Electrical and Computer Engineering
"Our undergraduate program emphasizes basic concepts and state-of-the-art issues, and our graduates typically take jobs in high-tech businesses.
"Our research programs grapple with issues that are pertinent to industry today."
- Leonard Ferrari
Suiting Up for Changing Industrial Climates
While Virginia Tech education and research programs directly contribute to the success of many industries, business needs and a changing industrial climate directly influence Tech's programs. Such is the case with an expansion of computer and electrical engineering offerings in Northern Virginia and new Department initiatives in microelectronics.
The Northern Virginia Climate
During the past two decades, a number of communications and computer firms have clustered and prospered in the Northern Virginia region. The electrical and computer engineers who work at these firms have generated an ever-growing need to provide graduate electrical and computer engineering education in the area.
In response to this growing need, the Department is working closely with firms in the area to expand its 25-year-old program in the region. Currently about 200 students pursue graduate degrees in EE at the Northern Virginia Graduate Center each year. Courses are given by Tech personnel and adjunct professors on-site, with a selection of satellite-linked courses available from the Blacksburg campus. The expansion will add full-time faculty and on-site courses, a new degree program and an extensive short-course curriculum.
Beginning in 1996-97 the Department's new Master of Engineering degree will be offered for part-time students in the Northern Virginia area in addition to on campus. Like the M.S.E.E. degree, the M.Eng. degree will involve 30 credit units. However, it is more highly specialized and is designed so that part-time students can complete the degree requirements within two years while the M.S.E.E. has generally taken part-time students slightly more than three years to complete. The degree requires the completion of an industry project and a final report. The first two areas of concentration that will be offered will be computer engineering and communications.
The Department is also working closely with the Continuing Education Center and the Northern Virginia Technology Council to deliver more than 20 short courses per year to the region. The courses will be developed and delivered by full-time faculty on state-of-the-art topics involving Departmental research. In order to ensure that the selection of courses is appropriate for Virginia's industries, The Department is forming a corporate affiliate group with the help of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.
Recent decisions by IBM/Toshiba and Motorola to build multi-billion microelectronics fabrication facilities ultimately employing as many as 10,000 highly skilled engineers and technicians in Virginia have created a demand for a world-class Virginia microelectronics education and research program.
Microelectronics fabrication today probably employs the most highly trained engineering work force of any manufacturing industry - and the level of education and training required will continue to rise as the complexity of microelectronics fabrication processes advances.
To meet this demand, six of the engineering schools in Virginia have joined forces to create a framework for a statewide microelectronics education and research consortium. As the state's largest electrical engineering program, the Bradley Department of Electrical Engineering has been an active participant and member of the consortium since its inception. Other schools include Old Dominion University, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Virginia.
The strength of the consortium comes from the complementary strengths of each participant. For example, internationally recognized programs in microelectronics and related fields already exist at Tech, UVa and GMU. These will be complemented by a proposed major clean room capability at VCU, and new synthesis and processing programs at ODU and William and Mary.
The consortium plans to use satellite TV, compressed video, and a proposed new widebandwidth optical fiber network to link the academic institutions with laboratories and industrial facilities in order to deliver the proposed joint educational and research program. The potential exists to use the consortium concept to create novel forms of instruction involving self-directed study using rapidly developing computer simulation tools.
Tech's Expanding Microelectronics Offerings
In addition to participation in the consortium, the Department is exploring the creation of a statewide microelectronics manufacturing extension program and is expanding its course offerings in microelectronics.
The first new course, "Introduction to Microelectronics Fabrication," will be offered in the Spring of 1998. In the senior elective course, students will design and fabricate solid state devices and integrated circuits, while gaining a basic understanding of device processing, operation, and design optimization.
The course will be divided into three parts. Part one will focus on the basic processes used in IC fabrication, including lithography, oxidation, diffusion, ion implantation, and thin film deposition. Part two will focus on the interconnection technology, relation between process, design, device design and layout, packaging, yield, and reliability. Part three will concentrate on Metal Oxide Semiconductor and Bipolar process integration.
Additional courses in electronic packaging of microcircuits are planned for later implementation.