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High-Tech Hardware Gift Elevates Learning for UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering Students

By: Kimberly J. Lewis | November 21, 2023

Reza Abdolvand, Ph.D., chair of UCF’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, couldn’t be happier about the new advanced electrical engineering equipment that arrived recently in the wireless communications lab at the University of Central Florida.

The new technology will help modernize the lab and provide industry-relevant learning opportunities for hundreds of electrical and computer engineering students, Abdolvand says.

New signal generators, signal analyzers, and other high-speed electrical testing and measurement devices were donated to UCF’s ECE Department by Rohde & Schwarz, an international family-owned company that specializes in electrical test equipment and wireless communications products.

The donated instruments, valued at more than $100,000, are small-scale versions of Rohde & Schwarz’s state-of-the-art products that are widely used in industries worldwide to test and measure advanced components inside mobile and wireless communications devices and systems.

It’s exactly the type of gift that UCF electrical and computer engineering students need to gain hands-on experience using the same technology used in industry and prepare for high-tech jobs when they graduate.

George Atia, UCF associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who teaches fundamentals of communications systems, says the donation will benefit his students who study the foundations of digital data transmission and communication, including the theories of sampling, quantization, encoding and digital modulation.

“With this new lab equipment, the coursework will become more tangible,” Atia says. “My students can witness the practical application of digital signal processing and communication concepts that they encounter in the classroom. The generous donation will help upgrade our lab experiments, which will markedly improve our students’ overall learning experience.”

“We sincerely thank Rohde & Schwarz for their generous gift of this technology to UCF,” Abdolvand says. “This type of investment in engineering education is what will take our students to the next level. ECE students need state-of-the-art signal analyzers and other instruments that can keep up with advancing capabilities in this industry. I’ve always been impressed with the quality of Rohde & Schwarz equipment.”

Sachin Parekh, Rohde & Schwarz SE Region manager; Ria Patel, UCF electrical engineering student; David Douglas, lab manager, UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering; George Atia, Ph.D., associate professor, UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering; Paul Shaffer’09’13MS, application engineer, Rohde & Schwarz; Reza Abdolvand, Ph.D., professor and chair, UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Neil Ellenback’99, account manager, Rohde & Schwarz
L-R: Sachin Parekh, Rohde & Schwarz SE Region manager; Ria Patel, UCF electrical engineering student; David Douglas, lab manager, UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering; George Atia, Ph.D., associate professor, UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering; Paul Shaffer’09’13MS, application engineer, Rohde & Schwarz; Reza Abdolvand, Ph.D., professor and chair, UCF Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Neil Ellenback’99, account manager, Rohde & Schwarz.

The gift comes at a critical time for many industries experiencing transformational growth that relies on a skilled workforce of electrical and computer engineers. Recent U.S. government investment in semiconductor manufacturing through the CHIPS Act has uncovered a shortage of electrical engineers in the U.S., according to a May 2023 Kiplinger report.

Jobs are abundant in the nearly $200 billion mobile and wireless communications industry that supports cell phones, GPS systems, WiFi signaling and more. Technological advancements that make wireless communications faster and more secure are fueling the growth. Advances in wireless communications technology are driving the transformation of other industries such as transportation and energy and creating additional job demand for engineers.

UCF’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering helps meet the demand for electrical and computer engineers by producing a high volume of skilled graduates – approximately 400 per year – which, Abdolvand says, can only be accomplished with strong support from industry partners, including Rohde & Schwarz.

With a passion for helping students and his alma mater, Neil Ellenback’99, account manager at Rohde & Schwarz, helped orchestrate the equipment donation to UCF.

“I’ve seen many university electrical engineering labs,” Ellenback says. “I can confidently say that UCF is one of the top two best equipped electrical engineering labs in the entire southeast United States. And in the state of Florida, UCF has the most modern electrical engineering equipment. There’s a very high standard of quality here.”

Ellenback has worked with UCF as a business client and for talent acquisition for more than 15 years. “We are glad to expand the capabilities of the labs at UCF. This donation allows ECE to keep the curriculum updated so that students are current upon graduation,” he says.

With UCF’s level of lab excellence, Paul Shaffer’09’13MS, application engineer at Rohde & Schwarz and a UCF electrical engineering alumnus, says he knew that his company’s donated equipment would be put to great use and it’s why he wanted to help UCF’s ECE Department.

He wants students to know that Rohde & Schwarz offers abundant opportunities for UCF graduates. The Munich, Germany-based company employs 14,000 worldwide, with 700 employees in the U.S. with operations in California, Maryland, Oregon, Texas and the U.S. southeast including Florida.

Ellenback and Shaffer agree that the best benefit of working for Rohde & Schwarz is the ability to stay connected to UCF and help students.

“We’re alumni. We wanted to give to our school. The value of this gift goes beyond us.”