ECE Innovation Stream earns strong demand

72 students in first cohort of planned 50

tom Dean and Students

Prof Tom Dean (left) works with fist-year EECi students, Jayson and Ayaz, on programming their Lego EV3 robots in their APSC142 lab in the ILC, September 23.

Among the new FEAS initiatives in the fall term is the Electrical and Computer Engineering Innovation Stream (ECEi). It’s a program tailored specifically for students interested in combining a strong foundational education in ECE with an essential set of useful business tools. ECEi graduates will have a leg-up when starting their own businesses or getting things done within corporate organizations when they enter the workforce.

“We want to bring-up students who are entrepreneurial, intrepreneurial and socially entrepreneurial,” says Acting ECE Department Head, Prof Shahram Yousefi.

Yousefi says there are three elements that distinguish ECEi from other programs: enhanced ECE coursework, an infusion of complementary business concepts and courses, and opportunities for hands-on business and product development experience. So far, the program has resonated with students.

“We had very, very good applications and a really large pool to choose from,” says Yousefi. “We really wanted to limit the program to 50 students but we ended up with 72.”

To get the program off to a strong start, ECE Prof Tom Dean is teaching the Introduction to Computer Programming for Engineers course (APSC142) himself. APSC142 students learn programming basics from the ground up, including how to write software routines for their Lego EV3 robots.

“Software has literally become completely ubiquitous,” says Dean. “It’s everywhere. There is also a lot of on-demand, custom circuit board building, 3D printing, and custom fabrication that has become very accessible and very cheap.”

Dean says it’s that confluence of factors – the ubiquity of software and rising access to previously expensive and complicated prototyping technologies  –  that informed his design of APSC142 and that lends the ECEi program its currency.

“We wanted to make sure we have somebody teach programming who really understands the important issue and nuances of software development,” says Yousefi. “Tom was the perfect choice because he is not only one of our best educators but also a world-leader in emerging software.”

ECEi is a four-year program infused with business themes all the way through. The first class is expected to graduate in 2019.