ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Senior EE team wins national TI competition for subwoofer design

A team of ECE students took first place in a nationwide Texas Instruments competition, winning the 2009 Engibous Prize for their senior design project — a 200 W Class D subwoofer amplifier. The prize is awarded to the student engineering team who demonstrates the highest level of engineering analysis, originality, quality, and creativity in designs featuring TI analog integrated circuits.

The EE students stand before their project presentation board

(From left:) Thomas LaBella, John Caldwell, Alex Kim, Preston Taylor

Thomas LaBella, John Caldwell, Alex Kim, and Preston Taylor were all students in ECE 4206, Electronic Circuit Design II, supervised by Professor Jason Lai. They will split the first-place prize of $10,000 for the best senior design project among all the participating universities. A team from the University of Arizona took second place for a portable brain wave monitor and the University of Arkansas took third for a photovoltaic array.

This is the first year Virginia Tech participated in the competition, according to Lai. The subwoofer team placed first among the six Virginia Tech entries in the TI Analog Design Contest and received $1,500 plus eligibility to compete for the Engibous Prize. Two teams tied for second place among the Virginia Tech cohort were also from the ECE 4206 class.

The EE students pose with the CEO of Texas Instruments

The ECE students receive their prize from Richard Templeton, the CEO of Texas Instruments.

The subwoofer team divided the project into two major parts: a 200 W power supply, and an energy-efficient Class D amplifier that would use an active feedback mechanism to reduce distortion by varying the sound based on the vibration of the speaker. The team successfully demonstrated the power supply, which featured a 200 W class D amplifier and an isolated, offline buck converter that achieved zero voltage switching. However, they found that the feedback mechanism suffered from electromagnetic interference from other components, and did not work as they hoped. Texas Instruments integrated circuits were used in both the power supply and amplifier.

The Engibous Prize was established by Texas Instruments in 2008 in honor of TI chairman emeritus Tom Engibous, in order to encourage students to experience and use analog semiconductors in their senior projects. The winners are selected from among the first-place winners in the TI Analog Design Contest at schools where at least three teams entered the contest. To be eligible, a team must use at least two TI analog integrated circuits and a TI digital integrated circuit, or three TI analog devices. $150,000 in prizes is distributed in several national competitions. TI also pays each university’s first place team and their supervising professor to travel to Dallas, Texas for the poster presentation and final award ceremony.

The subwoofer project is hosted and can be viewed on TI’s website.