Family Fun Night celebrates the wonders of ECE research, community
Over 300 people attended ECE Family Fun Night on September 29th, where they explored interactive demos from research labs and student teams, made their own engineering-inspired crafts, and enjoyed a variety of carnival attractions.
“This event gives our faculty and student teams the opportunity to highlight the incredible work they’re doing, and how electrical and computer engineering translates to daily life in an interesting way,” said Ann Stals, ECE Alumni Engagement and Events Manager, who organized the event. “There are numerous demos and activities available which makes this event suitable for families with kids of all ages.”
Researchers and lab groups set up booths where attendees engaged with interactive demonstrations and asked current faculty and students about their work. For example, the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF) presented a station with hands-on learning experiences featuring magnetic memory to demonstrate real-life applications of research. They also highlighted aspects of what it’s like to work in a cleanroom.
“I really enjoyed interactions when kids successfully finished an experiment, like making a magnetic disk float or successfully sorting the balls in our filter exercise,” said Audrey-Rose Gutierrez, an ECE PhD student who worked the LNF station. “They would often express the joy of discovery by dancing or clapping. I loved how you could see the fun of experimentation through their lens!”
Student teams including Supermileage, MRover, and MASA brought their projects for people to explore and study. For instance, Baja Racing presented one of their previous cars for people to sit in, take pictures, and try to steer.
“We had a great time at the ECE Family Fun Night!” said Marisa May, an undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering and member of the Baja team. “There was a lot of interest in our car, design process, and competition, and every member of the team present at the booth really enjoyed getting to answer questions about it.”
The event also included free food and many carnival attractions, such as a photo booth, face painting, and a bounce house. ECE classrooms featured materials for people to make their own engineering-inspired crafts, such as experimenting with circuits to make light-up cards for friends and family.
One of the most popular non-engineering attractions was the dunk tank, where students enthusiastically took aim to dunk their professors.
Professors Fred Terry, Ehsan Afshari, Chris Giebink, and Jeff Fessler all bravely agreed to sacrifice their comfort to the dunk tank, but Afshari earned special cheers for submerging himself completely underwater on the chilly fall evening.
“I am just surprised at how great some students were at throwing the ball,” he said. “Maybe we should start a softball team!”
For Afshari, like many other faculty and students present, the event offered a chance to bond with their colleagues and share their work with their families.
“Connecting with the ECE community outside the regular work activities is always fun,” Afshari said. “I really liked the research and science demos. I walked around with my daughter, and she learned a lot about ECE and engineering.”
Family Fun Night originally began in 2015, but it hasn’t been held since 2018 due to pandemic-related delays. It is free and open to all ECE alumni, their families, and anyone in the local Ann Arbor community. The next event will be held in fall of 2025.