Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering

Black and white image of an Electrical Laboratory
  • 1880: Case School of Applied Science is established. Both Western Reserve University and the Case Institute of Technology combine to form the Department of Physics.  

  • 1884: The Department of Physics gives lectures in Sound and Electricity from their first departmental faculty including Albert A. Michelson of the seminal Michelson–Morley experiment in Physics. The catalogue of 1887-88 lists a four-year curriculum in Electrical Engineering, although no one was named as department head. 

  • 1895: The Board of Trustees authorizes a separate building planned by Dr. Langley, the first chair of the electrical engineering department.

  • 1950: An MS in Electronics is authorized, with graduate work in the department growing to 80 students working toward an advanced degree in 1951.

  • 1953: The late Don Eckman establishes the pioneering interdisciplinary research program in Process Automation. Eckman,already a world leader for his contributions to industrial process control, joined Mechanical Engineering two years earlier to start undergraduate and graduate programs in automatic control. This soon led to informal collaborations with Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering on courses, curricula and research. 

    • The Process Automation project gains wide recognition as the first reported research to demonstrate real-time computer control of a chemical process that used a mathematical model of the process to optimize economic performance. The project—now called the Control of Industrial Systems program—expands over the years in number of industrial sponsors, scope of the research, and supported students and faculty. For over 35 years, it comprises one of the major research and graduate study components of the Systems Engineering Department.

  • 1954: Provision made for the MS in Electrical Engineering in four fields: Power, Communications, Illuminations and Control. Provision also made for the MS in Electronics for undergraduates not in Electrical Engineering.
  • 1955: Construction is completed on the five-story Wm. E. Wickenden Electrical Engineering Building—named in honor of the third president of the college—that housed the offices and laboratories of the Electrical Engineering Department.

  • 1956: An IBM 650 is installed in the old chemistry building—forming our first computing center. The computing center then moves to the Quail building, which also holds Numerical Methods classes sponsored by engineering faculty. These included courses in Engineering, Mathematics and Operations Research—all of which have students using the center facilities. The computing activities then move to the Crawford Building with Professor E. L. Glaser as department chair. In subsequent years, the program sees a large number of majors. Faculty and students are involved in language development, artificial intelligence, numerical methods, logical design, graphics, operating systems design and analysis, and database design and research. The department then becomes the Department of Computer Engineering and Science.

  • 1959: The Process Automation Research Program, with its unique focus on control as a systems problem and its emphasis on interdisciplinary research, leads Eckman to the idea of a Systems Research Center (SRC)—the first such center anywhere. The center was established with the help of a generous Ford Foundation grant. The SRC provided the spawning grounds for subsequent activities in mathematical systems theory, information sciences and biomedical engineering.

  • 1960s: From the early to mid 1960s, an accredited Electrical Engineering degree program exists at Case Institute of Technology, but there is no electrical engineering department. Instead, senior professors head up research groups.

    • With the merger of the existing engineering departments into a single Division of Engineering, control engineering joins with the newly emerging areas of computers, information sciences, and systems to constitute the largest faculty grouping in the division. In time, the Departments of Systems Engineering and Computer Engineering and Sciences evolve out of this interest group.

  • 1962: Eckman dies in an automobile accident—an immeasurable loss to Case Institute of Technology and the control field. In his memory, the Automatic Control Council sets up the Eckman Award to recognize promising young professionals in the field. A list of recipients of this award reads like a Who's Who of current leaders in the field.

  • 1967: At about the same time as the Case Institute of Technology merges with Western Reserve College, the various Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics research efforts coalesce to form the Department of Electrical Sciences and Applied Physics with Professor Bruce W. Johnson as department head.

  • 1968: The Department of Electrical Sciences and Applied Physics moves from its Bingham Building quarters to spacious new quarters in the Glennan Building—built with NASA and alumni support. 

  • 1969: The Systems Research Center (SRC) is created, serving as a precursor to establishment of the Systems Engineering Department in 1969. Its Systems and Control Engineering degree program was the first in the country to be ABET accredited. 

  • 1970s: In the mid-1970s, the systems and control engineering program was housed within a separate department: the “Systems Engineering Department” and a research and graduate studies program in water resource systems was introduced. This marks the beginning of a steadily increasing commitment to large scale systems methodology applied to societal systems and problems involving decision making and policy analysis.

  • 1971: The Case Western Reserve University computer engineering program becomes the first accredited program of its type in the nation.

  • 1974: The Department of Electrical Sciences and Applied Physics is renamed the Department of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics. 

  • 1976: The profound changes taking place in computer hardware and software during this time promise to have substantial impact on real-time computer applications. As a result, serious studies are undertaken to determine the most appropriate ways to exploit these advances. The advent of the microprocessors in the mid-1970s leads to close cooperation between computer specialists and automatic control specialists and to an increasing focus on problems of distributed intelligence and decentralized control. To facilitate this cooperation at Case Western Reserve, the separate departments of Systems Engineering and Computer Engineering and Information Sciences merge in 1976 to form a single Department of Systems Engineering, Computer Engineering and Information Sciences.

    • One result of this merger is the establishment of a distributed computing and control laboratory in which microcomputer-based controllers and real-time minicomputers were arranged in a hierarchical configuration. Various process units, completely instrumented, are tied into the system to serve as vehicles for a variety of industrial control studies. The lab provides an invaluable resource for studying new philosophies of control systems.

  • 1981–1994: The Computer and Systems Engineering programs are separated so that from 1981 until 1994, the Systems program is once again called the “Systems Engineering Department” and the Computer programs are housed in the “Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department.”

  • 1986: Although not directly associated with the Computer Engineering and Science department, the CWRU Community Telecomputing Laboratory establishes the CLEVELAND FREENET Community Computer System, a free public computer network that allowed dial-in users Internet access. The Freenet is the first of its kind and helps inspire an international trend. 

  • 1987: The BS degree in Computer Science is approved. Additionally, an off-campus MS in Computer Science is offered to AT&T in Columbus, through which Case School of Engineering faculty go to Columbus to teach courses. This sizable program—over 60 students—encourages AT&T to create a Unix Workstation Lab for the department. 

  • 1991: The BA degree in Computer Science is approved, and in 1996 the CES department creates a Windows NT lab. Prior to this, almost everything is done on Unix Workstations.

  • 1994–1998: The name of the department housing the systems activities changes to the “Systems, Control and Industrial Engineering Department,” reflecting the establishment of a new program in Industrial Engineering.

  • 1996: The Computer Engineering and Science department moves to its current quarters in the Olin Building. The Univac 1, 1107 and 1108 in the CES department are fondly remembered. Later the Univac 1108 moves to the newly formed Chi Corporation to provide computing resources to the university and to offer these services to other organizations.

  • 1998: Case Western Reserve Board of Trustees approves the merger among the Systems, Control and Industrial Engineering department, the Computer Engineering and Science department and the Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics department to form a new department in the Case School of Engineering: the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. 

  • 1999: CWRU continues as the sponsor of the Freenet until September 30, 1999.

  • 2000: The department's initial educational mission and objectives are formulated, after extensive involvement with the Dean of Engineering and departmental and schoolwide committees. In the process, input is sought from the Advisory Board of the Case School of Engineering and a special review committee for the Case School of Engineering. The resulting mission statement and educational objectives are distributed among and discussed by the faculty.

  • 2003: A significant review and revision of the departmental mission, vision, and objectives takes place resulting in a restructuring of the department into divisions: the Electrical and Computer Engineering Division (ECE) and the Computer Science Division (CS). This clarifies responsibilities for curricula and gives a sense of "ownership" and responsibility within the divisions by providing an identity for faculty and programs.  Faculty members may be in both divisions.

  • 2011: In Spring 2011, the Department votes to rename the ECE division to "Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering (ECSE)."

  • 2019: As technology is ever advancing and enrollment in technology fields is growing, the EECS department decides to become two separate departments. Approved by the Board of Trustees June 1, 2019, the former EECS department now operates as the Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE) and the Computer and Data Sciences (CDS) departments.

What will we accomplish in the next 50 years? Check out our current research initiatives.