ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Open Electronics Laboratory
encourages hands-on projects

Lab monitor Samir Abdosh (seated) demonstrates some finer points of soldering to Ashleigh Gardner in the new Open Electronics Laboratory.

Engineering students who need to solder a board, test an electronic device, or just tinker on an individual project now have a venue in the College of Engineering. The new Open Electronics Lab (OEL) offers equipment use, tools, parts, and assistance for student projects. The lab is open seven days a week, following the schedule of the Computer Engineering Laborataories (CEL).

“Students said they need a place to work on electronics projects,” according to Leslie Pendleton, director of ECE undergraduate student affairs and OEL director. “They have expressed the need for more hands-on experiences, especially early in their programs and this open lab provides an environment where engineering students at any level can come in and play.”

The laboratory was established with $18,500 in funding from the Student Engineering Council. ECE also contributed funds, as well as oscilloscopes, function generators, and other equipment. The lab was equipped and organized with input and assistance from ECE Tech Support.

Students who use lab nights and Saturday afternoons do not have to make an appointment. The only requirement is that they complete an online OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) tutorial and pass a short test demonstrating their knowledge of lab safety. Trained lab monitors supervise the students and teams who use the lab.

“Before the open lab, there wasn’t any place on campus designated for independent work on electrical and electronic systems outside of course-related activities — places where students could work on projects for national competitions such as the Hybrid Electric Vehicle and the Autonomous Vehicle,” said ECE professor Allen MacKenzie, who helped to establish the open lab. “We hope that with this space, students will be inspired to participate in ECE-focused challenges, such as the Texas Instruments Digital Signal Processing and Analog Challenge and the Microsoft Windows Embedded Student Challenge.”

In addition to supporting courses and student projects, Pendleton envisions the lab as a place for students to place orders for specialized electronic parts not available locally. Hendricks is developing an inventory software and card reader system for this purpose.

The concept of an open electronics lab for undergraduate students is novel, even among engineering schools, she says. The Open Electronics Lab is also open to engineering faculty and staff, who must also pass the safety course.