If you’re reading this page, then you probably already have an idea of what Computer Engineering is, even more so than those guys reading the Electrical Engineering page over there.
But what is an Computer Engineering degree?
Let’s face it: the basic degree is primarily theoretical: in the words of the ABET accreditation objectives, your interests will include “intelligent systems, computer design and architecture, embedded systems such as cell phones and digital cameras, and other areas related to computer systems.”
But there is no step-by-step instruction manual for designing the next generation of microchip. Our goal is to teach you the mental tools to ask the right questions and fill in the blanks on your own — to think and learn more for yourself.
The computer engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Commission of ABET.
Here’s the deal: Upon graduation, you’ll find yourself out in the industry as a newly-minted engineer, having been exposed to all things computer engineering related — a theoretical framework for learning how to design anything.
But fortunately, you don’t have to walk out of here with just a basic degree. What else do we have to offer?
With the addition of a new wing to Lafferre Hall, we’re up to 51,000 square feet of total lab space, and that’s just for engineering. A lot of that lab space is available to you, depending on what you do with your time here.
It goes beyond normal classes with lab sections attached. Starting as early as freshman year, you have the opportunity to get a jump on your graduate research career.
Once you have the research part under your belt, you’ll want to start getting the word out to future employers.
A native of Jefferson City, Eric Haslag launched his career at Garmin less than a month after graduating from the University of Missouri in 2010, with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. Garmin is a leading, worldwide provider of navigation, communication and information devices and applications. Haslag received the offer for his position at Garmin’s headquarters in Olathe, Kansas after his success as an intern there.
“I develop software for display units in the aviation department. It’s both challenging and exciting to innovate and improve display interfaces that pilots directly interact with,” said Haslag.
Haslag was inspired to become an engineer after talking with his uncle, a mechanical engineer. While attending Summer Welcome orientation before his freshman year, he was posed with a decision to choose between the seven disciplines offered by Mizzou Engineering and chose computer engineering because he enjoyed working with computers.
Today, he and his team work daily writing and reviewing code, as well as collaborating with other teams at Garmin to release software to Garmin’s customers. Many skills needed to complete his job are things Haslag said he attained at MU.
“Classes like ‘Intro. to Mechatronics and Robotic Vision’ and my capstone really provided me and my fellow students with the opportunity to work on different projects and apply concepts we learned in class, labs and lectures to construct our own ideas in competitions and team projects,” said Haslag.
“Mizzou definitely prepared me for my career after graduation. I feel like I learned many things that prepared me to jump right into the workforce and start contributing right away,” he said.
At Mizzou, Haslag was very involved in the campus community. Juggling his major in computer engineering with minors in piano performance and math, Haslag made it a priority to be involved as a team member and to practice leadership skills. He was a member of Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Honors Society and also served as a Summer Welcome leader. He was involved in the Newman Center on campus, and the student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The Career Services Office, career fairs and organizations like IEEE were resources that Haslag used to jump start his career plans.
“IEEE brought in several companies at their meetings and that really sparked my interest,” said Haslag. “It was encouraging to learn about different opportunities in ECE and speak directly with engineers about their experiences.”
It’s not just a bulletin board in the hallway. Our Career Services office assists you with job searches and other opportunities. Among other resources, etiquette workshops and interview help allows you tap into our collective wisdom instead of going at it alone. Our Career events are a prime opportunity for you to meet with representatives from prospective employers and for them to harvest the best and the brightest right out of college.
Other colleges have labs and Career Services, though. What really sets MU apart?
In the industry, engineers don’t work in a bubble, and the College of Engineering doesn’t put you in one. With a campus large enough to rate its own zip code (65211), there’s plenty of room for 7 colleges and 12 schools with everything from journalism to veterinary medicine. What that really means is a definite advantage in fostering a rich, interdisciplinary environment.
It starts with your freshman and sophomore classes where you’ll never know what the person sitting next to you could be majoring in. It will be a mix of ideas, experiences and motives that can help prepare you for life after college in ways you might never have suspected.
A Truly, Interdisciplinary Environment
As you progress, your classes will become more computer engineering-centric, but the integration doesn’t disappear even there. Your instructors will be experienced with thinking beyond their discipline and collaborating with specialists of all kinds.
Current interdisciplinary projects include:
- Elder Care: Computer and electrical engineers, computer scientists, nurses and social workers collaborate to design sensor-rich environments for monitoring and protecting the elderly in their homes, without invading their privacy.
- Geospatial Intelligence: The geology, computer science and engineering departments work together to develop computer software to sift through and analyze geospatial information for the Department of Defense.
Computer Engineering vs. Electrical Engineering
Some view computer engineering as a specialty of electrical engineering with the same signal processing, circuit design and communications systems. And if you look at the 4 year course schedules, they are fairly similar. So why is computer engineering its own degree?
It is, in fact, unique and complicated enough that it merits its own category. If you ask questions like, “Can the chip actually do this?” or “What happens in the box?” or “What does this thing on the board do?” then you’re probably suited for computer engineering.
Put it this way: When you see posted pictures of deconstructed iPhones online and you know what was going on (or want to), then CE is probably for you.
For further specialization and diversification of your skillset, not to mention boosting your resume and hands-on experience, there are those numerous research opportunities we mentioned above. There’s a good chance you can end up in one of those shiny labs.
Your degree is what you make of it
In 2009, 4,857 students graduated with a bachelor’s in computer engineering in the United States. That’s pretty stiff competition, and all of them will be looking to stand out from the pack.
Remember the theoretical degree? That’s what they all have, too, but we’ve been talking about augmenting, customization and seizing opportunities. In other words, taking an extra leap to go beyond the theoretical degree with some solid, practical experience that tells employers you have the initiative to venture out of the classroom, or cubicle.
MU’s competition teams, internship opportunities, and co-ops are where you’ll be taking all that theory and getting down and dirty with real, practical experience -not to mention the fame and glory.
Imagine someone walking up to you, handing you $15,000 and saying, “Here, build a Formula Race Car with this. Good luck,” and walking away. This is essentially what happens with MU’s Formula SAE team every year.
If you build it, they will come
Each competition team has its particular applications for each engineering discipline, but what they all have in common is the radical idea of engineers working together for a tangible finished product you’ll be able to point at in the end and say, “See? I built that.” Teams include the Formula SAE race car and Tigergen, building a hydrogen powered car from scratch. Then there’s AIAA (rockets!) and Basic Utility Vehicle.
On the academic organization side, there’s the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, or IEEE, and Eta Kappa Nu. Within IEEE alone there are opportunities to work on manned aerial vehicles, robotics and black box competitions. You’ll get further chances to expand your education with field trips to Boeing and Fermilab.
126 credit hours later
At some point, after all of the theory, research, and internships, the question will be asked, “Why am I getting this degree again?”
One of the appeals of computer engineering comes from the ability to develop new products and be hands-on about it. For a simple illustration, you don’t have to look any farther than the senior capstone projects.
Civil and chemical engineering students can’t very well fabricate a chemical plant or community power grid in the classroom, so their final product is at most plans and blueprints. The computer engineering student can be just as comfortable in the abstract realms of design, but the project process goes further than just the mind and the computer. At the end, there will be a physical product that the engineer has designed, built and debugged with their own hands.
In other words, if you like poking and prodding at shiny computer-like objects, CE might just be for you.