UALR Students Take First Place in IEEE Region 5 Design Competition

Thomas Epperson and Stephen Kirchner, juniors in UALR’s electronics and computer engineering technology (ECET) program, won first place in the design contest at the IEEE Region 5 annual conference April 16-17 in Baton Rouge, La.

Epperson and Kirchner competed against 24 teams from universities representing states in Region 5: Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming and parts of Illinois. They won a $500 cash prize and electronic gifts from National Instruments.

The design contest teams were given a blind engineering design problem, which they had to design on paper, build, write a report about, and make a presentation to the judges with a project cost estimate. The day-long competition ran from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and required integrating knowledge from various subject areas. The students were allowed to bring in one reference book.


ECET students Thomas Epperson (left) and Stephen Kirchner (right) celebrate with ECET professor Hirak Patangia after the students won first place in the IEEE design contest in Baton Rouge, La.

This year the project was a contemporary one – building an efficient, solar-powered LED garden light with a 3V solar panel and a 1.2V NiCad rechargeable battery to provide a power source at night. Powering the LED with the NiCad battery was the major challenge, requiring knowledge of power electronics and low-power digital design. The UALR team was the only team to fully complete the project. Second and third place were won by electrical engineering students from Texas and Oklahoma, respectively.

The IEEE Region 5 design contest was one part of a larger competition that included ethics and robotics contests. Five other UALR students participated in those competitions:

  • Robotics: Chris Elkins (ECET), Bob Rands (ECET and team leader), and Ryan Hicks (Systems Engineering, electrical emphasis)
  • Ethics: Kristle Hill (ECET) and Nikhil Gupta (ECET)

Dr. Hirak Patagnia, ECET Professor and Branch Counselor of IEEE, escorted the team to the competition, which also was attended by Janviere Umahoza, a Systems Engineering student who is an officer in the UALR chapter of IEEE.

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