Educating future technology engineers

Students in FutureG Summer Research Camp gain experience with wireless communications technology

A group of students pose for a photo at an engineering summer camp.

Yanchao Zhang (left), a professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, and Robert LiKamWa (second from left), a Fulton Schools associate professor of electrical engineering with a joint appointment in ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering, pose for a photo with students participating in the FutureG Summer Research Camp at ASU’s Media and Immersive eXperience, or MIX, Center. The camp, which took place over five days in May, exposed 25 Fulton Schools students to engineering disciplines relevant to electronics. Photo courtesy Yanchao Zhang


While much of the world’s wireless communications technologies, such as cell phones, run on 5G mobile networks, engineers already have their eyes on developing future-generation networks. One of these engineers is Yanchao Zhang, a professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

Zhang runs the DOD Center of Excellence in Future Generation Wireless Technology, or FutureG Center of Excellence. Led by ASU and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the center includes collaborators from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. DOD and The Ohio State University.

The FutureG Center of Excellence aims to advance mobile network technology for wireless communications that are more secure, faster and more reliable. Artificial intelligence, or AI, and machine learning are also up for potential inclusion.

The center also has outreach and workforce development initiatives to increase the number of workers in the wireless communications engineering field. As part of this initiative, the center hosted a five-day FutureG Summer Research Camp on ASU’s Tempe campus in May that is planned yearly.

The inaugural camp hosted 25 undergraduate students from the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering and the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, both part of the Fulton Schools. The participants learned about a variety of engineering disciplines related to electronics, including cybersecurity, signal processing, augmented and virtual reality, or AR and VR.

Exploring career paths in electronics engineering

To choose the 25 students, Zhang and his colleagues in the FutureG Center of Excellence — Antonia Papandreou-Suppappola and Chaitali Chakrabarti, both Fulton Schools professors of electrical engineering — selected from 78 applicants.

“I was thrilled to see so many motivated, highly qualified young minds interested in cutting-edge research topics,” he says. “Notably, half of the participants were women and underrepresented minority students, who were selected based on the same criteria as all applicants.”

In line with the Fulton Schools value of building a foundation for all to be successful, students participated in sessions each day featuring lectures and demonstrations from experts in the topic areas. The presenters beyond Zhang included a variety of Fulton Schools electrical and computer engineering and computer science faculty members and external FutureG Center of Excellence collaborators.

“The goal of this summer camp is to expose highly qualified Fulton Schools undergraduate students to the latest topics and opportunities in the future generation wireless technology field and within the FutureG Center of Excellence,” Zhang says. “We aim to motivate their academic and research interests in the future wireless technology area, ultimately contributing to the U.S. workforce in this field.”

Among the student participants inspired to further research future wireless communications technology is Diego Quintero, a Fulton Schools undergraduate student majoring in electrical engineering who just completed his sophomore year.

Before the program, Quintero was only considering studying electrical engineering through the Fulton Schools accelerated master’s degree program, which enables students to complete graduate coursework while completing their bachelor’s degree, saving them time. Now he’s planning to apply to the program in the 2024–25 academic year.

Quintero says the FutureG summer camp helped him understand how the engineering skills he learned in the classroom are applied to technology development.

“Learning about such fascinating advancements in the thriving tech industry has strengthened my ideologies and passion for pursuing a career in this field,” he says. “There are so many interesting careers and research opportunities. I believe it’s a great way to learn more about specific roles in engineering.”

Expanding upon newly learned skills

For Mounia Bazzi, an undergraduate electrical engineering student who just completed the first year of her program, the FutureG summer camp helped her build on principles she learned while exploring engineering specializations. While Bazzi initially learned about using the MATLAB programming software in her FSE 100: Introduction to Engineering class, she explored MATLAB’s signal processing tools in a session led by Papandreou-Suppappola.

Bazzi found that hearing from graduate students who are working with session presenters was especially helpful in learning about research conducted at ASU. The presentations inspired her interest to pursue her own research, and she contacted Guoliang Xue, a Fulton Schools professor of computer science and engineering involved in the camp, to ask if she could work under him in fall 2024.

Bazzi says her favorite part of the experience was the final day of the camp, which took place at ASU’s Media and Immersive eXperience Center, or MIX Center.

“The most fun part of the camp was experiencing AR and VR systems with Dr. Robert LiKamWa,” Bazzi says. “After going through different VR immersive narratives, we formed groups and used Dreamscape to build our own VR world that we then got to experience.”

Gaining an electrical engineering perspective

The session led by LiKamWa, a Fulton Schools associate professor of electrical engineering with a joint appointment in ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering, was also Shannen Aganon’s favorite part of the camp.

“Exploring and developing VR experiences was both exciting and educational,” says Aganon, a rising senior majoring in computer science. “It is definitely interesting to see how immersive technology can transform so much.”

During the camp, Aganon aimed to learn more about different engineering fields within electrical engineering.

“Attending this camp session broadened my appreciation of how different engineering disciplines interconnect and definitely allowed me to reach my goal,” she says.

Aganon says the camp confirmed her passion for engineering through the variety offered within the field and the hands-on collaborative activities. She also enjoyed the networking, new friendships and skills the camp taught her.

“If you would like a unique way to gain hands-on experience, this camp offers invaluable opportunities,” Aganon says.

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