New CreatorSpace invites students to explore electrical and computer engineering

In the background, a prominent wall sign reading "ECE CreatorSpace" set in a graphic mimicking chalkboard drawings of radar dishes, robots, rockets, antennae, circuit boards, and alternative energy doodles. In the foreground, an array of 3D-printers and printed objects on a counter with a lab sink and cabinetry below.
The ECE CreatorSpace

A new place for collaboration, experimentation and invention is tucked away in the basement of the engineering building.

The CreatorSpace is intended to engage students in the excitement of electrical and computer engineering, or ECE.

“Since opening last month, the space has been used by more and more people for their projects, workshops or just studying,” said Joey Reback, computer engineering undergraduate student. “It is a testament to how much a space like this was needed.”

Fostering creativity, community

Elementary school students observe as an engineering student demonstrates how to use a 3D printer in front of the ECE CreatorSpace sign.
Students printed 3-D components for their robots as part of the MiniBots workshop held in the CreatorSpace.

The ECE CreatorSpace is designed to evoke a playful, welcoming vibe where students can connect and thrive.

“Creativity and collaboration are at the heart of what we do,” said Edwin Chong, ECE department head. “We wanted a space where all students feel welcome and emboldened to create.”

It’s impossible to miss the room’s eye-catching mural that serves as the backdrop for an array of high-tech gadgets, including colorful 3-D printers. The mural captures the imagination with its chalkboard-like doodles that represent the vast field of electrical and computer engineering – everything from satellites to robots to lasers.

“ECE has an image problem,” said Chong. “We are the drivers of innovation, yet many people don’t know what we do. The mural is a tool to help us educate prospective students about our field and the critical role we play in society.”

Improving recruitment, retention

The ECE CreatorSpace was made possible by seed funding from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering through an initiative aimed at enhancing the first-year experience for undergraduates.

The ECE department sought funding for the CreatorSpace to help move the needle on its mission to attract and retain more students, especially women and historically underrepresented populations.

“Research confirms that culture is a vital factor in attracting and retaining women in tech fields, said Chong. “We knew we had to do better.”

Open 24/7 for students, faculty and staff, the ECE CreatorSpace is home to new workshops and outreach events designed to reduce equity barriers and foster a culture of inclusion. The department has already hosted groups of local middle school students for tours and interactive demonstrations. Besides learning about ECE career paths, the students participated in a variety of hands-on activities that show electrical and computer engineering in action – from speech recognition technologies that drive Siri and Alexa to object recognition tools that enable self-driving cars.

“We hope our CreatorSpace will encourage more of these student-oriented workspaces for ECE, engineering and other departments on campus,” said Reback.

The ECE department will host an open house in the CreatorSpace (Engineering C11) on Thursday, May 4, 2-4 p.m. The event is open to all students, faculty and staff in the College.