Frequently Asked Questions about the ECEE & AME Concentration

What is the EE&AME concentration about?

The EE & AME concentration provides EE students an opportunity to engage with various humanistic fields such as the arts, humanities, and philosophy. What you can expect out of this inter disciplinary engagement is a more critical outlook towards reflecting on the artifacts, algorithms, and theories of engineering and science, as it pertains to the role of technology in human society and culture. The hope is that this training would provide engineers with a broader exposure to philosophical ideas that they could use in their careers as a basis to propose new applications and algorithms rooted in humanistic perspectives, as opposed to technology for technology’s sake.

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What is the course-load for students in this concentration?

As a concentration student, your home department is ECEE, and the general requirements are laid out by ECEE in terms of course requirements. The thumb-rule is that you take 2/3rd of classes in ECEE, and 1/3rd of your classes in AME. This works out to 7 classes in ECEE and 3 classes in AME if you come in for a MS+PhD program. If you already hold the M.S. degree from ASU, the typical course load is 4 classes in ECEE and 2 classes in AME.

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What classes in AME do students in this concentration typically take?

There are various graduate classes spanning from the more philosophical such as Experiential Media Theory, to more specific ones based on your interest. For example, if you are interested in modeling human activities for interactive systems, you could consider taking ‘Understanding Activity’. If you are interested in interactive systems for education, you could consider taking ‘Learning Installations’. Please talk to faculty or your advisor for a clearer understanding of these classes.

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What are the right expectations to have from AME graduate classes?

As an ECEE graduate student, you will learn the core engineering concepts in the ECEE classes. In the AME graduate classes, you will be exposed to broader critiques which will help you understand why a particular technology or algorithm might or might not make sense in a particular application, but you will not be taught very many fundamental algorithms, such as those taught in the engineering classes. You can expect to work with students outside of your background, such as from the arts and media design, and be expected to pose an interesting question or application, and contribute your skills towards answering the question or building a working system that may provide a way to answer the posed question. Sounds interesting? Please see below for feedback from real students who took these classes successfully.

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What is the feedback from ECEE students on some of these classes?

We provide below anonymized feedback from a few ECEE students who have taken AME classes, and have produced successful outcomes.

On what to expect in AME classes

As an EE my biggest learning from AME classes have been thinking about the bigger picture to any research problem. Working on projects that require people from diverse backgrounds to contribute gives me the perspective that engineering is not the core of the problem but just a part of it. This helps any engineering student understand aspects of the project they would not have seen otherwise. The student must not expect to "learn" ideas of programming or general engineering because these are often used as tools for the course rather than being the subject matter itself.

Principles and general guidelines in certain non-engineering areas, including design, data visualization and sonification, interactive system, human behavior, etc.; Looking into real-world problems that are not readily defined in mathematical frameworks; Examples of good work in said areas, and different ways to think about evaluating and presenting your own work; Working with people from very different background and skill sets, and looking at problems from different perspectives.

In EE classes students are often given very specific solvable problems. In the AME course I took, there was more freedom for students to design their problem.

Students can expect to learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team with people from vastly different fields. This is of course a much different experience than in engineering classes, however by working with people of different disciplines students will learn things that they would never have a chance to in engineering classes.

Media theory 2 is a rich course that requires the student to be interested in contemplating ideas about technology. Again, as an EE student, my key take away from the course was how technology operates as a medium, i.e. not bothering about what goes inside a system but rather how the system is used to communicate a message. The Understanding activity course is a bit more technical (with coding and some math) than media theory and hence was much more comfortable to ease into the "AME school of thought" for a typical EE like myself.

On what not to expect in AME classes

Students should not expect a heavy dose of engineering theory in lecture. Rather, students will have to come up with solutions on their own, often having to research how to solve the specific problem that they encounter. I think that this is a better way to learn, rather than being force-fed concepts in a lecture hall.

In summary I think in the AME class I didn’t learn many new technical engineering skills, however the class provided to opportunity to use these skills in an interdisciplinary environment on problems that I would otherwise not have the chance to work on. AME classes will perhaps open students minds to different applications of engineering material. From the experience I had with the Understanding Activity class, it definitely broadened my viewpoint and allowed me to explore different applications of some of the engineering topics I had been studying.

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In what sequence should I take my classes in the concentration?

There is no easy answer to this as different students come with different levels of preparation and levels of comfort with inter-disciplinary material. We append below a few suggestions from past students, which shows the variety of approaches one could take.

I would suggest taking AME classes in the 2nd-4th semester, when the student is involved in some research project that is AME-related and can relate the course content with their work.

In the first semester, they can take some basic EE courses, like Random Signal Processing and Digital Image Processing. For more EE courses, they can follow the recommendation from ECEE department:

http://ecee.engineering.asu.edu/programs/graduate-electrical-engineering/sampleprograms/
http://ecee.engineering.asu.edu/programs/graduate-electrical-engineering/course-prerequisites-and-syllabus/

A student coming from a pure EE background will find it comforting to take a slightly more technical course (like understanding activity, social media mining, programming for social media etc.) that will give the student a good mix of both engineering and the AME style of thinking. The next course can be media theory that is a little more philosophical in its nature of study.

Some CS courses would be helpful, such as Data Visualization and Pattern Recognition.

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What are typical class projects in these classes, and how do engineering students contribute to these projects?

We provide below a sampling of projects from the ‘Understanding Activity’ class to illustrate the variety of projects students undertake.

Title: A Real-time System to Measure and Analyze Crowd Engagement

Brief Description: We explored the problem of measuring interest for classical forms of art in our previous project and as an extension to that we propose a solution to the problem of measuring engagement in the newer form of interactive works. We aim to answer the following questions – How engaging is this work?, how many people have been interested in it today? and What is the change in crowd engagement for a change in ambient conditions like lighting, music etc..?

Team Members:
  • Rushil Anirudh (ECEE + AME concentration, PhD student)
  • Vinay Venkataraman (ECEE PhD student)
  • Patrick McCracken (Digital Culture undergrad)
  • Nicole Williams (Media Arts and Sciences PhD student)
  • Christopher Dean (Digital Culture undergrad)
  • Danielle Havard (Digital Culture undergrad)

Title: Soma-tech Awareness

Brief Description: The goal of this project was to create a somatic experience wherein users could become more aware of their body movement through sonification. We focus on the sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit movements because they occur often and may be representative of a broader class of movements. In our system the user is given audio instructions that give suggestions for more efficient movement. As the user then performs the sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit movements, a Kinect camera keeps tracking their body. Data from the Kinect are then sent to Max/MSP to create real-time audio feedback.

Team Members:
  • Qiao Wang (ECEE + AME concentration, PhD student)
  • Kuldeep Kulkarni (ECEE + AME concentration, PhD student)
  • Andrea Silkey (Theater and Film, M.S. student)
  • Markus Renemann (Digital Culture undergrad)
  • Samuel Dodge (ECEE PhD student)

Title: Measuring and Influencing Social Behavior

Brief Description: Social interaction is, without saying, essential for growing one’s connections. Mixers though designed for mixing people may not be doing such a great job. Rather, people tend to play the safest route of social interaction by talking to those whom they already know, rather than jump into the fray. In this project we asked two questions: can we measure this phenomenon, and if so can we create feedback in order to encourage more successful social interaction?

Team Members:
  • Samuel Dodge (ECEE PhD student)
  • Kuldeep Kulkarni (ECEE + AME concentration, PhD student)
  • Matthew Mosher (Media Arts and Sciences, PhD student)

There were several other interesting projects, which are not listed above. The above projects specifically had involvement from ECEE students.

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Where have students from the ECEE + AME concentration found jobs and internships?

Past Graduates:

Current Student Internships:

  • Rushil Anirudh (PhD student), interned at Intuitive Surgicals (Summer 2013).
  • Kuldeep Kulkarni (PhD student), interned at Bausch and Lomb (Summer 2013).

How is the EE+AME concentration different from the Media Arts and Sciences (MAS) PhD program?

There are several differences between the two. Administratively, as a EE + AME concentration student, your home department is the ECEE department. Whereas the administrative home of the MAS PhD program is the School of Arts, Media, Engineering. The expectations of the MAS PhD program are quite different than those of the ECEE+AME concentration program both in terms of coursework and research outcomes. In the EE+AME concentration, as already discussed, 2/3rd of your coursework is in ECEE, and 1/3rd in AME. Further, in terms of research, you would be generally working on core engineering/computational problems as applied to inter-disciplinary problems, and you will be evaluated using ECEE guidelines in general. As a MAS PhD student, your research emphasis will much more driven by humanistic influences in technology design, than the engineering or technology itself, and you will be evaluated according to AME guidelines. Further information on the MAS PhD can be found at: http://ame.asu.edu/education/degrees/masphd.php

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Who can I speak with if I have questions on whether to apply for a traditional ECEE PhD or ECEE+AME concentration PhD or MAS?

Feel free to email ECEE+AME faculty members Pavan Turaga: pturaga@asu.edu or Andreas Spanias: spanias@asu.edu with your questions. We will either try to answer your questions or forward you to someone who can answer your question.

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