First-Year Students Have Fun with Electrical and Computer Engineering in 'Simon Says Spectacular'

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
  • Students playing Simon Says.

Having Fun While Learning: Electrical and computer engineering students solved the code of randomly generated patterns across the red, green, yellow, and blue buttons in the fall quarter Simon Says Spectacular campus event. "Interesting, difficult, and entertaining - all at the same time," says Katarina Chan (left). Click image for slideshow

First- and second-year electrical and computer engineering students stepped back into their childhoods while brushing off their newly minted electrical circuits, computer programming, and problem-solving skills this fall to gain valuable lessons that will provide pathways for their future success.

As part of the introductory-level Engineering Practice course, student teams used Arduino Uno microcontrollers, light-emitting diodes, and circuit boards to design replicas of the electronic memory game Simon.

Students concluded the educational project by testing their aptitude to recall the precise order of the randomly generated patterns across the red, green, yellow, and blue buttons in the Simon Says Spectacular campus event. The friendly competition had rounds challenging a player's ability to recall the correct order for up to 13 consecutive steps, with each round requiring increasing accuracy and speed; recalling the order backward from the last button to the first; and head-to-head battles between specially selected players from each team.

"Interesting, difficult, and entertaining - all at the same time" is how freshman electrical engineering major Katarina Chan characterized the event. "This activity got us enthusiastic about the work we were doing in class," she says.

That was the project's goal, according to electrical and computer engineering professor Chris Miller. The principles of system engineering design and teamwork were used by student teams throughout the 10-week course.

"We touch on the broad topics - elements of design, teamwork, and communication skills -- that students will use throughout the electrical and computer engineering curriculum," says the professor.

The course's other professor, Carlotta Berry, adds, "We also want to make sure to show the students that engineers have fun."

That definitely seemed to be the case, as the room was filled with laughter and smiles. Several department professors wore referee uniforms while serving as contest judges.

"It has been way too much fun," says Luke Gelfius, another freshman electrical engineering student. He joined Chan and Yvonne Lumetta, a sophomore computer engineering and computer science student, on the 3 Heart 6K Pancreas Dragons team.

"We didn't know each other before starting the project. Now, we're the 'dream team' and have become friends with at least one common interest: a love of engineering," Gelfius said.

Other teams were affectionately called Late Starters, Technology Starters, and Fig Neutrons.

Earning first-place honors for scoring the most points throughout the four competition rounds was the Error 404 team of electrical engineering students Evan Bauer and John Gear. Dielectric Breakdowns was second with electrical engineering students Riley Shore and Weize Sun, along with computer engineering student Trey Lewis. Meanwhile, Minor Morpheus received the team spirit award with electrical engineering majors Gina Guerra, Jacob Pluta, and Zesun Yang wearing team uniforms and programming their microcontroller to play an amusing post-match victory song.

The rest of the department's first- and second-year students will do a similar project while taking the Engineering Practice course during the winter quarter.