Over the last two years, Christoph Sielmann has been one of the Teaching Assistants supporting ECE’s capstones, a set of courses for 4th year undergraduates to work on projects proposed by industry. Teaching the capstone teams can be very challenging. The projects combine many aspects of electrical and computer engineering from analog electronics, FPGA implementations, networking software, or the opto-acoustic effect in biological tissues. Christoph’s background in power engineering, industry experience in heat temperature electronics, and critical infrastructure control system design as well as his graduate work in nanotechnology all come in handy.
Students are grateful to have such an experienced engineer with a varied technical background to work with, but it is his strength as a teacher that really has an impact. Christoph sets high standards for his students, and with a very thoughtful questioning process, provides them with the critical thinking tools to meet those standards. Dusan Milovanovic, an ECE student, describes Christoph’s approach to teaching this way, “He introduced a logical framework of engineering decision making that allowed us to have ownership over our own ideas. His process of prompting a question and observing our team work through it was an excellent teaching tool to foster our own critical thinking and interdependence. It’s very clear that Christoph’s goal is for students to make and understand their own decisions, as opposed to merely stating his technical opinions.”
The words “role model” come up often when students describe Christoph’s work. He patiently demonstrates his own methods of big-picture thinking and attention to detail, methods students are drawn to emulate. While working beside him, students also see a dedicated team member in action. Through discussions with Christoph, students learn how to navigate an engineer’s responsibility to a client, “We learned that, to be an engineer in the real world, we can’t just cater to the client’s requests, but have to apply our technical expertise to guide the client and tell them what we believe they really need,” says Kelvin Au, ECE student.
The university annually awards teaching prizes to sixteen UBC Teaching Assistants in recognition of the valuable role they play in our undergraduate programs. The Department is very pleased that Mr. Sielmann was one of the graduate students honoured with this award. Christoph is a Ph.D. candidate with ECE and also the lab manager of Walus Labs. His own research is focused on solid state nanostructures for heat to electrical energy conversion. You can find out about his research at the Walus Lab.
(In the image above Christoph, on the right, is working with a capstone team as they fine-tune their prototype.)