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Sacred Heart University Adds Computer Engineering To Academic Lineup

Students in the Engineering Explorations course at Sacred Heart University designed and created items with 3D printers — custom cups, acoustic speakers, doorstops, etc.
Students in the Engineering Explorations course at Sacred Heart University designed and created items with 3D printers — custom cups, acoustic speakers, doorstops, etc. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Twenty freshmen students enrolled this fall in the new computer engineering degree program at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

The degree complements SHU's existing computer science programs.

Graduates will be qualified for careers in a variety of industries, including software and hardware developing companies, automotive industry, aviation, telecommunications and health care, according to SHU.

The first course, Engineering Explorations, is offered this fall as an introduction to earning a four-year computer engineering degree.

Tolga Kaya, associate professor in the School of Computing in SHU’s College of Arts & Sciences, is leading the class.

The program will be critical in helping technology-oriented students gain a foundation in this area.

“Sacred Heart already has very good computer science programs, like game design. Computer science is mostly about software: writing codes, developing websites, creating phone apps, etc. Computer engineering has the hardware components—designing and building the actual digital systems within which the software will reside,” Kaya said.

The first project for the 20 students this fall was to design and create certain items with 3D printers — custom cups, acoustic speakers, doorstops, etc. — to sell on campus to raise funds for SHU’s community outreach programs.

Now the class is building LEGO robots that will wrestle each other. Students are using standard LEGO sets and then add sensors, microcomputers and wiring.

“Students will program them to work while learning the fundamentals of combining hardware and software. It’s all about optimization and overcoming failures along the way,” Kaya said, noting that engineering is a process. “There’s the idea, then the plan, execution, assessment and improvements to make it better.”

In the spring, students will take Engineering Explorations II. For the course, they will build a small prototype of a smart house, designing parts, producing them on a 3D printer and incorporating microcomputers that they program.

Sacred Heart is also planning an innovation lab for the new West Campus at the former GE’s headquarters.

A “makerspace,” an open lab space where people explore, tinker, invent and discover using tools and equipment, should be ready by fall 2018. It will house 3D printers, laser cutters and electronics—essentially, every tool needed to innovate in the computer field.

Kaya describes it as “a garage workshop on steroids,” with applications for multiple academic disciplines including business, technology and computers.

Sacred Heart also is partnering with Rochester Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University to provide students with a dual-degree opportunity, through which they will obtain a liberal arts degree from Sacred Heart and an engineering degree through one of the partner schools.

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