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Electrical And Computer Engineering: A Unified Discipline

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

ECE Pedagogy and Assessment II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.477.1 - 13.477.9



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Paper Authors

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Bruce Krogh Carnegie Mellon University

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Tsuhan Chen Carnegie Mellon University

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Tuviah Schlesinger Carnegie Mellon University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Electrical and Computer Engineering as a Unified Discipline

Bruce H. Krogh, Tsuhan Chen and T. E. Schlesinger Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 15235 email: {krogh|chen|ed}


Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) (and departments with similar names) emerged during the past twenty years in response to the growth of computer engineering as a distinct discipline. Most ECE departments still offer two separate bachelors degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering, and ABET has two distinct accreditation requirements for programs in electrical engineering and programs with "computer engineering" in their titles. This paper argues that this distinction between "electrical engineering" and "computer engineering" is no longer useful or helpful in undergraduate ECE education. We believe all ECE students need a solid, unified foundation that cuts across the traditional boundaries and that advanced courses should be associated with more refined distinctions than the binary classification of EE vs. CE. We present a new ECE core curriculum that eliminates the outdated EE/CE distinction and describe how this core better prepares ECE students to pursue advanced courses and careers in all sub disciplines of ECE.


Despite the large number of “electrical and computer engineering” and similarly named departments at US universities, there are currently only 14 universities offering accredited BS degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering.1 Most universities continue to have separate BS degree programs in Electrical Engineering (268) and Computer Engineering or Computer Systems Engineering (165).1 Our university introduced the BS in ECE as a single degree over 15 years ago.2 This curriculum, which we continue to follow today, offers students enough flexibility to choose among many options, either specializing in a particular sub discipline or taking a broad range of courses from across the wide spectrum of topics that fall under the ECE umbrella. Nevertheless, we implicitly retained the traditional distinction between EE and CE by naming our two sophomore core courses: “Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering” and “Fundamentals of Computer Engineering.” We now believe that for several important reasons making this explicit distinction between EE and CE is not useful at the undergraduate level, and that we will better serve our students by presenting our field in a more unified manner. This paper describes our reasons for thinking it is even more critical now than ever before to remove the EE vs. CE distinction, and how we plan to do this through changes in our core curriculum.

Does ECE = EE + CE?

“Many authorities believe that the two fields of "electrical and electronics engineering" and "computer science and engineering" have now established

Krogh, B., & Chen, T., & Schlesinger, T. (2008, June), Electrical And Computer Engineering: A Unified Discipline Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3523

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