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MIT Lives Up to its Motto: Mind and Hand

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a strong history of providing quality electrical engineering education dating back to 1902. During its storied history, faculty and students have made major lasting research contributions, some of which have opened up entire new fields of study. That proud tradition continues today in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), the largest engineering department at MIT, graduating over 400 students each year.

‘Mind and Hand’

To keep pace with today’s fast moving technology, MIT’s EECS department has invested in tools and technology to provide students with a world-class learning environment. This is exemplified by the Engineering Design Studio (EDS), a teaching lab sponsored by Cypress Semiconductor that provides electrical engineering and computer science students with a robust hands-on experience. In EDS students can prototype complete electronics-based systems.

“Students learn the theory and then have the opportunity to test their ideas and see how these ideas work in practical application,” notes Dr. Steven Leeb, professor of EECS and Mechanical Engineering. “MIT and the EECS department want to attract students interested in modeling the physical world and managing complexity. We want to share our motto, `Mind and Hand’. We want to provide thorough opportunities for learning and teaching together. We want to share with every member of our department a sense of purpose, excitement, self-confidence, passion and community.”

“We have always had and hopefully always will have these goals,” continues Dr. Leeb, “but as the world changes, new opportunities emerge that can help us achieve them more effectively. Modern test and prototyping equipment have changed the speed and efficiency with which an idea can go from the mind to the material. The Engineering Design Studio is about making these opportunities apparent, cost-effective, readily available, and thoroughly exciting.”

Challenge for Today’s Universities

Dr. Leeb has observed that students today are enthusiastic about learning and have no limit to their academic curiosity. However he notes that it is becoming increasingly more difficult in the real world to casually explore how things work. “It wasn’t that long ago,” observes Dr. Leeb, “that a curious student could disassemble a phone or part of a car engine to see how it worked. However, the complexity and monolithic assembly of today’s products makes that increasingly difficult, often requiring specialized equipment.”

MIT is meeting this challenge head-on. “A student experience that includes hands-on learning is more important than ever,” states Dr. Leeb. “The labs at MIT give students that important practical experience. We’re training engineers so that they are prepared to enter industry where they will be expected to build products that will delight their customers.”

Students Develop Whole Solutions

EECS students are encouraged to look beyond the electrical prototype and develop a broader solution. Students are learning that a robust mechanical solution is just as important as the electrical design. For example, a device’s housing can have a huge effect on the electromagnetic properties of the project. Dr. Leeb explains, “MIT has the opportunity to take students beyond electrical design and show them modern manufacturing techniques. Our program attracts students that want to become ‘builders.’ These students have access to a broad variety of industrial equipment and advanced tools such as laser cutters, computer controlled mills and lathes. Our students use these tools to create fast prototypes, sometimes doing in a few hours what used to take weeks.”

Keysight Technologies at MIT

To ensure that MIT students are learning on modern test tools and equipment, the EECS department is working with industry vendors such as Keysight Technologies (formerly Agilent Technologies Electronic Measurement Group), a manufacturer of test and measurement instruments. Keysight has partnered with the Cypress University Alliance in supporting EDS and has donated state-of-the-art, mixed-signal oscilloscopes, which allow the precise observation and generation of electrical signals.

“Any project developed by engineers would not be possible without the test equipment provided by Keysight and others,” reflects Dr. Leeb. “These tools provide our students with the opportunity to try wild and crazy ideas and then make the measurements necessary to identify whether their projects work. In addition, the level and tempo of technical complexity has increased dramatically over the years. For example, an oscillator was a real innovation years ago, where today it is now just a minor add-on to even the most basic instruments.”

In addition to the oscilloscopes, MIT labs are also equipped with a host of other Keysight test equipment including logic analyzers, function generators with built-in arbitrary waveform generators, and multi-output power supplies and probes. Dr. Leeb has a long history working with Keysight, “We have unbelievable respect for Keysight and their test gear going back to the pre-split days when they were part of Agilent and Hewlett-Packard.”

Enabling Future Engineers

With well-equipped facilities such as the Engineering Design Studio, MIT will continue to provide first-rate experiences for students, sharing the education, tools, and life-long learning skills that they need to develop ideas, create designs, test their work, and deliver a solution. This education will put MIT graduates in an excellent position to make immediate real world contributions as they embark on their engineering careers.

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