ECE Expeditions travels to Seattle

Students toured Amazon, Boeing, INRIX, Madrona Venture Partners, Microsoft, and Philips Healthcare in the Puget Sound area.

In late February, a group of over 20 undergraduate and graduate students took a journey around Seattle to meet with alumni and get an insider’s view of several companies.

This was the fourth ECE Expeditions trip, and the first to the Seattle. Previous trips traveled to San Francisco, Detroit, and local companies in Ann Arbor.

The group of students, along with Khalil Najafi, ECE Chair, and Jamie Phillips, professor of electrical and computer engineering, toured Amazon, Boeing, INRIX, Madrona Venture Partners, Microsoft, and Philips Healthcare.

Through ECE alumni, students received special access and tours. This included seeing the circuit boards within Philips’ latest ultrasound devices, playing augmented-reality games with Microsoft’s Hololens, watching humans and robots pack Amazon shipments, monitoring real-time traffic in INRIX’s control room, asking Madrona’s venture capitalists what they’re investing in, and walking on Boeing’s factory floor next to behemoth 777 and 787 in-production aircraft.

“The tour showed us the lives of everyday engineers,” says Ameya Gadkari, a junior studying computer engineering. “And, I think it helped me confirm that this is the degree that I want to do.”

Alumni such as Jordi Ribas (PhD EE:S ’96), Corporate Vice President of AI Products at Microsoft and Dawson Yee (MSE EE ’97), Hardware System Engineer and Architect for Hololens, Microsoft, talked with students about what career paths open up by studying electrical and computer engineering, how the discipline is fundamental to today’s cutting edge products and technology, and the specific engineering details that go into Microsoft AI and the Hololens.

Students also toured local landmarks, took in the views from the top of the Space Needle, and saw the fish thrown around Pike Place Market.

“I switched into electrical engineering, and this is my first semester in EECS classes,” says Katy Wolff, a junior. “Going on this trip let me make a bunch of friends in the department.”

Students saw firsthand how connections made in college could last long into their careers at an alumni reception sponsored by Amazon. Here, students and alumni shared interests, advice, and contact information.

“The alumni we spoke to were really passionate and knowledgeable, and they were eager to share that with other people,” says Greg Meyer, a senior in electrical engineering.

“Seeing the Michigan alumni network at work was really awesome to be a part of,” adds Wolff. “I’ve been emailing back and forth with an alumni I met from a satellite space systems startup.”

Only weeks after returning, other students already have plans to return. “I was able to get an internship at Philips this summer,” says Christine Campbell, a junior studying electrical engineering. “That was only because of the opportunity to meet hiring managers during our visit.”

The next ECE Expeditions trip will occur in the fall.