The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has been long known throughout the region for producing competent "hands-on" engineers who are the mainstay of the region's industries. For example, Raytheon, a major employer in the region has more Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering graduates from our Department than from any other Department in the country. We value this reputation and, in concert with industry's needs, but without compromising the long term value of the educational needs, we strive to maintain and enhance this image.
The Department offers a co-op program, which the College and the University have helped to formalize. We believe that making such opportunities available to students greatly enhances their experience of engineering both with respect to the relevance of our courses as well as the exposure to working with other professionals.
Constant attention is paid to the state of our laboratories with a view to acquiring new equipment, developing new experiments and maintaining equipment. Thanks to our close ties with industry four new laboratories have been created recently. These are: The Cadence – Sun Microsystems Laboratory in which state-of-the-art VLSI circuit design techniques can be learnt; the Analog Devices Laboratory which was funded to promote the education of students in analog to digital conversion and hybrid analog and digital integrated circuits; a new laboratory was funded by EST/Wind River to allow students to gain experience in programming embedded microprocessors for a large number of control applications; the industrial technology teaching laboratory supported by UPS which will be available for use by all of our students. The sophomore laboratory has been upgraded (partially funded by Bell Atlantic) in the summer of 1999. A new capstone project laboratory with a special emphasis on Assistive Technology projects (in which over 40 students are typically engaged in each year) is under development seeded by a substantial donation of $250,000 from an alumnus.
Strategic alliances have been formed with several of our Industry Board members. For example, Analog Devices has started a scholarship program with us, providing four BSE in ECE students each year a guaranteed internship for each of them during the winter and summer vacations. A pipeline of co-op students is in place with several companies that provides for very close interaction and feedback between our programs and their expectations. Ten other companies have since joined this program and offer scholarships to prospective electrical and computer engineering students.
Most of our students go into industry and a significant percentage among them goes into companies within 100 miles of Lowell. Industry is our main constituency. While some go to graduate school directly, our typical graduates go directly into the workforce, with the expectation that the employer will most likely fund graduate school education. Since the majority of our graduate student body is part time, our graduate courses are only offered in the evenings, enabling them to take one or two courses per semester.
The Industry Advisory Board plays an important role in considering our program objectives providing us immediate industrial needs. These have to be balanced against the need to identify truly fundamental topics that will serve our particular student body well in the long term. Technical areas sometimes take second place to a "can-do" attitude, excellent communication skills and the initiative required to teach oneself. Meetings with our Board are typically once per semester. Our close ties with industry through the co-op program, research and consulting, as well as alumni also provide valuable feedback on our program about the expectations of these entities.