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technology leaders program

For First Year Students

The Technology Leaders Program (TLP), home to the Design Integration Minor, is an exciting, innovative program that develops valuable knowledge and skills by integrating systems level thinking and electrical, computer and mechanical engineering concepts.

By participating in the TLP and the Design Integration Minor, you will get a jump-start on developing abilities typically only acquired through years of experience after graduation; abilities such as being able to collaborate effectively with engineers from other majors and being able to both design and integrate components into systems.


The TLP and the Design Integration Minor are geared towards students who self-identify as “makers” and who need help converting that passion for creating new devices into marketable skills for designing new systems... students who want to

  • Design real-world, complex "smart" systems that generate, store, process, and act upon data.
  • Do design throughout their undergraduate education, not just during their capstone project or during their major design experience.
  • Connect and network with people from TLP internship partner companies.
  • Extend their learning beyond traditional departmental boundaries
  • Be part of a small, close-knit program where you get to know your peers and faculty better.

Benefits of participating in the TLP

  • Improve your marketability – companies seek the knowledge and skills taught and emphasized in the TLP.
  • Work on cool projects... and with people who are passionate about design and making
  • Establish a closer working relationship with knowledgeable and well-connected professors.
  • Get to know a small group of students who share the same interests and goals as you!
  • While other students only go to 10, you go to 11.

    Systems Engineering

    Systems Engineering students get to not only model data, but also build systems that generate and act upon that data.

    • You will stand out amongst your fellow Systems classmates by gaining depth of knowledge in technology-oriented fields (electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering)
    • You will gain experience designing systems that have both software and hardware - which will really differentiate you from your peers.
    • You may complete your application sequence (a required part of the Systems curriculum) through the TLP

    Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Electrical and Computer Engineering students get to integrate your programming with the physical world and your circuits into actual products

    • You will differentiate yourself from your fellow ECE students by gaining integration skills and a deeper understanding of how to apply your domain-specific ECE knowledge to develop real systems.
    • You can satisfy technical and/or unrestricted electives through the Systems Engineering courses taken as part of the TLP curriculum!
    • You will take part in cool activities and projects pertaining to your major in combination with systems-level thinking.

    Mechanical Engineering

    Mechanical Engineering students learn how to make your designs "smart"... with sensors, microcontrollers, and information systems.

    • You learn how to make your designs "smart"... with sensors, microcontrollers, and information systems
    • You will possess rare skills that integrate Systems-level design and ECE knowledge to enable you to develop complex electromechanical systems.
    • You will be able to satisfy technical electives in the MAE curriculum through courses in the TLP curriculum.
    • You'll get to take MAE 4710, Mechatronics, one semester earlier than your peers.
    • You will acquire the valuable ability to think big-picture, beyond the (admittedly interesting :) ) details of dynamics and fluid mechanics.



Integrating Component Level and System Level Design

What exactly does this mean? One way to think of this is the "T-shaped" person, a concept adapted from Tim Brown of IDEO. As discussed in the TLP Video, the TLP prepares you to be two kinds of T-shaped people.

  • a T-shaped person able to combine the knowledge and skills more focused on component design (e.g., mechanical, electrical or computer engineering) with those more focused on integration (e.g., systems engineering).
  • a T-shaped person with deep knowledge of their discipline who can work with people who have deep knowledge in other areas

T-shaped people are much sought after by companies.

As you know from watching the video, the TLP is all about educating students to be T-shaped people -- both collaborating specialists from different majors and complementary partners working at both component and systems integration levels. You also know that students in the TLP get experience designing and prototyping systems that engage with data -- from gathering data with sensors, to storing data, to modeling data, to taking actions based on data. Below are several real world examples that inspire us.

Tracking Pro Athletes with SportVU

SportVU Data Collection System
A data collection system called SportVU is revolutionizing the way NBA coaches and scouts are evaluating their players. SportVU is a blend of cutting-edge hardware, advanced computer algorithms, and complex systemic data analysis. The system captures every movement of every player on the court through high-tech cameras, then processes the information using powerful analytics software. The recorded data is evaluated and used to determine key statistics that tell how players are performing on the court and how team performance can be improved. SportVU is, in essence, writing out the formula for success to the coaches and managers of the NBA. It is a perfect example of how three disciplines (systems, electrical, and computer) of engineering are being integrated to produce amazing results in the real world. Read more

EZ Pass Toll Booths

Consider the EZ-Pass toll road system. Electrical, mechanical, and computer engineers (representing the vertical domain-specific part of the T) would be well-prepared to design the RFID sensors that are in the EZ-passes and the sensor-triggered cameras that take pictures of cars that try to pass through the tollbooth without paying – but they would not have the tools to balance trade-offs between an RFID-based system versus a GPS-based system. Systems engineers (representing the horizontal integration-focused top of the T) would be good at scoping the overall problem, defining requirements, exploring trade-offs between configurations for the system, and ensuring that the system is user-friendly, but would struggle with laying out the actual electrical system. A TLP graduate will be more able to integrate these two perspectives when compared to graduates not in the TLP.

Automated Inventory Warehouse

This is an interesting TED talk on the rethinking of warehouse dynamics. Currently, inventory pickers must manually move around the warehouse and use conveyor belts for packing and shipping. In this new warehouse, a series of robotic systems transport inventory directly to the human operators, allowing for faster and more organized warehouse operation. As you will hear in the video, the system integrates physical hardware (electronics and mechanical parts) with systems evaluation (data analysis) to produce a better functioning warehouse. The subject may not be the most interesting in the world, but it is worth the watch:

Hovding Inflatable Helmet

Hovding is an inflatable bike helmet produced by a company of the same name in Sweden. The helmet is actually worn as a collar, where the air bag-like helmet is hidden until you are in danger of crashing. Using a system of sensors and mechanical devices, the Hovding helmet deploys if it detects suddent deceleration, much like the air bag of a car. The video below shows Hovding testing the deployment of the helmet, collecting and analyzing data to evaluate its safety and reliability. The testing employs systems engineering methods to evaluate the electrical and mechanical components, and allows Hovding to optimize and refine the helmet design so you can look fashionable and feel safe while riding your bike.

Under Armour 39

The Under Armour E39 is a compression shirt with the smartest commercially-available exercise monitor. At the center of the shirt is a small device that contains a dense system of electrical and mechanical sensors that collects data during your workout, and tells you everything about your performance. Like so many other commercially successful technologies, the Under Armour 39 follows the interdisciplinary principles that we follow in the Technology Leaders Program.

That is, the system incorporates the domain-specific components of electrical, mechanical, and software engineering with the integration-focused properties of systems evaluation and engineering. The end result is a device that is worn and endorsed by some of the best athletes in the NFL.

Learn more