their time and energy generously to ensure the success of this event.

EIS: There were many schools involved in this year’s event. What role did Shanghai Jiao Tong University play?

Xu: As in previous years, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (JTU) was once again the host of this year’s NUEDC. Under the leadership of the organizing committee and the university’s vice president, Ying Jie—and with the support of Intel—the responsibility of designing and developing the contest, training, setting up websites, and publishing final projects was closely tied to the engineering department at JTU (headed by Xu).

EIS: What different challenges and results were in this year’s competition?

Xu: A dual-core embedded system with frequency up to 1 KG is an advanced technology that many of the students and their instructors had not been familiar with. As a result, the contest demanded a much higher level of technology know-how. For teams that didn’t have a strong science and technology background, winning this competition would be difficult. Whether it was a result of increased technological challenge or not, we did see an emergence of projects aiming at helping the disabled, increasing the safety of coal-mine excavation, and reducing energy consumption.

EIS: Did the entries reflect students’ interest in particular technology areas?

Xu: Some of the more popular topics seem to be in the areas of pattern recognition (including recognition of human action, speech recognition, iris recognition, finger blood-vessel image recognition, etc.), support systems for the disabled, robotic, virtual technology for automotive electronics, and coal-mine safety. Newer technology, such as XML, IPV6, MPEG4, H.264, ZigBee, and ad-hoc networking, also seemed to have been popular among the entries.

EIS: In general, how will the winning projects help to advance high-tech development both in China and abroad?

Xu: The pre-competition training was especially important this year (see Figure 3). As mentioned earlier, both students and their instructors started out with limited knowledge of multicore, multithread technology. This was especially true when it came to using Intel’s test equipment. The training and hands-on practice enabled the participants to master skills like load balancing, thread locking, reducing communication between threads, etc. Schools like the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Wu Han University, and Beihang University went as far as attending several of the Intel® Developer Forums and seminars focusing on the research of multicore technology, tightly integrating multicore technology development, academic curriculum, and student competitions.

Figure 3 4-shot: Professor Xu Guozhi examining student projects.

EIS: Where can we get more information about the winning projects?

Xu: The list of winners is posted on the university’s website: http://nuedc.sjtu.edu.cn/. The award ceremony took place on October 28th, 2008 at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. A demonstration of the top winners was made available to fully exhibit the projects’ technology breakthroughs.

Professor Xu Guozhi has been involved in researching and teaching industrial electronics for over 40 years. He is a highly regarded educator who has won awards at both the national and provincial levels. Professor Xu became involved with the National Undergraduate Electronic Design Contest Embedded Systems Invitational in 2002. Under his leadership, the event grew to see the highest and broadest level of participation in 2008. Professor Xu now teaches at the engineering department of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and mentors PhD students. He is a senior member of the Chinese Institute of Electronics.

Jane Lin-Li, MBA, EM associate editor, and contributing writer. Jane is the editor of our Chinese language edition.