School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
ENGRG 1060 Explorations in Engineering
Computer Engineering Unit
Prof. Christopher Batten
237 Phillips Hall • July 14–19, 2013
An engaging 60-minute guest lecture served as an introduction to the field of electrical and computer engineering. The lecture connected students' everyday experiences to ECE by walking students through the many subfields of ECE that are involved in taking and emailing a photo with a cellphone. A collection of vintage and modern computing devices including punch cards, electro-mechanical relays, vacuum tubes, VLSI wafers, unpackaged dies, and deconstructed cellphones were used to illustrate technology trends. A key component of the lecture was a set of two active learning exercises to illustrate how parallel architectures work: first, students competed individually to sort a sequence of 32 numbers, and then later, groups of two, four, and eight students completed the same task using "parallel processing". Often the "parallel processors" are slower than the "serial processors" creating excellent opportunities for discussion about parallel algorithms, fault tolerance, load balancing, and communication overheads. Active learning has been shown to improve student engagement and understanding, and students appear to really enjoy these exercises. Overall, this guest lecture serves to give students an appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of ECE in preparation for the lab session.