Kansas State University


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ECE Open House 2017

Full cast for Open House Skit

The 2017 Open House kicked off Friday, March 31 for engineering students.   The Engineering Open house theme “Engineered to Inspire” with Electrical and Computer Engineering selecting a departmental theme of “Mar’s Landing (To infinity and beyond)”.  ECE Students took this theme to heart and performed an original skit starring a spaceman (Tanner Weins) landing on Mars and saving a group of partying Martians (main Martian Zach Darpinian) by fixing their boom box with his electrical engineering skills.

Spaceman, Tanner Weins and Main Martian Zach Darpinian

April 1st launched the All-University open house and ECE answered the call with dynamic, interactive, creative displays designed and built by ECE students.  For the departmental display, a large team of 20 students developed and launched a high altitude weather balloon. (See article on space balloon) This was only the start.

Space Balloon team morning of launch

Graduate Displays

There were two graduate student displays.  Charles Carlson part of the Medical Component Design Laboratory displayed “Unobtrusive bed based ballistocardiogram monitor for severely disabled autistic children” a bed that uses sensors to monitor BCG and heart rates. The other project, presented by Garrett Peterson, “Ultra-wideband low complexity FMCW radar for agricultural purposes” which is designed to assist researchers in monitoring crop health.

Undergraduate displays

Undergraduate students had a large variety of displays highlighting what they have learned in classes and testing the limits of their creativity.

Miranda Dodson, a junior in electrical engineering, developed educational materials for an Inverted Pendulum Robot, to show part of the curriculum for a STEM outreach program.  Miranda was able to make contacts with area schools to begin to teach this stem program. “Mostly I gained the ability to connect with students, and faculty in a way I haven’t been able to before. Getting feedback for my STEM outreach program was a wonderful bonus.”

Damian Loya, a junior in electrical engineering and Steel Ring member, submitted several projects, two were LED signs. One which was an RGB sign with an intricate design cut using a laser cutter, the other a countdown to open house sign to encourage students to complete their Open House projects on time. “This was my third open house to participate, and every year we get stronger.  ECE is the only department where the majority of people create projects to challenge themselves, and the final products show their ingenuity.”

The Robotic Hand is a project created by senior in electrical engineering, Ethan Koch.  It allows the user to manipulate the robotic hand using a glove for input. “I chose this project because it is a very interactive way for myself and others to learn about robotics. I also wanted to spark an interest in engineering for my nieces and nephews and I thought that this would be a fun way for them to learn about it.”

One of ECE’s most popular displays for children is an Interactive Elevation Sandbox, created by senior Dustin Chew.  The sandbox contains kinetic sand and utilizes an Xbox 360 Kinect sensor to determine depth, this is then translated to a color with warm red tones being closer to the Kinect and cool blue further away.  This creates a “topographical map” effect.  Kids and adults both line up to play in the sand and see how their actions change the colors. “This project allowed me to go outside the normal coursework because I had never worked with a multilayered system like this before and it made programming more interesting, I can see this becoming a real hobby.”

Computer engineering junior, Harold Vilander, created a 2.4 GHz Power Detector that animates a LED ring when it receives a signal.  Using this opportunity as a personal challenge to he taught himself the basics of radio circuit design, this included inverted-F PCB antenna, impedance matched lines and RF amplifiers.  This detector would indicate Bluetooth and some Wi-Fi bands.  “I started wanting to learn more beyond my normal course work, to do that I wanted to make something that would require I learn more about the tools and processes needed to create electronic devices.  I also wanted to make something fun that would display well even if people did not automatically know how it works. Open house was an interesting opportunity to share my work with the public; I found this gratifying and was grateful to talk to recent alumni and have those networking opportunities.” He has received an award for the Department’s Choice of Best Open House Project.

One project stuck out for many open house visitors, the Laser Trip Maze. This interactive display challenges visitors to cross over and under beams of light to retrieve the prize at the end of the maze.  Just like a spy movie! The maze operates by projecting a laser then bouncing it off mirrors to a sensor when the sensor gets interrupted it sends a signal to a computer which then notifies the operator with a loud buzzing. The lights can be seen by using a haze machine to create a fog. This ongoing project started out as a single beam of light and has developed into a full blown maze.  To complete this task a large team was needed, this included Sam Rozell, James Lightner, Eleazar Lopez, Braden Heid, Damian Loya, William Lies, Hangyu Zhang, Jeremy Ebert, and Connor Perrine. This project took second for the Interactive Displays. “We were very happy with how things went, it was a very popular display and I felt like it got a lot of people interested in ECE” -Damian


There were several demonstrations during open house, including 3-D printing (courtesy of Dr. JK Kim), KSU Robotics demonstrated their Mercury competition robot, and a drone with a camera flew with video footage sent to a monitor for onlookers.

Curriculum Displays

Part of the purpose of Open House is to display projects completed as part of the core curriculum.  These projects included ECE 590 Senior Design’s LED wall (see article on LED wall for more information), LED cubes from ECE 241 Intro to Computer Engineering, a speaker from ECE 715 Electroacoustics, a large LED cube from ECE 590 Senior design, a drone from ECE 590 Senior design, and Tablet PC programmed to display alumni photos.


ECE’s open house chairs, Braden Heid and Jordan Disberger, worked extraordinarily hard and coordinated with over 100 volunteers to make an amazing open house. Their efforts did not go unnoticed as this year’s open house received amazing feedback from all the visitors.

“Overall my experience with open house was really positive, I hope that we inspired kids to want to become an electrical engineer, that they will be interested in becoming astronauts, that they will dream and know that creativity can take you anywhere. It’s really nice to see the department come together to display our department, our house together as a family to show people what we have been working on for the past year. “-Jordan

Open House chairs, Jordan Disberger and Braden Heid