Robots and transistors
"I sat in on one class and then I sat in with a professor and just talked to him about the department and electrical engineering. After that, Bucknell was one of my top choices."
Billy Raska '12, electrical engineering
Class of 2012 update: After graduation, Billy is headed to University of Richmond Law School.
"Bucknell has a similar environment to where I went to high school. A small school, kind of rural. After my first visit, I was really impressed with what I saw. I felt right at home. And then I came back for Engineering Day. That was very helpful. I sat in on one class and then I sat in with a professor and just talked to him about the department and electrical engineering. After that, Bucknell was one of my top choices.
"I'm majoring in electrical engineering, but I'm not 100 percent sure what I want to do with that degree. I'm up in the air on that because I want to go on to law school afterwards. One route that seems obvious is patent law. On the other hand, Bucknell has talks where alumni come in — one of whom was George Pierson (Class of '84) who came in to talk about engineers in the global environment. He has a law background and it was really interesting hearing about how a law background can help an engineering career.
"As an electrical engineer, I have worked a lot with digital circuits. This past summer, I did research with Professor Kundan Nepal. The goal of one project was to build a cheap processor board for use in mobile robotics. During the summer, I was able to create a board that had a small microprocessor and associated circuitry to connect it with other components. The robotics circuit board was designed to handle both analog and digital sensors and control multiple motors. The main idea was to build a 'cheap' but powerful board and use it for educational purposes here or maybe in a robot for a collegiate competition. This work with Professor Nepal prompted me to take a lead in starting a Mobile Autonomous Robotics Club (MARC) at Bucknell. The club currently has about 10 members and we are working on the design of two robots for an international contest held every year in Hartford, Conn.
"Next semester, I will be doing research with Professor Nepal on designing reliable digital logic circuits. Every year the computer chips in our laptops and phone become smaller and faster. The basic processing element inside any computer chip is a transistor. The small size of the transistor makes it faster, but also makes it more susceptible to random fluctuations in voltage and noise. Making sure these tiny computers perform reliably every single time requires a mechanism to detect and correct errors during a normal circuit operation. My research next semester will focus directly on ensuring the reliability of our nano-computers.
"The other big thing I've been doing out of the classroom this semester is intramurals. Last year, I was part of the Frisbee Club team and this year I toned it down a bit and started up a Frisbee team for intramurals. We have a big team and we have a lot of fun.
"There's a lot going on here and I find there is a lot to do on weekends. I'm part of the CHOICE residential program, where residents make a commitment to maintain a substance-free living space. They plan a lot of activities and I've done a lot of stuff with them — like a canoeing trip on the Susquehanna River that was a lot of fun. Coming up is a trip to Penn's Cave."
Billy is from Bridgewater, N.J.Posted Feb. 1, 2010