December 02, 2004

Engineering students win competition

by K.C. Jaehnig


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two electrical and computer engineering students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale won the Black Box Competition sponsored by the St. Louis section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Nov. 12 at the University of Missouri Rolla.

Carbondale seniors Jared T. Burde (2016 Norwood Drive) and Paul C. Miller (275 Kelly Rae Lane) took first place in the annual contest, in which students attempt to figure out the contents of the box by measuring the signals it emits. The SIUC contingent also included seniors Justin E. Chapman of Murphysboro (2315 Roblee Ave.), Brad N. Musick of Secor (571 County Road 2000E) and Raoul Quedraogo of Front Royal, Va. In addition to students from the Rolla campus, teams from St. Louis University and Washington University took part as well.

"The competition really tests the students' practical knowledge," said Professor Shirshak K. Dhali, who coached the SIUC teams. "They have to understand the material in order to figure out what's in the box that's giving them the response."

SIUC students had not competed in the contest in previous years. In fact, they only found out about it the week before this year's event took place.

"This didn't leave a whole lot of time for preparation," Miller said in an e-mail interview.

"None of us had ever taken part in a black box competition so we didn't really know what to expect."

Miller credited Dhali for his "quick refresher/crash course" on circuits in helping the SIUC teams get ready for the competition.

"His suggestions on how to approach the problem was the only reason we had any success," Miller said.

While the contest was a lot of fun, it was also hard, Miller noted.

"In fact, we didn't think that that we were doing very well at first," he said. "However, we presented our reasoning in a very clear and organized manner. This, I feel, was the biggest factor in our success."

As the winner of this year's contest, SIUC will host the event next year.

Shaping high-quality undergraduate programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

(Caption: Black Box battalion — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s engineering students won the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Black Box Competition Nov. 12 — the first year they ever entered the contest, which is sponsored by the institute’s St. Louis section. Pictured are (from left): Associate Professor Frances J. Harackiewicz, faculty advisor; first-place winners Paul C. Miller and Jared T. Burde, both seniors from Carbondale; Professor Shirshak K. Dhali, team coach; and Shawn M. Muir, chair of the institute’s student chapter at SIUC.)