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Computer Engineering

Name: Rose Wall

Year: Class of 2016

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI

Plan of Study: Computer Engineering

 Playing with Wires and Stuff

I like to think of Computer Engineering as the best of both worlds, that is Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. And it really is the best! The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department and the Computer Science (CS) are both very tightknit, interesting, friendly, awesome departments and I love that I get to be a part of both of them. As a Computer Engineer half of your major credits are in ECE and the other half are in CS, so you really do get to spend half you time in each.

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Reasons why I love the CS department:

-Really nice lounge with comfy chairs and big tables for group projects

-Many of the professors go by their first names

-Great sense of camaraderie

-Sometimes there is free pizza in the lounge

-Almost 50% girls!

-They are currently building a new CS building

 

Reasons why I love the ECE department:

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ECE girls!

-Lounge with couches!

-Free Coffee

-Free Printing

-There is always a bowl of candy in the front office

-It is really easy to get to know the professors

-There are always events going on with free food and we get emails about any event with food

-We have the da Vinci Surgical System in our building!

-Extremely diverse interests and research

-ECE lives in two connected buildings, one of which is newly built and is really fancy

-It is not too hard to double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering

-Lots of teamwork between EEs and CEs

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But essentially, I chose Computer Engineering because, as much as I love computers, I also love to play around with wires and robots.

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A Little Bit About Requirements

Like I mentioned earlier, half my classes are in ECE and half in CS. For each of those there are two or three classes you must take and then after that it is really up to you. There are many different concentrations you can do such as medical imaging, optics, signal processing, speech processing, information theory, computer architecture, nanoengineering, and lots of other things I don’t understand. Concentrations are not an official thing, but more just the area of study that you took your advanced ECE classes in. You also have to take some humanities and writing intensives. The cool thing about our humanities requirements is that you must take a certain number of courses (including advanced courses) in one particular area. So it is like having a mini-minor, you about to learn a decent amount about something other than your major.

Classes Within CE I Have Really Enjoyed:

-Intro to ECE: This course covers basic circuits, binary logic, how computers work, and other digital system stuff. It helps you to determine if CE is really for you. Professor Tran is really nice and office hours are really helpful and you can get to know him. Tran likes to call this class “How your iPhone works.”

Digital Systems Fundamentals: This class is on finite state machines and binary logic problems. Professor Gerard Meyer is a really interesting European guy, with a great accent, who likes to talk about life, and make funny comparisons between digital systems and life.

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Intermediate Programming: Good programming class that covers all the basics. The assignments are very difficult especially if you have Professor Peter Frolich, but you learn SO MUCH.

ECE Team Project: OK I am going to rant a little bit here.  Last semester in ECE Team Project I helped to build an autonomous arducopter (miniature helicopter), and this semester I am making a hydrogen fuel cell (from scratch!) to work with some solar panels and some electrolysis to make an outdoor phone and computer recharging station. ECE Team Project is great since you really get to know the department chair, Dr. Kang, and you get closer with other students in different grades. There are also a really wide variety of projects you can choose. This semester some of the other projects are an implantable insulin regulating device, a body scanner, and a space elevator. Also the teams have really generous budgets for supplies, so you really are unlimited in what you can make.

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Extracurricular ECE and CS Stuff

IEEE is the professional association for electrical and computer engineers. They host lots of seminars and events to mix with faculty. This year, Hopkins had its first Hackathon where you program all weekend in teams, win cool stuff, and meet representatives and recruiters for tech companies. Recruiters also come and give presentations periodically; this semester so far Facebook and Google, among others, have visited the department.

 

After I graduate I am hoping to work for a car company, but it really depends on what you are interested in. Two of my friends who graduated last year now work for facebook, quite a few work for medical tech companies, and many people choose to go to Graduate school.

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Other Fun Facts About My Major

-All ECE Team Project Teams get posters on the walls of the ECE building with everybody’s names, which is pretty cool.

-I once coincidentally met an ECE professor at Hopkins while kayaking a river in West Virginia.

-Hackerman (one of the ECE buildings) has mini kitchens and comfy arm chairs on every floor.

-I’ve met two of my best friends in ECE (one is EE one is CE), and now I am a member of South Asian Students at Hopkins because they are both involved and bring me to events.

-Professor Frolich who I have had for two CS courses wrote all the code for the “Visualization Wall” in Brody Learning Commons

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Computer Engineering

Name: Mike Waters

Year: Class of 2006

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Major: Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering

I started my computer engineering degree (CE for short) at Hopkins back in 2002. I chose Hopkins for its highly regarded Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, financial aid (my ability to pay), and the distance from my parent’s house (2,768 miles – I drove across the country three times during my time at Hopkins!). Although I started with the intention of majoring in CE, I ended my career at Hopkins in 2006 with a double major in both EE (electrical engineering) and CE with minors in applied math & statistics, entrepreneurship & management, and mathematics.

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Computer engineering is a strange degree.  I’d describe CE in a sentence as half EE and half CS (computer science). Officially it belongs in the ECE Department but many of the course requirements are from the CS Department, Math Department, and other Engineering departments. In fact, to my knowledge there is no course that is strictly CE. This isn’t such a bad thing since you get to know students from other departments and have some freedom in choosing the classes for your major.

I was interested in both engineering and business so I started taking classes from the Entrepreneurship & Management Department my freshman year along with the standard math and physics fare of Hopkins engineers. I found this helped to balance my interest in technical work and my desire to pursue a career in business. I took one or two E&M classes each semester and finished the minor with more credits that necessary. I especially enjoyed the Business Law series and my intro course in Financial Accounting. CE requires a couple writing intensive classes so I used my business courses to knock them out.

The first two years of CE are mostly introductory courses like Circuits or Digital System Fundamentals but the higher-level courses are definitely the most fun and interesting; my favorites were the advanced labs. Yes, advanced labs are required, but I took as many as I could fit into my schedule. These are the courses where you get to apply your engineering knowledge to real world problems, even if they’re simplified for the sake of learning or have already been solved by someone else. The best lab in my opinion was the FPGA Synthesis Lab (go ahead and Google it). You get to work in the basement of the ECE building programming hardware to do what you want. The professor is great and some of the students even got jobs after showcasing their FPGA programming skills to prospective employers. This is one of those courses that most other college students never get to take. I followed it up with another, FPGA Projects Lab, which is a senior-only design lab. In this one you team up with one or two other students and complete one ridiculously hard project for the semester. That’s it! One assignment. For my project, we tackled the transmission of encrypted data over an optical link. Basically we programmed and built a hardware/software system that allowed us to type text into one computer, use a 64-bit maximal length linear feedback shift register (LFSR) to pseudo randomly encrypt it for security, and transmit the messages wirelessly on the fly across the room to another computer where we’d capture the optical data, decrypt it, and display it on the monitor. COOL! Courses like these let you practice all the theory that you learn in the classroom and find out if you know how to apply it. I believe this to be the best way to learn and greatly appreciate the opportunity to take more than my share of labs. They made me want to be an engineer.

During my final semester at Hopkins I had to decide whether to continue my schooling and pursue a master’s degree in engineering or to enter the workforce. I left the choice up to my ability to get a good job offer and applied to as many companies as I could think of and to grad schools at the same time. In the end I was recruited out of Hopkins before I even started my last round of finals. The decision was made, so I packed up my apartment into a rented trailer and drove back to Seattle.

Image003I started my career as a software engineer for a global manufacturing company. They were headquartered in New York but had opened a satellite office just outside Seattle. My job was to build an engineering department in the new office. They chose me for the job because of my engineering background, my interest in business, and my experience with international people and places. (I spent one of my undergrad years studying engineering abroad in New Zealand – even engineers can study abroad!)

I was sent to Amsterdam for three months to attend a training session with the European sister company and was hiring my first employee after only four months! I’ve been working for two years now and have hired and fired dozens of people, built a new office building outside Seattle, and risen from an entry-level software engineer to general manager in charge of all North American operations. Work is going really well and I’m getting use out of my business minor as I’m managing every department in the company including sales, marketing, finance, production, and engineering. I think the best advice I could give to prospective CE majors would be to branch out and try other disciplines. It’s easy to get into one track or specialty but pursuing a well-rounded curriculum will serve you better after college. Try history, or a foreign language, or take a class on the extinction of the dinosaurs like I did, but most importantly, have fun.

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Click here to access more information about the Computer Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Computer Engineering question thread.

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