Room to Create | ECE | Virginia Tech


Room to Create

Integrated Design Studio images

The Integrated Design Studio provides lab space and equipment for students enrolled in design based courses.

ECE students have new dedicated space for design projects, with the opening of the department's Integrated Design Studio on the second floor of Whittemore Hall. The design studio complements the new integrated design courses being offered for upper-level students, particularly the new two-semester, project-based capstone design courses.

In the studio, students have access to equipment, work benches, project storage, meeting space, and advice from director of instructional laboratories, Dennis Sweeney. According to Sweeney, "it's hard for me to say no to the students."

Three of the four new integrated capstone design options currently use the space. Two are familiar competition teams: the underwater robotics team, advised by Dan Stilwell, with Craig Woolsey of AOE, and the IEEE robotics team, advised by Cameron Patterson and Jaime De La Ree.

The other capstone design course using the new space is a two-semester design sequence that focuses on radio frequency (RF) spectrum sensing and is taught by Steven Ellingson. The class is designing and building an RF spectrum sensing system. Soon, Sweeney expects students who are building CubeSats with Scott Bailey to begin using the space.

Another project using the studio is managed by Sweeney and stemmed from Joseph Baker's class on exploration of the space environment. The class is designing a payload with two cameras along with sensors and a GPS tracking beacon. A weather balloon will take it 30 km (nearly 100,000 ft.) into the stratosphere. When the balloon bursts the payload will parachute down for recovery. The project is providing a base level of capability that future classes can use for actual space science data collection, according to Baker.

Engineering fee funds were used for the renovation and initial equipment in the studio. Some of the materials in the studio are funded by grants from General Motors and Lockheed Martin. "These grants are critical: it's money we can spend on things like electronics components," Sweeney says.

The studio is available around the clock and students using the space are briefed on safety and protocol. "The environment and culture of safety is something students have to learn from the very start," says Sweeney.

Student design teams

Read more about student design teams in the 2010 Annual Report: Lessons you can't find in a book