The ECE Department offers four areas of concentration: digital systems, communications, microelectronics, and control systems
and robotics. A brief description and career opportunities for each concentration are included below:
1. Digital Systems
Primarily, digital systems involves the design and utilization of digital system hardware and software. Almost every electronic device made today contains a digital system in the form of application-dependent digital interfaces or microprocessors. Digital systems involve discrete, quantized electrical signals which are represented by strings of binary digits. Topics for this area of concentration include Boolean algebra, combinational logic design, sequential logic design, digital integrated circuits, programmable logic devices, computer design, and microprocessor hardware and software. Typical end-products of a digital system designer include computers, microprocessors, video games, industrial data acquisition and control systems, medical instrumentation, and automobile instrumentation. The final products developed within many of the electrical and computer engineering areas are often implanted with digital systems, such as control systems, telecommunications systems, and signal processing systems.
The field of communications is concerned with processing signals and finding the best way to transmit and receive voice, picture or computer data signals. Communications engineering is a rapidly growing field. In just one century, it has progressed from telegraph systems capable of sending only a few letters per second over wires to the sophisticated protocols used today. Now, wired and wireless communications systems are capable of sending voice, pictures, and digital data anywhere in the world with great speed. Advances in communication make modern devices such as the telephone, radio, television, computer modems, fax machines, and radio navigation systems a reality. Other devices, such as compact discs (CDs), computer disks, and magnetic tapes are also communication systems since they transfer a message through time via an optical or magnetic medium.
Electronic devices form the building blocks of most computers and electrical systems. Some examples of systems include telephones, radios, televisions, controllers, oscilloscopes, logic gates, memories, digital systems, computers, power circuits, and instrumentation systems. Analysis of devices and circuits is an essential task in the evaluation of these systems. The designers and engineers of this field conceive and design these building blocks while engineers in other areas develop systems using these building blocks. The dividing line between device and circuit has been blurred considerably since the advent of integrated circuits. It is important for every circuit designer to know something about how these devices work. Students should have a wide spectrum of courses in communications, control, analogue electronics, microprocessors, and very-large-scale integration (VLSI). VLSI is the product of the latest revolution in the development of integrated circuits. VLSI is becoming the basic building block for digital and computer electronics. Customized VLSI signal processing chips have been used, for example, to improve the functionality of modern systems since microprocessor controlled instrumentation is already a reality.
4. Control Systems and Robotics
Control systems permeate life in all advanced societies today. Control systems are used in automatic toasters, heating and cooling systems, washers and dryers, space vehicles, robots, and industrial processes. Control systems regulate and optimize force, stress, temperature, altitude, and speed over time. For example, control methods are used to regulate the work process in spaceships, aero planes, automobiles, heaters, elevators, machines, power plants, and medical treatment devices. The system quantities being controlled are sensed, fed back, and used to control the system. The theory of control is based on firm mathematical foundations including differential equations, optimization, and stability theory. Due to advances in computer technology, many industrial companies use computers for control purposes. The control systems area affects, in one way or another, all other engineering disciplines.