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Thursday, April 29, 1999

USM gets RM15mil boost for microwave technology

IPOH: The Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) microwave laboratory located in Tronoh, 30km from here, received a new breath of life with a RM15mil donation comprising hardware and software equipment from Hewlett-Packard Malaysia.

The lab, first set up in 1986, was unable to fully offer hands-on training and practical exposure due to lack of equipment.

With this shot in the arm, the lab is now equipped with six HP PA-RISC workstations, numerous network and spectrum analysers worth RM5mil and advanced computer-aided design software tools valued at RM10mil.

HP Malaysia's managing director Tan Bian Ee said that the company selected USM Tronoh over other varsities because microwave courses were offered as part of the engineering curriculum in its School of Electrical Engineering.

"The lab will create a pool of highly skilled design engineers for the future and there is a demand for microwave engineers within HP itself," said Tan.

According to him, the company was moving out of semiconductor manufacturing into complete microwave solution testing.

HP recently transferred the manufacturing, test and order fulfillment microwave technology components and instrumentation products from the United States to Penang.

Products under this charter comprise attenuators, samplers, RF modules and amplifiers used in the telco and instrumentation industries.

"HP will also be transferring its box level microwave instrument manufacturing and test operations here later this year," said Tan.

After laying the groundwork, HP plans to initiate research and development into new products jointly with USM Tronoh.

With this strategic alliance, HP also aims to develop its Malaysian operations into the Asia-Pacific centre of excellence for microwave products, Tan said.

"Other possibilities with USM include lecturers working at HP factories or touring our other facilities in California," he added.

To date, 312 students specialising in microwave technology have graduated from USM Tronoh.

Currently, 40 undergraduate and 10 postgraduate students are undertaking projects in microwave technology.

Meanwhile USM vice-chancellor for student affairs Prof Md Salleh Yaafar said that the donation was the single largest that the engineering school here has received. Over the last 13 years, its microwave lab was funded from grants and donations valued up to RM2mil.

"We were unable to cater to our students growing needs and we welcome HP's donation," he said.

Intel and Motorola have also established a microcomputer laboratory and VLSI laboratory respectively at USM Tronoh.

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