In 2019, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering received approval to adopt new curricula for its two undergraduate programs: electrical engineering and computer engineering. The goal of this ambitious idea was to provide greater synergy between the two fields, create more opportunities for hands-on learning, and address the needs of employers who demand that graduates have a greater breadth and depth of knowledge.
“Our curricula needs to continually adapt within these evolving fields of engineering,” said Robert Kerestes, assistant professor of ECE and director of the electrical engineering program. “The first cohort of students to participate in these reinvented programs are preparing to graduate in the spring, and we look forward to seeing how these efforts have influenced their educational experience and engineering careers.”
Eli Brock, a senior ECE student and three-time IEEE Power and Energy Society Scholar, is among the inaugural cohort of students. Throughout his undergraduate years, he has performed research at Pitt and also interned with the Pacific Northwest National Labs, where he worked with a building energy simulation group.
“During my internship and research experiences, I feel the new curriculum has given me a solid foundation of concepts and skills to draw from,” he said. “I consistently use ideas I learned in some of the courses, and I feel the curriculum hit a good balance between depth and breadth.”
In this new chapter of undergraduate ECE training at the Swanson School of Engineering, balance is key. There is a mixture of classroom and lab experiences, including two design courses, to achieve the hands-on education that today’s students desire.
“At times it feels very work intensive, but it’s really satisfying to see the finished product,” said Maria Mysliewiec, a senior ECE student currently enrolled in the Junior Design course. “Since the class is very open-ended, it gives you the opportunity to work toward your goals.”
Junior Design -- a new addition to the curricula -- provides an earlier opportunity for creative, hands-on learning. The course gives students invaluable experience with skills commonly used in the design of modern electrical and computer engineering technologies.
“I’ve already used stuff like this in my internship, so it affirms the work we’ll be doing in the future,” Mysliewiec added. “After senior design, I have a job lined up in hardware engineering, and it’s really cool that I’m already working on the skills that I need for that job.”
Junior Design is a precursor to Senior Design, a semester-long capstone project where students apply the skills they have learned throughout their undergraduate years to propose, design, and create a working prototype.
“It’s nice to see a final realization of all of the classes we’ve been taught,” said Mark Reth, a senior ECE student who will take Senior Design in the spring semester. “This is where it starts to all come together.”
The ECE undergraduate directors are encouraged by the students’ progress and eager to see the outcomes of the new curricula.
“We have spent the past four years updating our undergraduate programs, and now we are seeing the results,” said Samuel Dickerson, assistant professor of ECE and director of the computer engineering program. “Our students have exceeded our expectations, applying what they’ve learned to successfully find top-tier jobs and internships across the country.”