Standing Out From the Crowd: Douglas Ellis
More than 100 electrical and computer engineering undergraduate students will be among the 10,600 who will earn degrees – the largest spring quarter graduating class ever – during the final quarter commencement exercises at Ohio State on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Some ECE graduates will continue their education, while others will enter the workforce. Each of these students has a unique story; join us as we highlight a few of them over the next week.
When 10,600 Ohio State students fill Ohio Stadium June 10, 2012 for the University’s final quarter commencement, Douglas Ellis is sure to stand out.
Ellis will sport a 16 inch by 16 inch LED array on his graduation cap that he made and programmed with messages like OH – IO and EE@40. The array commemorates Ellis’ graduation with his first degree, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, at the age of 40.
“This is my first degree ever. Plus there’s going to be a lot of people this year because of the quarter to semester switch and my girlfriend wanted to be able to pick me out of the crowd. So I thought I’d decorate my hat, because that’s what people commonly do,” said Ellis. “But I thought I should make it different or better. So I decided to make an LED array.”
The array, which is controlled by an Arduino Mega microcontroller board, runs off of six AA batteries and cost approximately $200 to build. Ellis can connect the device to his computer to program it with new messages, he programs the device using a free Arduino program which codes in the language C. The project took about 40 hours to complete, Ellis said.
Ellis got some help with his project from his friends in the Electronics Club at Ohio State.
“They helped me do some soldering, provided some of the parts, provided a way for me to order parts, as well as helped me diagnose some of the problems I was having,” he said.
Ellis will also receive credit for the project.
“Dr. Hemami has been gracious enough to allow this as an independent study project,” Ellis explained. “So I have to make it and write a report about it. When you can make you own class it’s a lot more interesting.”
That he will soon be an engineer is a surprising change of events since Ellis’ first pursued a marketing degree after graduating from high school.
“I lived in Cincinnati at the time so I went to the University of Cincinnati, taking one class at a time while working full time,” said Ellis. “I got about three-quarters of the way through a marketing degree, then got a job at Fidelity Investments. I worked there for a few years before taking a job with Fidelity on Wall Street.”
When the Ohio native was laid off in early 2008 he decided to make a big change.
“I decided that since I didn’t have anything keeping me in the northeast, and I had saved up enough money, that I would take off four years and finally get a degree. I thought, when am I ever going to have the chance to do this again? So I took it, I took the chance,” Ellis said.
Ellis’ ultimate goal is to become a patent attorney, although he’s keeping his options open.
“For now, if I find a very interesting electrical engineering job, I can see myself staying in engineering long-term,” he said.
See the LED array Ellis built in action in the video below. The array displays the messages EE @ 40 OSU and OH IO before showing the first level of the Mario Brothers video game.