This fall incoming freshmen in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) will receive brand-new Android tablets to launch their engineering studies through a $50,000 donation from Google.
The donation marks the second year that EECS freshmen will be given tablets to foster early and unique programming experience on the world’s fastest-growing mobile platform — 200 million Android devices and counting.
“Google’s generous donation gives our students in-depth, hands-on experience in mobile computing, an invaluable skill in today's marketplace," said EECS Chair Glenn Prescott. “Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurial startups and nonprofits need engineers and computer scientists, creating wide-ranging opportunities for our graduates. By choosing to major in electrical engineering, computer engineering or computer science, students are seeking challenging and rewarding fields of study. “
The continued growth of mobile computing makes experience on these platforms vital for engineers. Accordingly, EECS has retooled its curriculum to highlight mobile security, interoperability and other features that differentiate it from traditional computing.
“We are betting on the ingenuity and creativity of students and continually looking for ways to develop on our technologies. By putting tablets in the hands of EECS students, we’re creating engineering graduates ready to delve into new and exciting frontiers,” said Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Earth.
McClendon, a 1986 KU electrical engineering graduate, and his wife, Beth Ellyn, personally donated $50,000 to KU Endowment to provide Android tablets to EECS freshmen in September.
"This is another example of great learning experiences available to KU students. I appreciate that Google has decided to support this unique program initiated by one of our innovative alumni,” said KU School of Engineering Dean Stuart Bell.
EECS professors have developed simplified programming exercises to capture students’ interest and creativity. Students can lose sight of the possibilities in the midst of learning numerous technical concepts, said EECS Assistant Professor Brian Potetz. Potetz and EECS Assistant Professor Bo Luo, the instructors for Programming I, take advantage of the tablets’ numerous features to teach interactive programming lessons. And everyone having the same device streamlines lesson planning. For example, the EECS professors developed a photo manipulation exercise that takes advantage of tablet’s camera feature to teach basic programming.
Prior to the gift, EECS freshman Amanda Parks had not owned a tablet. She says the tablet has been a great learning experience inside and outside of the classroom and that she has been surprised by how many things she can do on her tablet.
"This opportunity has left me thrilled and excited to be a part of such a great program where the possibilities are limitless," said Park, who was among the 89 students in Programming I who received the Motorola Xoom tablets. Students in Programming I this spring have received tablets as well.
Students will be expected to use them in coursework over the next two years but are encouraged to use them for enjoyment as well as their own professional development. Students must receive at least a C in the course and remain an EECS major to keep the tablet.