There’s a strange situation emerging in global technology industries — and it’s opening up a lot of new opportunities for enterprising Indian engineering students. “Thousands of people are out there writing software for devices who have never been trained to write software,” says Anthony J. Lappanze, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science.

These devices include hundreds of everyday machines — from cars to aeroplanes, from cameras to medical equipment, and of course, the ubiquitous cell phone. Prof. Lappanze explains that the people making these devices are often engineers — but they are automobile engineers and aeronautical engineers, manufacturing engineers and biotechnology engineers. Very few are software engineers, despite the fact that “as these devices’ systems get more complex, there is more and more dependency on software to bridge the gaps.”

“I was working with this group building an MRI system. Now, they’re superb biology and physics guys, but they just don’t know software,” relates Prof. Lappanze. On the other hand, “many of the software engineers around are ill-equipped to fill those gaps,” he rues. “Most have just specialised themselves out of business.”

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) now aims to fill this lacuna, with an M.S. IT degree programme in Embedded Software Engineering. While a number of embedded systems engineering programmes exist, this will be the first of its kind being taught in the U.S., said Mel Rosso-Llopart, who heads the distance education programme at the School.

The Pittsburgh-based university will take advantage of its partnership with Chennai-based SSN Institutions to start a prototype programme in fall 2008 with nine students from SSN.The 80-seat degree programme will be open to all students from the next year. The SSN students will study for a year in Chennai and six months in Pittsburgh.