What is Computer Engineering?

Detailed Curriculum Plans

Computer engineering, the fastest growing engineering field for the past few years, is a very broad discipline which addresses the relationship and interactions between software and hardware in solving real engineering problems. This includes such diverse areas as: biomedical devices, environmental controls, automobile control systems and intelligent vehicle highway systems, voice/speech recognition, computer intelligence, and cellular communications.

The phenomenal growth in this field has been fueled by rapid advances in integrated-circuit microprocessors and solid-state memories, which have brought about enormous computing power in small packages and at low cost. The telephone provides a perfect example of the integration of the newest technologies in a large, complex, electronic system controlled by computers and micro-processors. Fiber optics, networking and wireless communications are among the many technologies incorporated into the telephone system in recent years. Computers have been added to control the system and provide many specialized custom services. One of the most important tasks of the computers is to determine the best path for routing a call and to complete the connection to the destination.

Computer Engineering has as its educational objectives to produce graduates who:

  • Engineering problem definition and solution using engineering analysis, experimentation, and creativity based on sound mathematical and scientific principles.
  • Electrical/computer systems, components, processes design requiring knowledge of the discipline, teamwork, communication skills and an ability to work with a diverse set of constraints.
  • Productive engineering practice, research or management using technical, hands-on and professional knowledge, skills and initiatives required for success in the public, private or academic sectors.
  • Continuing education and learning on the job, experiential learning, leading and mentoring others and the ability to apply lessons learned to new situations.

The computer engineering program emphasizes three broad technical areas: computer architectures, software design, and applications of microprocessors; communications and digital signal processing; and microelectronic design, layout and fabrication of digital integrated circuits. The undergraduate curriculum takes the student through the engineering and computing sciences, introduces design methodology, and culminates in a major design project.

Computer Engineering or Computer Science?

Small Microcontroller PCBWhat sets computer engineering apart from either electrical engineering or computer science is that it combines expertise in both electronic hardware and software design. The computer engineer has the understanding to evaluate the possible trade-offs between hardware and software and to provide the best system at the lowest cost, that is, the optimum design for a computer-based system.

In different jobs or at different times, the computer engineer may focus more on software or on hardware, but an appreciation for the integration of the two is always implicit in the work. While design is the heart of the engineering profession, computer engineers perform other functions in research and development, manufacturing, technical sales, management, and teaching.

Computer Science primarily deals with how to solve computation using computer systems, hence there is more emphasis in software. Computer Engineering primarily deals with how to build computer systems, hence there is more emphasis in hardware and low-level software that make up the systems.