student Stef

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Engineering today’s science fiction

More than a hundred years ago, ambitious inventors entered the magical world of electricity for the first time. Experimental scientists like Graham Bell and Nicola Tesla amazed the world with ground-breaking inventions such as the telephone and the electrical (AC) motor. Back in the day, these technologies were completely new to mankind and marked the beginning of an era full of technological progress.

Following these inventions, electricity quickly gained ground in daily life and provided everyone with a relatively cheap source of energy. It is still one of mankind’s greatest inventions. The field of electrical engineering soared and the number of electrical applications grew exponentially. Even more amazing is the fact that it continues to grow to this day.

Current trends towards smaller and more low-power electronics allow for electrical enhancements in even more areas, providing the world with smart fridges, thermostats and security systems; all interconnected through the Internet of Things.

We owe much of the innovation in the field of electrical engineering to the strong collaboration between research institutes and industry. While the research institutes provide motivated students with a solid foundation to shape the world of the future, electrical industries make use of the knowledge provided by these engineers to develop the products of tomorrow. This is the very reason why curriculum topics closely relate to the knowledge required in industry and why engineers give guest lectures to students.

The field of electrical engineering is developing rapidly. The number of applications increases and their complexity keeps on growing. This requires students to specialise early on, to have enough time to shape the foundation needed for the continuous development of newer systems. This complexity is exactly what makes Electrical Engineering so rewarding and magical.

Although it is quite hard to imagine what forms the innovations of tomorrow will take, we can try to visualise what science fiction may become tomorrow’s reality. As electrical engineering covers topics ranging from large radar systems to miniscule laboratory systems on a single chip, the technological development is huge. Think of implantable technologies that enhance our human capabilities or entire fleets of automated systems taking care of our healthcare and public services.

Today, these applications seem just as futuristic as back when Nicola Tesla developed the prototype of his revolutionary AC electromotor. One thing is for certain though: we will be amazed over and over again as Electrical Engineering students continue to engineer today’s science fiction.

Stef wrote this column as contribution to the U-Today special about Electrical Engineering, 2019.

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