From the press release:

ECE ILLINOIS launches Saturday Engineering for Everyone

A new open and free lecture series called Saturday Engineering for Everyone, is aimed at non-engineers of all backgrounds who are interested in learning about engineering.

The inaugural series will be held on six Saturdays during the Spring 2014 semester, with the initial talk by Professor J. Gary Eden scheduled for February 1. Lectures are from10:15-11:30 a.m. in 151 Everitt Lab, 1406 W. Green Street, Urbana, with refreshments served starting at 10 a.m.

To see the full schedule of lecturers and topics, please visit http://www.ece.illinois.edu/calendar/saturday.asp

Electrical and Computer Engineering professors P. Scott Carney, Andy Singer, and Naresh Shanbhag organized the series as a companion to Saturday Physics for Everyone, a similar series held each fall by the Physics Department. The Physics series has drawn sustained interest from members of the community: high school students, lifelong-learning retirees, and people of many backgrounds in between. SaturdayEngineering aims to attract just as diverse of a population.

The goal of the series is to make engineering accessible for those without a background in engineering, though engineering students are encouraged to attend.

“As organizers, our job is to handpick people we know can give a great public general talk,” Carney said. One of those is Professor Eden, the Gilmore Family Endowed Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering.  “Gary is a master of taking very sophisticated ideas and making them accessible to anyone, and making it exciting for them.”

The organizers have encouraged the speakers to use demonstrations in order to increase engagement of the material, providing the attendees with the opportunity to see what’s happening firsthand. “They can get a really visceral understanding of the fundamental concepts,” Carney said.

Carney sees Saturday Engineering for Everyone as an important contributor to the university’s public outreach mission.

“As a state university we have an obligation to provide outreach to the public, an opportunity for people to learn about what we do at the university, and to be part of the cutting-edge research going on in their own neighborhood,” he said.

By recruiting distinguished professors to present relevant topics in their field, the lecture series highlights the practical applications of the college’s work.

The February 1 lecture is titled “Going where no plasma has gone before: Plasmas and their impact on lighting, water disinfection, and medical therapeutics.” Subsequent lectures will cover the inner workings of smartphones and other electronic devices, nanotechnology, and underwater acoustics.