April 7, 2014

Field trip to Silicon Valley

History of computing, corporate culture, and career insights all on the itinerary for Schulich engineering students

A couple dozen third and fourth year students in electrical and computing engineering in the Schulich School of Engineering went to Google, toured Microsoft and dropped by NASA during a week-long field trip to Silicon Valley, near San Francisco, last month.

Silicon Valley is home to a variety of industries with career and R+D opportunities in electrical and software engineering. The students also visited IBM, Intel, Cadence, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University. They learned the history behind several technological breakthroughs, including how miniature computers evolved, how billons of circuit elements are fabricated in one computer chip, how 3D cameras work and how atoms can be visualized with a transmission electron microscope.

"It was a great tour," says Anis Haque, senior instructor and associate director of students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering. "Taking students on an industrial field trip is an eye opener and once in a lifetime experience."

The students toured facilities, heard speakers from different companies and enjoyed "glimpses into the corporate cultures of today's tech giants," according to one student's evaluation of the trip. "It was a very good opportunity to understand IC/Nano fabrication, the programming/computer science industry and observe some leading research occurring in Silicon Valley," wrote another.

A third student said: "This tour gave me extraordinary insight that I simply cannot get here in Calgary or from a book or website."

Haque started taking students on field trips in 2011 with a trip to Silicon Valley. In 2012, he took students east to tour companies and universities in Ontario, New York and Boston and in 2013 they went to Texas to see NASA and other organizations.

The field trips, which are supported by the Schulich School Activity Fund and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, help students see their potential as a tech leader, builds their confidence and "takes them to a different level," says Haque.