How can we prepare undergraduate engineering students to work on meaningful, real-world problems in the short time that they are with us? Undergraduate research programs are one potential answer, but such programs are challenging to implement. Most undergraduate engineers are not ready to perform useful research until the first semester of the junior year. Furthermore, to solve real-world problems, students need access to real-world data, which is often difficult to obtain without spending valuable time learning how to use specialized data-acquisition-system languages.
At the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), we believe that we have found one efficient method that surmounts these difficulties. As a result, our students have developed numerous innovative solutions, including a system that directs cars in crowded garages toward the nearest parking space, medical devices that help surgeons safely implant endovascular stents, and a system that locates trapped miners after a cave-in.
By James C. Squire, Ph.D., P.E., Virginia Military Institute
This article was published in MATLAB Digest | Academic Edition, October 2008