ECE @ HSI Workshop Series: Session 2

Department and Curricular

Initiatives at ECE Departments


Workshop Session 2

To broaden participation and increase retention and graduation rates in ECE, there is a need for systematic changes to the ways that our curriculum is delivered and our departments operate to better engage with students especially those from underrepresented populations. In this second installment of the ECE@HSI workshop series, we have invited ECE and CS department administrators and faculty from Colorado State University, Iowa State University, University of South Florida, University of Virginia, and The University of Texas at El Paso to share systemic and curricular changes being implemented at their departments to increase the success of ECE and CS students in their programs. These experiences will help us identify practices that can be adopted by ECE departments in the propose ECE@HSI coalition.
This workshop is part of the planning process that will inform the development of the concept paper to establish the Coalition for Inspiration, Education and Research in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Hispanic Serving Institutions (ECE@HSI) with the overarching goal of increasing participation and graduation of Hispanic students in electrical and computer engineering.
This workshop is part of the planning process that will inform the development of a concept paper to establish the Coalition for Inspiration, Education and Research in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Hispanic Serving Institutions (ECE@HSI) with the overarching goal of increasing participation and graduation of Hispanic students in electrical and computer engineering.
This planning grant is funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) under award 80NSSC20K1769


Pre-Recorded Video Presentations

Anthony Maciejewski, Colorado State University

A Holistic Approach to Electrical Engineering Education
A diverse team of educators at Colorado State University are redefining what it means to teach and learn in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Supported by a five-year ``RED'' grant from the National Science Foundation, we are, in effect, throwing away courses to overcome the challenges of the current engineering educational system. Approaching the degree from a holistic perspective, we no longer view our program as a set of disparate courses taught by autonomous (and isolated) faculty, but as an integrated system that fosters collaboration among faculty and students. This presentation describes our new organizational and pedagogical model, which emphasizes knowledge integration and interweaves thematic content threads throughout the curriculum. We also share our process for implementing the new approach, along with the successes and challenges that we have experienced along the way.
Nicholas Fila, Iowa State University
Reinventing the Instructional and Departmental Enterprise to Advance the Professional Formation of Electrical and Computer Engineers

Electrical and computer engineering technologies have evolved into dynamic, complex systems that profoundly change the world we live in. Designing these systems requires not only technical knowledge and skills but also new ways of thinking and the development of social, professional, and ethical responsibility. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Iowa State University was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2016 aimed at transforming curricula and practices to better respond to student, industry, and society needs. The project uses two synergistic structures: x-teams and y-circles. X-teams are a cross-functional, collaborative instructional model for course design and professional formation. An X-team is comprised of ECE, design, and engineering education faculty members, industry practitioner(s), context experts, instructional specialists, and graduate and/or undergraduate teaching assistants. X-teams use an iterative design thinking process to develop new pedagogical strategies. We have employed x-teams to reshape the core technical ECE curricula in the sophomore and junior years through pedagogical approaches that (a) promote design thinking, systems thinking, professional skills such as leadership, and inclusion; (b) contextualize course concepts; and (c) stimulate creative, socio-technical-minded development of ECE technologies. X-teams are also serving as change agents for the rest of the department by disseminating practical insights and research through communities of practice referred to as Y-circles. Y-circles, comprised of X-team members, faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students in the department, are engaging in a process of discovery and inquiry to bridge the engineering education research-to-practice gap. Y-circles regularly engage through workshops, department retreats, and faculty meetings. Three independent research teams have been investigating key aspects of the change project and its effects on faculty and students. One team has been investigating how educators involved in X-teams use design thinking to create new pedagogical solutions. This research suggests that design tools (such as personas) that have been selected for and adapted to educators’ prior approaches and contextual needs enhance the effectiveness of design thinking as a course design model. A second team has been investigating how professional formation pedagogy in the middle years affects student professional ECE identity development as design thinkers. This research has explored the theory of critical whiteness and demonstrated the key role TAs play in identity development. A third team has been investigating the effects of department structures, policies, and procedures on faculty attitudes, motivation, and actions. This research suggests that university teaching support and support from the department chair are critical factors in faculty teaching satisfaction and indices of faculty well-being, respectively.
Christos Ferekides, University of South Florida
Harry Powell, University of Virginia
Incorporating Studio Techniques with a Breadth-First Approach in Electrical and Computer Engineering Education

The breadth of topic material in all branches of engineering is expanding at a rapid pace, none more so than in electrical and computer engineering. For example, molecular electronics barely existed as a topic even ten years ago, and the proliferation of high-speed wireless networking has been rapidly accelerating. While understanding Kirchhoff's laws is still necessary, as is an understanding of how to bias a transistor, it is equally imperative to give students a sense of breadth. As electrical engineering design moves to a more systems-level approach, it is still necessary for students to assess the performance of the individual devices that comprise the system and how they interact. Equally important is the necessity of being able to work with actual devices in a hands-on sense. When we expose students to component models without giving them an experiential context for their application, we run the risk that they will never develop a sense of what happens when the model limits are exceeded, and the implications that might have on an overall systems level design. In addition, we run the risk of overwhelming them with theory and having them lose interest altogether. We are addressing these issues with a new course sequence for electrical and computer engineers, the Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering Series, a 3-course sequence. These courses replace our prior sequence of courses for 2nd and 3rd-year students: Circuit, Electronics, and Signals and Systems. Each of these new courses takes a breadth-first approach to electrical engineering topics and is taught studio style, with the laboratory component being tightly interlocked with the formal lecture material.



Christos Ferekides
Professor and Department Chair
Electrical Engineering 
University of South Florida

Dr. Ferekides' research interests include thin-film electronic materials and devices for optoelectronic applications; thin film depositions and properties; device fabrication and characterization.

Nicholas Fila
Research Assistant Professor
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Iowa State University

Nicholas D. Fila is a research assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. His current research explores engineering students' experiences with innovation, empathy across engineering education and engineering design settings, design thinking in the course design process, and novel uses of qualitative research methods in engineering education.



Anthony Maciejewski
Professor and Head
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Colorado State University

Tony Maciejewski received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1982, 1984, and 1987, respectively, all from The Ohio State University. From 1988 to 2001 he was a professor of ECE at Purdue University. He joined the ECE department at Colorado State University (CSU) in 2001 where he is currently a professor and department head. He is a fellow of IEEE "for contributions to the design and control of kinematically redundant robots," and the current Vice-President of Technical Activities for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. He is the PI on CSU’s NSF “RED” grant, which was the recipient of CSU’s “Instructional Innovation Award”, the National Society of Professional Engineers – Colorado chapter “Public Project of the Year” award in 2019, and ECEDHA’s “Innovative Program” award in 2020.

Harry Powell
Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Virginia

Dr. Powell is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1978 he was an active research and design engineer, focusing on automation, embedded systems, remote control, and electronic/mechanical co-design techniques, holding 16 patents in these areas. Returning to academia, he earned a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2011 at the University of Virginia. His current research interests include machine learning, embedded systems, electrical power systems, and engineering education. He also serves as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Programs.

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