Making intelligent products for a better world
Product design education has a special relationship with respect to the design of electronic products. Should students be able to design complete electronic schemes and develop PCB's? Is a working demonstration model sufficient or should the student be able to design the scheme virtually using special software packages? This paper shows the approach taken at the "Instituut voor Productontwikkeling" (IPO) in Antwerp, Belgium. It shows that relatively small smart products can be completely and relatively easy designed by following a specific approach. These systems can be used e.g. to monitor food quality, to measure air quality, and hence can improve the life quality of many people. The courses in electronics at the IPO follow a specific path derived from what is called the "Product Data Flow Diagram" (PDFD). The bachelor course "introduction to electronics" is nearly completely focused on the use and choice of sensors for intelligent systems. In the master course "embedded and smart systems" a widely used microcontroller is studied in detail. This controller is programmed in the C-language using a software suite that enables the virtual design of a complete embedded system. In the master course "design of electronic products" the complete approach is taught: from initial and vague idea to a working prototype. Being able to make working prototypes is very important in the final master project. Students use the taught approach to proof that their system design works and that their products can make a better future for many people.