Undergrad Peers Spring 2013 Newsletter

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Greetings from West Lafayette

At Purdue ECE, we take great pride in our undergraduate programs.  The consistently high rankings enjoyed by both our electrical engineering and computer engineering programs is a reflection of the care we take in our students' learning, their research, and their development as leaders and entrepreneurs.

Among several examples of innovative and thoughtful teaching is a revised version of the department’s key introductory course, Electric Circuit Analysis (ECE 201H).  The framework of Balakrishnan bustthis critical second-year class has evolved from a traditional lecture-style format to more active learning.  With retention and student success in mind, the course will continue to be revised and is expected to have an exciting set of activities for future semesters.

Undergraduate students in ECE quickly learn that there are numerous and immediate opportunities to participate in hands-on research and projects.  From the department’s hands-on senior design to our Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) course, undergraduate students are introduced to the broad spectrum of opportunities available to them as electrical and computer engineering students and are given the flexibility to pursue their individual interests.

There is no shortage of opportunity for undergraduate students to be involved in a project, faculty research, or organization outside of the classroom.  Chris Ochynski, an ECE senior and first-year MBA student, joined a team of ECE doctoral candidates to compete in the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  The team has won the student division at both the state and regional levels and will represent an eight-state region in the national competition this summer.

I invite you to explore the work and accomplishments of ECE undergraduate students featured in this newsletter.  As always we welcome your feedback and appreciate your continued interest in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue.

V. Ragu Balakrishnan
Michael and Katherine Birck Head
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Active learning: An engaging introduction to ECE

Active learning is the cornerstone of the newly-designed course Electric Circuit Analysis (ECE201H) and corresponding lab (ECE 207H).  ECE 201 is the primary gateway to the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and, as a critical second year course, is important to overall student success.

After completing the traditional first-year engineering program, incoming ECE students typically launch their studies by taking this introductory class.  Recently, the class underwent major revisions to include a more holistic view of electrical and computer engineering.

Through the newly designed ECE 201H and ECE 207H, the course framework has evolved from a traditional, lecture-style format to more active learning.  The class has moved from a lecture hall to a learning space that currently accommodates up to 60 students.  The space includes an interactive smart board as well as eight white boards and three projection screens, promoting discussion, teamwork, and engagement. 

ECE 201H covers the fundamentals of electrical engineering’s three pillars: electromagnetic fields and waves, circuit theory and linear systems, and semiconductors and micro/nanotechnology.  Before attending class, students are required to watch a pre-recorded lecture and are quizzed on that lecture.  During class, students revisit the concepts via guided problem solving, mini lectures, and discussion about particularly challenging or abstract topics. 

In the lab section, ECE 207H, students conduct experiments in all areas of electrical engineering with a focus on concepts considered to be the most challenging.  Data-acquisition laptop cards that fit into a backpack and can be connected to any laptop through a USB port have also been used in the lab. 

The objective of the redesigned course is to empower students to become motivated and fearless active learners early in their studies.  High rates of attendance and overwhelmingly positive feedback are encouraging.  The course and lab will continue to be revised and are expected to have an exciting set of activities for future semesters. 

Purdue Solar Racing Team claimed first place at 2013 Shell Eco-Marathon

The Purdue Solar Racing team finished in first place in the Battery Electric division at the 2013 Shell Eco-marathon held April 5-7 in Houston.

Resized solar carShell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges students to design, build, and drive the most energy-efficient car.  At three events around the world, hundreds of teams compete to travel the furthest on the least amount of energy.

The Purdue team raced Navitas, an urban concept solar car, in this year's competition.  Characteristics setting Navitas apart from its competitors included the aerodynamic design, a distinctive carbon fiber body, carbon fiber wheels, a touchscreen driver display, and an overall weight of just over 200 pounds.  In addition, a solar concentrator designed with Fresnel lenses approximately triples the power of the solar cells beneath it.  Students from several engineering disciplines, including ECE, spent months preparing Navitas for its first competition.

Founded in 1991, Purdue Solar Racing is a student organization committed to two philosophies: building and racing a competitive solar powered vehicle and educating the public about the possibilities of renewable energy.  Navitas is Purdue Solar Racing's ninth car.

Research highlight: Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP)

Combining research and education to solve real-world problems, the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) course provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to explore and develop comprehensive applications of engineering technologies, especially as they relate to active research areas of Purdue faculty members. 

Each team is structured uniquely to fit the individual project.  Recent projects encompass a wide variety of research areas including autonomous aerial vehicles, technologies in neuroimaging, agriculture applications, and many more.  Project descriptions and team information are available online.

ECE undergraduate student joins doctoral candidates to win $100,000 in regional competition

Four ECE students, three doctoral candidates and one undergraduate student, won the student division of the Clean Energy Trust’s 2013 Clean Energy Challenge held in Chicago on April 4. Undergraduate team

The four-person team, Bearing Analytics, will represent an eight-state region in early summer in the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Team members Anurag Garg, Lokesh Gupta, and Andrew Kovacs are doctoral candidates.  They are doing doctoral work in the Adaptive Radio Electronics and Sensors group. Chris Ochynski is an ECE senior and first-year MBA student. 

Bearing Analytics' patent-pending sensor monitors the performance of bearings and alerts workers to premature bearing failure by measuring temperature and vibration changes.  Conventional bearing sensors that monitor real-time bearing performance are mounted outside the bearing, which limits the ability to determine internal conditions.
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