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What does a computer engineer do?
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Monday, October 18, 2010

What does a computer engineer do?

I’m often asked by potential future students and (sometimes) their parents the question “What does a computer engineer (CE) do?”.  That’s always a hard question to answer for me because CE’s have a broad opportunity spectrum (in my opinion).  Even this weekend I’ve received an email from a local high school student asking “how many hours a CE works” and “Is it stressful” and also “what do you enjoy the most?”

So what do CE’s do?  The heart of the field would be the design of computer systems (from individual chip components to aggregation of other computer subsystems) for use in all kinds of systems.  It’s to think about something that hasn’t been implemented with a built-in computer system these days.  Shoes have them (See Nike), phones are computers, doors, ticket takers use them, stock boys have them to count more quickly, cruise ship directors use them to track guests, I even saw a computer table top built for Catan (the best board game on the planet), All those things had to designed by someone and it was probably a computer engineer…

But that’s not all they do.. The knowledge required to do that enables them to do other things too.  They can work as programmers, software engineers developing huge programs for companies, network engineers (like what I did), operating system developers, IT support staff, consultants, and a few even go into things like sales and (even—gasp) teaching!  There really is so much they can do that It’s hard to answer any specific question about it. 

So my answer to the question “What do computer engineers do?” is “Think of something that has a computer in it, and computer engineers are involved in that in some way!”

But one other thing CE’s do is win my contests.  Yes, Andrew Yeilding (a former student of ours) who is a CE working at a local firm here that’s hired a lot of our graduates responded with the most number of correct answers to the Eagle Eyeball Benders puzzle I posted 10 days ago.  Andrew recognized the Payne Athletic Center, Lawson Pavilion Seam, a flag in the chapel auditorium, cookies (but they are from the caf), a chair foot in the auditorium, the date on the south side of the clock tower, a ping pong table, clock tower face, scott chapel, and the bottom of the gumball machine outside my office.  He missed the bronze placque showing the neck of Pat Lawson in the conservatory, the name on the plaque outside the Hardeman Auditorium (Olive is one), the flag pole in front of DAH.  Andrew, send me an address and I’ll drop a prize in the mail to you soon!

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