Illinois Central College
Instructor: Steven Portscheller
Date: December 8, 2011
A Career to Change the World
Hi, my name is Nazmus Shakib Khandaker, and I want to study Electrical and Computer Engineering, making it a large part of my career. The question you, the reader, are likely to ask me is “why”? As simple as it maybe, this question is a valuable one. One should always ask oneself this question before making a big decision, especially one that can have a tremendous impact on one’s life’s career. Why did I pick this field? Believe it or not, but it’s because I want to help change the world!
What is the driving force for innovation? Of the many reasons, it is the need to make our lives easier and the world more accessible, from the discovery and utilization of the fire to inventing the internet. The will to innovate and to be an integral part of innovation plays an important role in my desire to become an electrical and computer engineer.
Innovations results in technology, which is defined as the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. If innovation aims to make our lives easier and the world more connected, we can imply technology as the tool that makes our lives easier and connected. What constitutes making something easier? Well, I would say that it is creating a technology that allows us to do things naturally with our body that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Cars, for example, let us use our feet to travel really fast (we use our foot to press the gas paddle). Another example would include a hammer, which lets us use our hands to manipulate strong objects.
Electrical and computer engineering has driven innovation to great frontiers, from computers, internet, to communications. These, too, allow our human body to do unimaginable things! The engineers are not only working to create more of these technologies, but also to take the current technology and make it more natural for us by designing these technology to fit our body’s natural abilities; this way, we can do even more amazing things. Computers, they once used text based inputs and outputs. Then, they had the Graphical User Interface (GUI), allowing graphics and a 2D interface. Our brain is able to work more efficiently in 2D space than 1D space, hence the success of the GUI. But our brain and body is designed to work even more efficiently in a 3D space, multitasking using two hands (rather than one, which we use when interfacing with the mouse), eyes, ears, and voice. Bill Buxton, Principle Researcher at Microsoft Research, states “Up until now, we have been shoving everything through a desktop metaphor, and that is a little bit like the old saying ‘if all you have is a hammer, you see the world as a bunch of nails.’ And guess what, the world isn’t a bunch of nails; so, let’s have the full gamut of tools” (Microsoft). And he is right! That is the reasons touch and voice inputs are becoming more prominent. Microsoft Research is researching ways to expand these input/output systems. Examples include objects being able to recognize other, everyday, objects, like a fridge being able to calculate the calories of each food contained in it; or a table recognizing a cellphone and expanding the phone’s display from the cellphone, allowing people to interact on a larger surface (Microsoft). The use of these natural bodily functions and object interaction is called the Natural User Interface, or NUI (Stilumant). We are only starting to see natural voice commands and air gestures become practical and reliable, and there are huge amounts of work still needed to be done!
Another space that the field of electrical and computer engineering is venturing into is the internet and its use to connect and share. Andrew Kantor, technology writer of USA Today, notes that we have become completely dependent on taking all our data with us and having access to everything (Kantor). Let’s not forget networks like Facebook that just made reaching someone on the other side of the earth easier than walking over to a neighbor’s house! But this is just the beginning. Research is happening to let everything in this world and outside of this world being connected and accessible. Imagine being able to seamlessly control stuff in your house from miles away, or asking your car to drive your kids to school right from your office! It’s all down the road, according to the 2007 EG Conference (Kelly)!
All this is just scratching the surface! But it is very clear that humanity has reached an interesting stage of innovation where we have achieved the unimaginable but are yet to be awed about what is yet to come! I want a part of this! I want to help drive the innovation and, at the same time, be inspired and thrilled by innovations that happen around me, from other entities!