MacDonald Teaches Chip Design in Chile
NADIA MACIAS | July 31, 2012 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Dr. MacDonald and his Chilean host Dr. Gonzalez
For a group of Chilean engineering students, UTEP engineering Associate Professor Eric MacDonald's visit to Universidad Federico Técnica Santa María (USM) was groundbreaking.
For the first time, the students were given the chance to manufacture computer chips in the United States that they had designed in class in Chile.
MacDonald, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, spent four months at USM in late 2011 on a Fulbright Fellowship to teach Digital Integrated Circuit Design to undergraduate and graduate students. While there, he obtained a grant from MOSIS, a prototyping service for circuit development based at the University of Southern California, to fabricate the chips designed by his Chilean students.
"Working with Professor MacDonald was very helpful for us because he brought practical experience to the university that we did not have," said Gonzalo Carrasco, one of the students who took MacDonald's course.
After fabricating the chips, students tested the different applications, including Guitar Hero and Simon Says games and a 2-D to 3-D LED display program that played the Star Wars theme song using floppy disk drives.
For Carrasco, that was the biggest learning experience.
"The great contribution was to have learned how to take the electronic digital design and finally be able to build it for specific applications," he said.
The Fulbright Scholar Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government designed to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. Recipients of the fellowship are given the opportunity to study, teach, research and exchange ideas with people from around the world.
"USM is one of the best engineering schools in South America, so I was delighted to be invited there as a Fulbrighter," MacDonald said. "One of my goals was to improve my Spanish over the four months, which was a challenge. Chilean Spanish is beautiful but dramatically different from here on the border."
Joseph Pierluissi, Ph.D., professor and chair of UTEP's electrical and computer engineering department, said MacDonald's work in Chile was a boon to the department.
"It is a great satisfaction to claim that we have a colleague in our midst contributing significantly to a program so supportive of the humanitarian goal of global understanding through the exchange of advanced technological education," Pierluissi said.
MacDonald, who teaches embedded systems and microelectronics, has worked for such companies as IBM and Motorola. His main expertise is in 3-D structural and low power electronics. Since he came to the University in 2003, he has brought in more than $2.5 million in research funding.
"We in the ECE department are very pleased with MacDonald's dedication," Pierluissi said. "We are proud of his outstanding work in representing in Chile the high technical level of our local academic programs in the microelectronics area."