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Recent Graduates Head to Silicon Valley

July 6, 2012

Silicon Valley has grown more crimson and blue with the addition of Gordon Fry and Brady Maasen, who both graduated this spring with bachelor degrees in electrical engineering. They are Applications Engineers in ON Semiconductor’s Solution Engineering Center in Santa Clara, Calif.  The company is an innovator in high performance silicon solutions for energy efficient electronics in automotive, communications, computing, medical, military, power, and other fields.Gordon Fry and Brady Maasen

The full-time positions grew out of successful summer internships at the company. Fry and Maasen credit their EECS education with its balance of theory and application, for preparing them to meet industry demands. They credit the Jayhawk nation for the internship opportunity, specifically Edward Osburn (BSEE ’98), Director of U.S. Solutions Engineering Centers at ON Semiconductor. Osburn returned to his alma mater to recruit students, even meeting Fry at Old Chicago one evening to discuss internship opportunities when conflicting schedules prevented a more conventional interview.

“The KU EECS program provides a broad and deep conceptual understanding of the EE design fundamentals necessary to continue growing into design engineers and future leaders. EECS students develop the technical background to excel in any area of EE design--from analog to digital logic and from systems to component to silicon-level design,” said Osburn, who credited Fry and Maasen for their ability to learn complex analog circuits and then apply them to production designs. 

 “The knowledge and confidence Ed displayed when meeting with me made me instantly realize that this internship was something I wanted under my belt. After learning that our reference designs would be used in state-of-the-art applications for widely-recognized companies, I was hooked,” said Fry.

Fry, a Free State High School standout, looked at numerous colleges before deciding on his hometown university. He excelled in math and science and enjoyed solving difficult problems, which made EECS seem like a “natural fit” for him. He attended the School of Engineering Engineering Expo for years and was impressed by the exhibits and the possibilities within EECS. Finally, the talented trumpet player would be able to be a part of the KU Marching Jayhawks and Basketball Pep bands. He played in the band his freshmen year, but the growing demands of EECS led him to focus exclusively on his degree after his first year.

Fry started out as a CoE major, but after Programming I, he changed to EE. He wanted to pursue less programming and more hardware and systems-level challenges. Fry points to Circuits I and II and Senior Design Laboratory as some of his favorite classes. Fry served as team leader for his senior design project. His team developed a blood oxygen detector that uses LED tomography, an imaging technique, to highlight parts of the brain not receiving the required amount of oxygen in blood. The prototype, which will be developed by EECS Professor Ron Hui and KU Med Center researchers, will aid research in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

While his courses were demanding, Fry still had to pay the bills. He worked multiple jobs, some more conventional than others.  His grader position for EECS Professor Ken Demarest was a common student job. Helping conduct brain imaging and language processing research in the Department of Linguistics was a little outside the EECS student norm. And then there was the unprecedented: Fry worked his final three years as a switchboard operator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

“Working in various jobs taught me how to interact with a wide range of individuals in completely different environments. Constantly working ahead of schedule and knowing what I had to complete every day was key in staying afloat when working two jobs nearly every semester,” said Fry.

While Fry replied to a posting listed at the Engineering Career Center to get his internship, Maasen met with ON Semiconductor representatives at the Engineering and Computing Career Fair. His nearly two years of undergraduate research experience with the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) impressed them. While working with CReSIS, Maasen helped design power supplies and gained experience with hardware and software, custom printed circuit board design, and software development for data processing.

Maasen first learned of CReSIS in an Introduction to Engineering course. The National Science Foundation established CReSIS, which is led by EECS Distinguished Professor Prasad Gogineni and headquartered at KU, to spur development in technologies that can better measure polar ice sheets and predict their contributions to sea level change. Over 600 million people live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level, which makes the work that CReSIS does especially important.

“Working for CReSIS allowed me to see the ‘real’ side of the EE program. We would talk about things in class, then they would pop up a few days later in the lab at work, and it would bring the whole thing together for me,” said Maasen.

For the son of a University of Missouri graduate, it was no small decision to come to KU. The DeSoto native spent a lot of time in Lawrence and liked it. As for his major, Maasen’s family thought his early love of Lincoln Logs, Legos, and K-Nex showed promise in engineering, and they were right. In high school, Maasen became interested in the phenomena of electricity and wanted to learn more about it. This along with presentations by CReSIS students and EECS Professor David Petr, who demonstrated signal processing by using software to manipulate a singing voice, in Intro to Engineering led Maasen to EE.  

Maasen and Fry share the same favorite courses in Circuits I and II and Senior Design Laboratory. Maasen also served as the team leader of his group project. The team developed a golf driving range simulation device. The device, which consists of an aluminum frame with a net inside and sensors along the outer edge, can provide the same practice and feedback of an actual driving range but at a far more affordable price and in the convenience of a golfer’s backyard.  

Through CReSIS and his summer internships, Maasen found that he most enjoyed working in the lab and building devices and systems. ON Semiconductor will continue to give him that opportunity. As Applications Engineers, Maasen and Fry will be designing circuits that will be part of computers, servers, and other mobile devices. They will be in training in Portland, Oregon, throughout the fall.

“To be working in an environment that you enjoy and developing technology on the cutting edge is a great opportunity. We get to put our ideas into new products that have yet to hit the market,” Maasen said.

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