Faculty, Staff, Students Celebrate Semester's End at ECE Day


June 3, 2010

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Know the nine varsity sports Carnegie Mellon competes in? That - and a fair share of knowledge about ECE people and, yes, even some engineering - would have been all you needed to walk away with the spoils and glory of being the ECE Jeopardy! champ at this year's ECE Day, the department-wide celebration on the last day of spring semester classes.

Held each year as a way for students, staff and faculty to honor all that makes Carnegie Mellon's ECE Department special, ECE Day offers festivities that run the gamut from gizmos to games. What makes it extra special is that it's hosted by students, specifically ECE's Student Advisory Council with support from the department's other student organizations: IEEE, honor society Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), WinECE and EGO. SAC member Kendall Lowrey led the charge as ECE Day chair.

While ECE Day involves tons of food and fun, this year's event explored its share of academic avenues. In fact, it began on Wednesday, April 28, when members of HKN participated in the department's Capstone Design Showcase. During the showcase, undergraduate students gather to hear presentations from juniors and seniors about the department's capstone project courses. They discuss the course goals and prerequisites, and give examples of some of the projects completed when they took the course. Underclassman use what they learn during the showcase to determine what capstone courses fit in best with their education and career goals, and can plan their courses accordingly.

That focus on academics resumed on ECE Day which, for the first time, included demos from students in project-based classes. Senior Yush Gupta realized that a celebration of ECE wouldn't be complete without celebrating something integral to the department: project-based research, so he coordinated the project demos. To begin the day, students in Associate ECE Professor Priya Narasimhan's Embedded Systems Design capstone course demonstrated projects that included everything from a silent, portable vibrating pillow cover that gently wakes you in the morning to an electronic version of the classic "Twister" game. After the demos, the first floor of Hamerschlag Hall teemed with ECErs eager to get a piece or two (or more!) of the day's Pizza Extravaganza lunch before exploring more ECE research, this time from students in Assistant Research Professor Marios Savvides' Pattern Recognition course.

Following the course-related project demos, groups of ECE tinkerers had a chance to show off a semester's worth of gadgeting during the Build18 demo. Qualcomm's Geoff Wenger, Dale Wiggins and Ravi Lal - who earned his master's degree in ECE in 2008 - were on hand to judge the projects and present the company's Innovation Award to the lucky group of gadgeters. This year's winners were Erik Schmidt, Jacob Olson and Nipunn Koorapati, who won the honors for their "Air Guitar Hero" project (which you can learn more about here).

After the Build18 judging - and a few rounds of ECE Jeopardy! led by senior Greg Pitts and HKN President Jessica Liao - the party moved outside for a department-wide all-out celebration. IEEE officers, including Steve Thompson and Sean Moorman, grilled up burgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers for a line of eaters outfitted in their ECE Day t-shirts (tag line: "Resistance Is Futile") that extended halfway up the Mall. Accomplished performers from across the department provided diners with entertainment as part of the ECE's Got Talent show, organized by senior Steven Das. Staffer Dave Decker took lead vocals on the ECE faculty/staff band, while Associate Teaching Professor Tom Sullivan, Assistant Research Professor Franz Franchetti and student Ben Morse rocked out on guitar. ECE Professor Bruce Krogh accompanied them on keyboard, while Facilities Manager Alan Grupe rounded out the group on drums. Other standout performances included the piano stylings of senior Anthony Felice and various vocal and instrumental performances from numerous ECErs.

Crowds also thronged to the ECE Charity Dunk Tank, where professors and students alike took the plunge for a good cause. For a few dollars, students had the chance to drench Assistant Teaching Professor William Nace and Assistant Professor Gabriela Hug-Glanzman - among others - with all proceeds benefitting the ECE Day charity, the Nepal Education Initiative Organization (NEIO). More than $400 was raised to support the organization's mission to build schools and sustainable environments in some of the poorest parts of the world. Carnegie Mellon alumnus Kanishka Maheshwari is on NEIO's leadership team, and ECE alumnus Ajay Panagariya (E'2006), who brought the charity to the department's attention, will be climbing Mt. Ranier in Washington State to raise money for the cause.

On this 80-degree day, everyone enjoyed Dave & Andy's ice cream, an initiative organized by Liao. That, and lots of volleyball games, put an end to the day. And the semester.

But just because classes are over, there's no reason to slack off. Who knows what question will make the difference between victory and defeat in next year's ECE Jeopardy? It's never too early to start studying.