I encourage my students to follow their passions. I ask them to find the intersection of what they’re personally interested in and my courses.

Michael Thompson

Professor Michael "Stu" Thompson, electrical & computer engineering, says his favorite thing about teaching at Bucknell is the opportunity to work closely with undergraduates. "The primary focus here is on creating great engineers through practical experiences," he says. "And I like to take a hands-on, group-oriented approach. In today's world, engineering is all about collaboration."

Thompson's courses include digital design, computer networking and mobile computing, but he says his favorite by far is Senior Design, a course that lets students tackle real problems from real businesses. Projects have included a sensor network to measure a building's interior environmental conditions and energy usage; a system to capture the contents of a classroom whiteboard after filtering out foreground obstacles such as people; and a low-cost satellite-imaging unit that amateur sky-watchers can build themselves from existing parts.

Thompson says many of the projects come from Bucknell alumni who now have businesses of their own and understand what his students have to offer. Other exciting challenges come through Bucknell's Small Business Development Center, which helps fledgling businesses tap into University resources.

Thompson proudly notes that his students have access to the latest in fabrication equipment including state-of-the-art 3D printers, a pick-and-place machine and a soldering oven. And, he says, the equipment is always being updated. "There's a lot of support for technology and innovation here."

Bucknell's partnership with Geisinger Health System, located in nearby Danville, provides yet another opportunity for creative challenge. Thompson's students are working with the Department of Biomedical Engineering and medical experts at the Geisinger-Bucknell Autism and Developmental Medicine Center to help doctors diagnose ADHD. By leveraging off-the-shelf sensor systems and smartphones, Thompson's team and medical experts are able to record the movements of children on the ADHD spectrum and compare the results to those from control groups.

"Having the opportunity to work on a project like this as an undergraduate is rare," says Thompson. "And it's a chance to really make a difference."

Posted Sept. 22, 2014