Undergrad training course displays significance of hardware in today’s wise devices

As a kid, the College of Toronto’s Sean Hum loved getting digital devices apart to see how they worked – a interest that shortly led to him building his very own electronic circuits.

Now a professor in the Edward S. Rogers Sr. department of electrical and computer engineering in the School of Used Science & Engineering, Hum lately launched a new training course that aims to give 2nd-yr students a similar experience.

“When you stroll into our house, it appears to be like practically like a machine shop: prototyping machines, 3D printers, electric power applications strewn about,” claims Hum, incorporating that the lab attributes brand-new check instrumentation, soldering and area-mount rework stations, a reflow oven, and cupboard soon after cupboard of digital components.

“For some individuals, it’s like staying let loose in a candy retail store.”

The class, titled ECE 295: Hardware Structure and Conversation, produced its debut in January. Hum originally conceived the thought two yrs ago to introduce college students to milestone-pushed hardware design – what he phone calls the “nuts and bolts” of electrical and personal computer engineering – early in their educational careers.

Hum phone calls the approach unique. 

“They are associated from the conceptual and computer-aided layout ideal down to the mounting of components on the circuit boards, as very well as utilizing a wide variety of modern day examination and measurement equipment and debugging their patterns,” he says. “That conclusion-to-close knowledge is not obtainable at other universities – not at the second-12 months degree.”

Hum provides that the groups structure complementary modules that should get the job done jointly in the conclude, which is “a exclusive factor of this class that teaches pupils about method integration.”

This pedagogical composition reflects the course’s concentration on context to reinforce the electrical engineering fundamentals that pupils gained as a result of their 1st 4 U of T semesters. Attaining subtle physical techniques even though doing the job in the direction of a user-centred products quickly solidifies all those principles.

It is also a large amount of fun.

“As human beings, our minds are wired to get fulfillment doing something physical with our hands,” says Hum. “I think it is one particular of the factors for the rise of Do-it-yourself or ’maker culture’ in society. Individuals just adore building issues.”

Engineering college students (from left to suitable) Adam McDonald, Damian Pacynko and Andrew Moser pay attention to Professor Sean Hum as the team learns how to automate the use of check and measurement gear to make a details logger (photograph: Lihin Karunadhipathi Weera)

The system is held in the Myhal Fabrication Facility, which is colloquially acknowledged as the “Myhal Maker Place.” The state-of-the-art workshop is open 12 several hours a working day, five times a week to any scholar who passes the required basic safety teaching, enabling them to transform ideas into prototypes when inspiration strikes. The new study course, along with the large-conclude machines and components to guidance it, is designed doable in portion by the Dean’s Strategic Fund.

Professor Deepa Kundur, chair of the electrical and laptop engineering office, says she is happy at how ECE 295 amplifies the main curriculum in balance with the present next-year software package design course.

“Experiential studying emboldens college students to pursue components assignments in long term classes, these kinds of as our fourth-12 months Capstone course,” she claims. “Ultimately, the section needs to be responsive to developments in the occupation, and we’re hearing from our marketplace associates that there is good demand from customers for this talent established.”

Hum also sees the course as a enhance to application structure. When new applications typically garner media awareness, the market requirements engineers who are conversant in both the hardware and software, which are pretty much inseparable in today’s appliances and products. For instance, while automobiles and washing equipment as soon as belonged completely to the planet of hardware, nowadays they comprise a level of software program integration that would come as a shock to most individuals. Conversely, lots of characteristics of today’s mobile apps are only made achievable by the components packed onto the smartphone’s motherboard, such as approximately a dozen forms of antennas.

“You have voice assistance and details services, you have positioning services as a result of GNSS, you have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, near-industry communications,” claims Hum. “All of those need different radios. That is why corporations this sort of as Apple are selecting so numerous antenna engineers.”

Hum’s possess job route in electrical engineering owes much to his early obsession.

He begun tinkering with electronic units in elementary school and by high faculty he was developing radio circuits – with a single eye on the stars.

“I was fascinated by space technologies, and have specific recollections of Sojourner, the first Mars rover mission in 1997,” he suggests. “It was astounding to me how we could decide on up such weak indicators from this little rover relocating all over so much absent.”

These times, his study team develops antenna alternatives centered on state-of-the-art electromagnetic surfaces in collaboration with aerospace corporations. His experimentally concentrated study mirrors the exact hands-on technique he normally takes with ECE 295 and the graduate learners in his team discover about creating actual flight components in the lab.

“We’re in a golden age for makers, which is good news for electrical engineers,” says Hum. “When the by natural means curious are provided the appropriate methods and steerage, the sky’s the limit.”