3 modern labs coming to ECE

Nov 18, 2005

The space may be empty now, but upgraded facilities are coming soon for students in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Enhance coursework.
Provide more power and space.
Update facilities.

From #9 to #8

Kettering's Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept.
continued its Top Ten listing, moving from #9 to #8
in the 2006 edition of "America's Best Colleges" by
U.S. News & World Report.

Mark Wicks, department head for Electrical and
Computer Engineering, said it is satisfying to know
that those outside the university recognize the strength
of Kettering's program and the success of its graduates.
"One of our strengths is that we have a clearly defined
mission. We know what we're trying to do, and we do it.
I think our peers recognize that."

The top ECE schools in this category are:

1. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology,
2. Cooper Union,
3. Harvey Mudd College,
4. Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo,
5. United States Naval Academy,
6. Bucknell University,
6. United States Air Force Academy,
8. Kettering University,
8. Milwaukee School of Engineering,
8. United States Military Academy.

Kettering's category is Undergraduate Engineering
Departments without Ph.D. programs.

Those three little phrases have been known to make full professors hearts pump more quickly. And that's the case now as Kettering's three newest lab facilities are being prepared for the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department.

ECE Department Head Mark Wicks said an empty space in Kettering's Academic Building will soon be home to updated facilities and a whole new set of capabilities for the department. "We're very excited about the addition of these modern classrooms," Wicks said. "There will be white boards and projectors available, and networked multi-media instruction stations. Adding three new laboratories to the mix will enhance ECE activities and expand what we're able to do for our students and our corporate partners," Wicks said, "and fix some nagging power distribution problems."

The ECE Laboratory Renovation Project is currently in the process of moving three existing ECE labs into spaces that are near the ECE offices in the Academic Building. The labs will move into a combined space that formerly housed an ergonomics lab and a small, student computer room previously occupied by the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME).

The new space became available when IME moved into the former Mechanical Engineering area in the Academic Building. The ME department moved out of the building and into the new C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center in 2003.

The facilities shuffle will breathe new life into three well-established ECE operations:

  • Controls Lab
  • Circuit Design Lab
  • Machines Lab

"We've been working with an architect for a year," Wicks explained. "We're working on the funding aspects and are grateful that Phil Motz '69 has loaned his name and effort to this project."

Motz, the 1996 recipient of the Golden Bulldog Award for Outstanding Alumni Service, is chairing the alumni fundraising effort for the ECE Laboratory Renovation project. He spent more than 35 years with Delphi Delco Electronics Systems before retiring in 2002 and has been on the ECE Advisory Board since 1999.

"This is an exceptional opportunity for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department to expand," Motz said. "This will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the laboratories and the student experience," he added.

Mark Thompson, professor of ECE, is chairing the labs committee. "The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is dedicated to providing excellent laboratory experiences for our undergraduate students," Thompson said. "The theoretical knowledge our students gain in the classroom is directly linked to hands-on, practical applications through our laboratories. We maintain the highest quality instrumentation and equipment and also try to provide the most modern and educationally
relevant facilities to accomplish our goals."

Thompson noted that the new laboratories for Control Systems, Circuit Design, and Electrical Machines will give students a modern learning environment much like they find in many workplaces. "Each laboratory workstation will have facilities for a PC and computer network link so that students will have access to automated data acquisition, experiment control, and simulation software, as well as Internet informational resources at their fingertips. These modern additions will complement the existing hardware, instrumentation, and equipment already in use," he said. "Also, the appearance of the new labs will be aesthetically pleasing to the students using the labs as well as prospective students and other visitors to our campus. This somewhat intangible attribute is an important component to providing support for our program and the quality educational environment upon which we base our reputation," he added.

Students think it's a good move, too. "Modern facilities are important for instruction because it is an indication of the strength of Kettering's ECE program," said Christabel Kola, a senior from Lake Orion. "It gives students a competitive edge in the industry, as well as affirmation that tuition money indeed benefits our education."

About the labs:

CONTROLS LAB: The Feedback Control Systems laboratory provides students with hands-on experience in the design of control systems. Students use a servomotor system that has both position and velocity feedback. After completing these experiments, students experiment with a variety of dynamic and more advanced control problems such as balancing an inverted pendulum, balancing a ball on a beam, and controlling a flexible link. These experiments approximate many real-world control applications, such as cruise-control systems, autopilots, and guidance systems. The students use software tools to produce rapid prototypes of their controller designs.

MACHINES LAB: The Electrical Machines lab is designed to give the student a basic understanding, with hands-on experience, of electrical machines. Examples include DC motors and generators, synchronous motors and alternators, transformers, and other machines.

CIRCUITS: Students receive an introduction to fundamental circuit analysis and measurement equipment, as well as information regarding the procedure of creating laboratory reports that describe their results and relate them to predicted results from classroom topics. Students experimentally perform tests on principles like equivalent resistance, superposition, mesh and nodal circuit analysis, Thevenin & Norton equivalent circuits, Phasors and 3-Phase systems.

"One of the issues with updating laboratories is Kettering's labs are used year round," Wicks added. "There's never a good time to work on them. We're taking our time and are hopefully building them right."

Written by Patricia Mroczek
Contributing writer - Amber Paxton
(810) 762-9533