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Project to teach innovation in ECE receives NSF Grant

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A multidisciplinary team interested in teaching innovation in ECE has been awarded a two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a program aimed at transforming undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (TUES). This team is used to getting awards for research at the frontiers of science and technology. However, this award is special as it is aimed at exploring the frontiers of teaching pedagogy and technology, to enable new vistas to open for students, even at the freshman level. The team consists of Amit Lal, Cornell, ECE; Sheila Hemami, Cornell, ECE; Richard Shealy, Cornell, ECE; Michael Thompson, Cornell, MSE; Kathryn Dimiduk, Cornell, College of Engineering Teaching Excellence Institute; Chun Hoon Lee, Marquette University, EE; and Alper Bozkurt, North Carolina State University, ECE.

Invention and discovery have remarkably transformed technology over the past few decades, and the group plans to share the excitement of these developments with entry-level undergraduates and high school students, while at the same time demonstrating the importance of micro and nano-electronics to future growth.

Their goal is to create lab modules that reflect the future of microsystems, transcending the traditional boundaries of circuits, devices, and systems.

The lab modules will create a hands-on learning experience to provide students, especially freshmen, with the opportunity to design and fabricate a collage of contemporary information processing devices using methods that enable clear understanding while also addressing any laboratory resource challenges.

A series of eight modules will consist of course material and experimental labs focused on the topics of energy generation and storage, light generation and detection, mechanical sensors and actuators, bio-electrical interfaces, and image processing. Through this series of lectures and labs, students will develop a broad perspective on what is possible today, and more importantly, what may be possible tomorrow. 

To capture student interest, the modules will be organized within the theme of Holy-Grail challenges, allowing students to participate in discussions of future technology development and in high-level discussions of technology development trends. Presenting these problems will create a learning experience where students realize the limits of what mankind can achieve through devices. Examples of these challenges include:

  • Why can’t we make electricity with zero carbon footprint and near-zero cost?
  • Why can light be generated with 100% efficiency?
  • Can we make reconfigurable clothes?
  • Why can’t we make artificial muscle?
  • Why can’t we implement telekinesis?
  • Why can’t computers be at least as smart as humans?
  • Why can’t we have infinite long-life cell phones?

Materials developed will be shared will all partner institutions through a common website. Labs will be recorded and posted for viewing beforehand, allowing curious students the opportunity to improvise on the programmed labs by suggesting and producing alternative devices through modifications. Lab modules will be suitable for adoption by various institutions. Additionally, each module will be developed for adaptation across multiple education levels. 

The multidisciplinary team’s areas of expertise include:

  • Amit Lal, Cornell, ECE, specializing in MEMS, bio-interfaces, memory, and surface acoustic wave filters;
  • Sheila Hemami, Cornell, ECE, specializing in advanced signal processing with a focus on image processing;
  • Richard Shealy, Cornell, ECE, specializing in optoelectronic semiconductors and light source engineering;
  • Michael Thompson, Cornell, MSE, specializing in transistor and solar cells from a material science perspective;
  • Kathryn Dimiduk, Cornell, College of Engineering Teaching Excellence Institute, specializing in in-class learning techniques and assessment;
  • Chun Hoon Lee, Marquette University, EE, specializing in nano memory; and
  • Alper Bozkurt, North Carolina State University, ECE, specializing in bioelectrical and brain machine interfaces.

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