I recently caught up with Adam, who is about to finish his year placement at Focusrite; here are his thoughts and reflections.
“I’m currently studying Bsc (Hons) Audio Engineering and I’ll be starting my final year in September. I applied to the course because, unlike many people, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. My degree title is actually in the name of the company I’ve been working for – Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd. I picked this course and University specifically because it stood out head and shoulders above the rest. I visited a few other Universities with much stricter entry requirements before visiting Solent but the team, facilities and course in general stood out by a mile.”
“I decided to take a placement year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I figured that applying for a job after University would be so much easier. I can’t put into words how much I’ve learned since being here and developed already existing skills; there’s no better way to learn than actually doing something. It’s not only that though, a good reference from a well-regarded company carries so much weight and the opportunity to socialise and network with people that you aspire to work alongside is priceless.”
“Secondly, I hope that it will make my final year much easier. I’ve had an extra year to develop skills that are necessary for my final major project and I’ve also had to manage my time, workload, deadlines and personal life around a much tighter schedule. “
“I’ve worked on a couple of big product-based projects since I’ve been here; unfortunately I can’t talk about them yet! Major projects that I’ve worked on (that I actually can talk about) include a new factory test system, the migration of all engineering data between PLM systems and more factory test stuff!”
“Our new factory test system replaces a standalone C++ application that’s been neglected over the years and is just u-g-l-y. It ain’t got no alibi. It’s ugly. The new system (pyFactory) is a web-based application hosted solely on Raspberry Pis. Using Focusrite’s existing audio interfaces we can run extremely high performance audio measurements very quickly. We can also test MIDI devices and perform firmware upgrades with the system. The system runs in a master/slave configuration, with one master device (serving database access and also as a system update manager) connected to multiple slaves – test stations running a web app that connects directly to the master’s database. The system also supports RS-232 comms, allowing us to control pneumatic test fixtures and automate entire tests (connector insertion, gain pot adjustment, etc…). The latest products to be tested on this system are Novation Peak and MonoStation; we’ve been working on porting over other product ranges, but new products always take priority. On the old test system, a Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) would take ~60 seconds per test. The new test system can test ~2.5 units in this time. We’ve not yet figured out exactly how much money this has saved, but it’s a lot!”
These are two test systems that are in production use. The blue Avermetrics boxes are for board-level test before the product is assembled. They are high performance, high speed audio testing systems. The grey Prism dScope is more of a hand-measurement tool, but can be automated and is the basis of our soon-to-be-retired C++ based test system.
Loads of stuff. The new Raspberry Pi based system is in the rack unit with the ‘laser-eyes’ with the word ‘Fauconnator’ on the front. The main developer in our two man team’s last name is Fauconnet… we have fun.
“I’ve learned an incredible amount. I’m aiming to have a more software-focussed career; comparing my current code to code that I’ve written previous to this year is like comparing a Mr Men book to Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’. I’ve developed my knowledge of networked audio, electronics, software development, project management, and manufacturing.”
“I’d like to return to Focusrite upon graduating, hopefully as a Production Systems Developer (or, more likely, a junior one of those). This would involve developing production systems software including test systems, analysis tools and workflow automation. I’m tempted to do a Masters but I’m not sure whether I could turn down a job offer! Focusrite are great in that you quite often have the opportunity to study for an advanced, or second, degree. We’ll see where it takes me!”
Thanks to Adam for sharing his thoughts and experiences – we look forward to seeing him again in September. Keep an eye on the Facebook and SOL pages for placement opportunities and get involved with extracurricular events to help make your own.