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Engineering students gain access to cutting-edge equipment in new electrical engineering maker space

As students return to campus this fall, they will have a new place – outfitted with industry-grade equipment - to put into practice the lessons they learn in the classroom. In summer 2021, Victor Tolan, president of BK Precision, donated several key instruments to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s newly established student makerspace, enabling students to gain valuable experience with the same equipment they could use working in an industry laboratory.

The new instruments include a 3.2 GHz spectrum analyzer with tracking generator, a 3.5 GHz multifunction counter, and a 300 MHz two channel mixed signal oscilloscope – altogether valued at $10,000.

Tolan, a UCR Foundation trustee and longstanding supporter of BCOE, said, “The makerspaces of today are like the garages of yesterday that launched companies like BK Precision and many other technology companies. By providing these instruments to BCOE, students will gain the hands-on experience they need for successful careers and, perhaps be inspired to launch their own companies.”

The value of hands-on learning extends far beyond the classroom. By using industry technology, students are more prepared for the workforce and have the opportunity to experiment with trial and error to learn from their mistakes and enhance their critical thinking.

Roman Chomko, associate professor of teaching, is eager to use the new instruments for a variety of courses this fall.

“The new instruments from BK Precision will substantially boost our potential for Senior Design projects in the communication systems area,” said Chomko. “The instruments also improve our abilities in EE 115 Intro to Comm Systems and will be used for many demos in EE 118 RF Circuit Design. This will become critical as we welcome students back to campus for in-person instruction.”

The department plans to continue making improvements to the new student makerspace. “These high-end instruments will give us opportunities to see signal details that a normal one wouldn’t, which dramatically enhances our electric circuit trouble shooting and problem analysis capabilities,” said Manglai Zhou, research and development engineer and director of the makerspace.

Zhou and the department invite students and alumni to stop by for a visit in Winston Chung Hall 137.

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