Category Archives: Resources

Visual Impact in Engineering Applications

Visual Impact in Engineering Applications

By Sriram BS

This base paper sets out to put in perspective the need for creative graphic design in present day engineering applications from the point of view of a graphics designer. Steering clear of technological aspects since the subject is so vast and the objective of this document is to only create awareness.

Any computing device, however primitive or modern has the same basic architecture – of Processing Unit; Storage Device; Input Device and OUTPUT DEVICE.

The display system has gone through a world of change since the advent of Cathode Ray Tube, nearly half a century ago. From the amber / green monitor to soft white to color to high resolution of 1024 x 768 / 1280 x 1024 / 1600 x 1200 in LCD and higher resolutions in LED screens. Then we had Flat Panel Active Plasma Displays, which are much larger in size than it was ever thought of in the days of ‘Mimic Diagrams’ with LED displays, the visuals are as good as real life photographs, or more like movies.

Apart from the large screens, there is also the world of miniature displays used in handheld TVs to personal portable DVDs & POS to mobile phones and so on.

Application areas:

Almost all applications require visual outputs from all types of computing devices. To enumerate a list of predominantly used applications, following are the examples:   

Industrial Automation:

Automation of processes has gained acceptance in all walks of life.

To give a little insight in to the process automation system usage, the complete process flow of a manufacturing ‘shop floor’, containing various machines for various functions, in a sequential process. The complete workings of the system and its current status of functionality must be available to monitor in real-time – in a graphically presented image, including the physical parameters represented by function as well as engineering values. The visual interface gets more important when more than one, or rather, several parameters have to be depicted, simultaneously, that too with reference and co-relation to each of the measured parameters. This is where the skills of a highly proficient graphic designer become essential when he/she has to take care of factors such as:

  • ease of use – as in UI design - UX (user experience);
  • ergonomically presented visuals;
  • uncluttered look and feel;
  • - help the operator in:
  • taking quick & intuitive decisions;
  • be able to control certain operations rapidly in emergency situations;
  • depict malfunctions with a high degree of impact, visually, even though it is augmented by audible alarms;
  • be able to view the overall system of all functional units taking a ‘birds-eye-view’ as in a dash-board
  • be able to zoom in to the point of interest or malfunction for a view of greater detail, in one smooth flow of operation

Colors play a vital role in such mission-critical environment. The colors and the visual components are designed and developed considering a myriad of factors. Among those, some of the important aspects are the psychological attribution of mind’s ability to relate the visuals to certain physical parameters, viz., high temperature with red or deep orange, water flow or level indication could be various hues of blue, a spinning motor could be actually shown with a moving fan-blades / turbine image and so on. The entire process plant operation is simulated in two-dimensional surface of the operator console screen, with its limited view area.

That is the challenge. This activity is called the design & development of MMI (Man-Machine Interface) or HMI (Human Machine Interface)


All aspects of design & development of graphical representation of the functionalities the whole system – which in this case is an aircraft – is theoretically the same but requires a much higher level of understanding of the psyche of the ‘operator’ – the Pilot. The product range is completely different in terms of speed, accuracy and endurance. The ‘real estate’ of the display is highly limited and it has to play multiple roles of displaying various types of completely different visuals, viz., instrument panel to radar screen to moving map display to communication panel, all within a perceivable instantaneousness. All this, in conjunction with the actual instrument panel / instrument faces and the all-important HUD – Head-Up Display. This was developed in consonance with the evolution of higher flying-speed designs to such a great extent that the attention span of the pilot kept dwindling to fractions of seconds to assimilate the displayed information – all of them equally important and critical to take split second decisions – more so in case of combat aircrafts. This is the most dynamic of all Human–Machine Interfaces, which functions almost like a ‘living being’ reaching the level of ‘intuitive’ control.

Hand Held Devices

The most popular of all, the mobile ‘smart’ phone, now has to do multiple roles. It is not a mere voice communication device anymore. It is telephone, calendar, diary, dictionary, email browser, messenger, internet browser, it accesses all types of data from the all-pervasive internet, news-paper, portable television, gaming device, music store and whatever else you can think of. The list of functions and applications is almost endless.

All this needs to be made functional by visibly looking at various screens, again in a much more limited visible ‘real estate’. Also, not withstanding the fact that it has to be user friendly and the information has to be legibly laid out. Here the ‘operator’ is just about anybody. The whole bandwidth of idiosyncrasies has to be considered while designing the visual interface.

Employability Of Prospective Engineering Graduates

Employability Of Prospective Engineering Graduates

By Sriram BS

At present, not all prospective graduates, particularly engineering graduates, are able to find gainful employment on account of lack of desired skills as reported in various surveys.

However, these surveys do not mention which of the desired skills is lacking in the graduates. In grappling with this situation, it is appropriate here to point out that the students come into institutions with various levels of aptitudes owing to different factors. These aptitudes are further influenced by the way students respond to the conventional learning process applied to deliver prescribed curriculum. If we go by the dictum, ‘aptitude begets skills’, we have to consider the development of aptitude for acquiring requisite skills. Traditionally and quite broadly professional skills have been classified as hard (domain) skills and soft skills. This categorization is from the point of view of the industry and not from the point of view of an educational institution. Hence, there is a discord between the education sector that trains students and the industries that seek to employ them.

An alternative approach provides a new perspective and at once may suggest novel ways to kindle interest in trainers and students alike, while delivering advantage to the industry.

Every teacher in a classroom typically experiences three categories of students

(a) asks a lot of questions in the classroom to understand the subject

(b) hangs onto every word the teacher speaks and bonds well with the teacher

(c) does homework happily and seeks guidance from the teacher in correcting their mistakes

It may be every teacher’s observation that it is not necessary that these three groups of students behave in the same manner. This pattern suggests that an individual’s brain may have three functionalities:

1. Cognitive

2. Affective

3. Co-Native

Cognitive functionality relates to ‘set of all mental abilities and processes related to acquiring knowledge’, which is well understood by many and is commonly referred to as the IQ (Intelligence Quotient).

 Affective functionality relates to ‘experience of feelings or emotions’, which is understood by a few and is in popular parlance also referred to as the EQ (Emotional Quotient).

 Co-native functionality relates to ‘natural tendency, impulse, desire, volition, striving or directed effort’ which is less understood and may be referred to as the XQ (Execution Quotient)

Imagine three scenarios based on typical complaints from teachers and / or students.

  • In the first scenario, ‘a student who grasps most of the subject, rarely comes to class, does not do any homework and still gets good marks. This is a kid who has an exceptional cognitive skill to the exclusion of the other two.
  • In a second scenario, ‘a student always makes it a point to see the teacher in the morning, appears to be intently listening in the classes, cannot do homework and finds the subject very hard to follow. This is a kid who has an exclusive affective skill with difficulties in the other two parts.
  • In a third scenario, a student is punctual, writes all notes, submits every homework, is expected to perform well, cannot understand or apply the knowledge and may fail in the exams. This is a kid who has the drive but lacks sufficient development of cognitive and affective aspects.

These three scenarios suggest that a student may come to the class with varied degrees of devel-opment of the three functions of the brain. Thus, the challenging task for an educator is to cre-ate approaches that may address each of these facets and build students’ confidence in a holis-tic manner. All stakeholders in education may have to consider this approach to developing stu-dents’ necessary aptitude, required skills and the consequent attitude by designing relevant training programs. This, in some measure, will have addressed the lacunae that employers find in the new recruits.

Considering these aspects, an initiative is envisaged to bridge the expectation mis-match between the Academy-Industry. This training imparts aspects of soft-skills, tips on succeeding in inter-view, generic work-skills, professional skills and most significantly, acquiring specialized knowledge with application of these skills.

One of the initiatives embarked upon, addressing a specific group of engineering streams, in-volves offering bridge-courses to Engineering Grads. interested in making a career in the field of AUTOMATION – be it Industrial Automation, Process Automation, Building Automation and so on. Enabling them to be suitably placed in enterprises involved in Automation Products Manu-facturing, Automation Product Supplies, Automation Systems Integration, and so on. This neces-sarily ensures employability of deserving candidates and provides appropriately skilled human resources for the employers.
  • Specialized, skill-based vocational training is offered to pre-final / final year students complet-ing engineering in allied streams of engineering viz., electrical, electronics, instrumentation, communication, computer science and related subjects
  • Some of the Engineering / Technical Institutions have pioneered these training initiatives and seen significant success
  • Professionals with industry experience and proficiency in the subject are identified to effec-tively deliver training and guide the students in successfully completing associated projects.
The technically strong pool of human resources thus developed would be appropriately deploy-ing their skills as trained productive resources, upon recruitment by the industry. This would support the industries’ need to augment their manpower requirement in a timely manner, who would be productive soon after induction in to the company, without the undue effort and ex-pense associated with new hires, not-withstanding the gestation period.