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Ohio State hosts Great Lakes ECE leaders

The Ohio State University recently hosted distinguished members of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) for the annual Great Lakes Regional meeting. 

With so many emerging engineering technologies, participants said the time is ripe to help guide younger generations into a greater understanding of electrical and computer engineering (ECE). 

The overall takeaway message: The future is what we do. 

“The electrical engineering components in today’s high tech gadgets are almost invisible to the average person or incoming engineering student,” University of Minnesota ECE Professor Emad Ebbini said. “We’re essentially victims of our own success.”

At the meeting in Dreese Labs Saturday July 14, the group expressed a desire to help advance the field of ECE, while providing a much clearer understanding to young students about what it is professionals do in both industry and academia.  

The ECEDHA organization is made up of university department heads in ECE fields nationwide. Members meet at an annual  national conference to help advance their programs, exchange ideas and improve ECE communication efforts with government, industry and the public at large. Regional meetings are also held to follow up on detailed topics of interest. The Great Lakes Region includes leaders from universities spanning Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Ohio State ECE Chair Joel Johnson, Associate Chair Betty Lise Anderson, and Chair-Elect Hesham El Gamal took attendees on a tour of  Dreese facilities, including the Clean Room and the High Voltage Lab, as well as Undergraduate Instructional Laboratories in Caldwell Lab. The group also discussed student exchange programs and curriculum reorganization.

University of Michigan ECE Chair Khalil Najafi said many high school students look at robotics and cell phones and immediately think Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science. They enter into biomedical fields, perhaps not considering how many devices used to treat patients are, in fact, designed and built by electrical engineers.

“We enable a lot of smart things,” Najafi said. “This is how our field changes society.”

Attendees also discussed how just 15 years ago many of today’s technological advancements were unheard of. A consensus was reached that perhaps the best way to convey what ECE does is to reveal how much modern life has changed because of electrical engineering. 

Chair of the Ohio University ECE Program, David Juedes, said electrical and computer engineers arguably enabled some of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th Century. Companies which employ electrical engineers are also some of the largest in the world – IBM, Toyota, Apple, Samsung, GM, AT&T, Ford, Amazon, Honda and many more.

Juedes said ECE degrees allow for a broad education applying to so many of these industries. Getting the word out about this to young students early is essential.  

Members represented at the Ohio State gathering  also included chairs Rashid Ansari of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Daniel Fuhrmann of Michigan Technological University, Brian King from Indiana University /Purdue University of Indianapolis, John Papapolymerou from Michigan State University, Guru Subramanyam at the University of Dayton, Randall Victora from the University of Minnesota, Jiann-Shiou Yang from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Chansu Yu of Cleveland State University.