Teaching Statement

There are two essential traits every student must have to succeed, self-reliance and driven curiosity. My goal as an instructor is to provide them with the tools they need to learn independently beyond the classroom and inspire curiosity.

I have been a teaching assistant for many courses and labs. I have had experience mentoring undergraduate students, and I have had leadership roles with the NASA academies and FIRST Robotics. Of the positions that I held, the three semesters I instructed the senior design lab was the most satisfying, and I would love to continue participating in a similar course as a full-time instructor. I would also enjoy teaching control and optimization courses, including those taught at the graduate level, and I would like to develop a graduate-level control systems lab.

For most subjects, a well-written textbook is the foundation for what students need to learn the core subject matter. Typically, this will be a highly-reviewed book by an authoritative author on the subject, e.g., Convex Optimization by S. Boyd and L. Vandenberghe. As an instructor, my job is to gauge the bandwidth of the students and ensure things are presented at a reasonable pace with active feedback loops to make sure the students are not missing any major connections. I have used many methods to monitor learning, and I prefer setting specific time aside in class to answer questions and have small quizzes.

I believe the primary job of the instructor is to provide an added value beyond what a solid textbook can offer. This doesn't just include mathematical derivations. It also includes context, e.g., pointers into the past (source material and core historical ideas behind the subject matter), pointers into the present (current technologies, techniques and projects that are using the material) and pointers into the future (speculative applications on the horizon).

In an engineering program, I believe there should be a heavy emphasis on application and project/product driven curriculum. The senior design lab exemplifies this, but I believe it is good for the students to have many smaller projects leading up to this experience as well. When employers look at a cross-section of students with the same academic backgrounds, coursework, and grades, the students with projects demonstrating their abilities will get the jobs. This particularly applies to higher-level graduate courses.

2016 TA. This course helps electrical engineering seniors make the transition into industry through self-chosen team projects. To do so, the course emulates the day-to-day life of a real engineering design environment creating what numerous students have called their favorite class. Students put together what they have learned, develop teamwork and leadership skills, and gain in-depth practical knowledge in a topic that excites them. Moreover, Senior Design Projects make a good addition to a resume. Many employers consider a good Senior Design Project to be just as valuable as internship experience.

Instructional Lab Coordinator

Casey J. Smith

Machine Shop

Scott A. McDonald, Greggory L. Bennett, Glen W. Hedin, Skee G. Aldrich

Electronic Service Shop

Skot P. Wiedmann, Waltham L. Smith, Mark W. Smart


Prof. Paul S. Carney, Prof. Jonathan J. Makela, Prof. Michael L. Oelze, Prof. Tom Galvin, Prof. Hao Zhu, Prof. Seth A. Hutchinson, Prof. Arne Fliflet, Prof. Karl Reinhard, Prof. Rakesh Kumar, Prof. Gary R. Swenson

Teaching Assistants

Zipeng "Bird" Wang, Kexin Hui, Eric J. Clark, Vignesh Sridhar, Jackson D. Lenz, Michael Fatina, Dongwei Shi, Yuchen He, John Capozzo, Jose Rodrigo Sanchez Vicarte, Daniel Frei, James Norton, Sam Sagan, Daniel J. Gardner, Henry J. Duwe, III, Katherine M. O'Kane, Ankit Jain, Cara S. Yang, Zitao Liao, Braedon L. Salz, Benjamin Chee-Tak Eng, Vivian Hou, Jacob D. Bryan

Mary E. Abbott, Robert J. Scheuneman, Aimee D. Rogala


William Harris Schellhorn, Armando Juresic

Diyu Yang, Xin Chen, Jianan Gao


Luchuan Zhang, Yiwei Li


Ting-Wei (Andy) Hsu, Hanyao Zhang, Zhiyuan Yao


Joan M. Brown, Kevin G. Villanueva, John M. Hart, Adam R. Long

Hoa-Jen Chien, Thomas L. Coyle, Bradley S. Anderson

Area Award: Entertainment


Bryant Johnson, Gregory Knox, Chongxin Luo

Ye Hyun Kim, Sung Hun Kim, Hyunjae Cho

Area Award: Teamwork ( with 53S17: Multistage coil gun part 2 )

Bryan O. Mbanefo, Felipe D. Fregoso, Adwaita A. Dani

Area Award: Research

Kunakorn Puntawong, Zehua Li

Astreyee Roy, Siddharth Sharma

58S16: The Glove


Chenhao Wu, Tom Galvin, Jiayi Wang

Chen Huang, Chong Lu

Over the falls of 2012 and 2013 I have been the lecture TA for professor D. Liberzon. The course covers control design for nonlinear systems with unknown parameterizations and known classes of disturbance. Lyapunov stability is the primary tool used and produces techniques like self-tuning universal regulation, model reference adaptation and integral back-stepping. System observability and identification is also explored with topics like persistent excitation and LMS gradient schemes. The course is split into several problems sets with a heavy mixture of both high level theory and simulated experiments. It ends with a final project and presentation of application to each student's specialized interest.

Over the fall of 2010, I was a lecture TA for the graduate control course in linear systems under P. R. Kumar. My duties involved homework help sessions, generating solution sets and grading homework and exams. This course studied the state space approach to linear control theory in great depth. We began with a review of state space models followed by a formalization of the mathematics of vector spaces. The solutions to LTI and LTV state equations were formalized. System structural properties were explored like stability in the sense of Lyapunov, stability of linearized nonlinearity, controllability, observability and duality. Feedback was considered with pole placement, observers/reduced-order observers, tracking and disturbance rejection (robustness/sensitivity). Finally we explored optimal control through both the American born dynamic programming approach and the Russian born Minimum Principle. The subject matter of this course has wide application and contains many beautiful mathematical results.

For the Spring of 2012 I had a lecture TA with professor R. Srikant. In this course we covered topics like: unconstrained optimization, convex sets, convex functions, convex optimization, constrained optimization, Karush-Kuhn-Tucker conditions, linear and nonlinear programming, duality theory, sensitivity analysis and numerical gradient approaches.

In the fall of 2009 I began to TA the undergraduate controls course here at UIUC. This wonderful opportunity lead to two full years of teaching my favorite subject to eager young minds. The instructor at the time was Seth Hutchinson, and the instructor the following year was Sean P. Meyn. I began as a lecture TA, hosting homework help sessions and composing solution sets. The lectures thoroughly covered linear SISO system theory with the use of Laplace transforms. System feedback stability was analyzed with root locus techniques and frequency response analysis such as gain and phase margin within Bode plots and Nyquist plots. The basic behavior of various compensators was studied in great detail.

In the spring of 2010 my responsibility shifted to instruction of the lab with Dan Block, and I have been teaching the lab ever since. It has been a very exciting and rewarding experience. There are all sorts of interesting things that we do in this lab. The students have both an analog switch computer and an ADC-DAC PC interface with Simulink to carry out their control experiments. They study basic DC motor dynamics and explore various compensators and their response performances. The students also perform system identification with both empirical exploration of the model and the use of an open loop Bode plot generator.

For their final project they stabilize a reaction wheel pendulum using state feedback from a reduced Luenberger observer with friction compensation. The motor drives a wheel at the end of the pendulum, and Newton's 3rd law drives the pendulum. Only the angular position of the pendulum and wheel are measured digitally via encoders. Control is implemented through Simulink and a D/A converter. Swing up control is achieved with an analysis of the system energy. The following was recorded by a past student.

In the falls of 2011, 2014, and 2015 I taught the robotics lab and assisted with the lectures. In this course students were shown how to generalize geometric configurations and the conventions that minimize these representations. From these transformation they were able to compute inverse kinematics and velocity Jacobians. Some rudimentary machine vision was also explored. Everything was combined into a final project that involved stacking blocks with a robotic arm and a webcam autonomously.

This was a TA position I held over the summer of 2013. It covered probability theory with applications to engineering problems such as the reliability of circuits and systems to statistical methods for hypothesis testing, decision making under uncertainty, and parameter estimation.

Introduction to discrete-time systems and discrete-time signal processing with an emphasis on causal systems; discrete-time linear systems, difference equations, z-transforms, discrete convolution, stability, discrete-time Fourier transforms, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion, digital filter design, discrete Fourier transforms, fast Fourier transforms, spectral analysis, and applications of digital signal processing.

This is a TA position I held over the summer of 2010, the spring of 2013, and the summer of 2014. I have been responsible for both the lecture and the lab. The material was centered around analog signal processing, with an emphasis on underlying concepts from circuit and system analysis: linear systems; review of elementary circuit analysis; differential equation models of linear circuits and systems; Laplace transform; convolution; stability; phasors; frequency response; Fourier series; Fourier transform; active filters; AM radio.

ENG 199: Lego Mindstorms (FIRST Robotics)

When I first arrived at UIUC I was given this incredible opportunity. This was the first class I was responsible for independently instructing. I had to build a syllabus and course curriculum from scratch. With the help of Minosca Alcantara from the GE department, we coordinated a First Robotics LEGO Mindstorm tournament. I was tasked with training a class of freshman to be mentors to local high schools with FIRST LEGO groups. The tournament involved construction of a LEGO robot to navigate a course autonomously and score points for achieving as many of the objectives as possible. The students programmed the NXT through a graphical interface designed by National Instruments that was similar to Labview.

PHYS 142: General Physics Laboratory II

In the spring of 2007 I continued teaching with experiments in Quantum Mechanics, Optics and Electricity and Magnetism. We had many interesting labs for the students. Just to name a couple... They measured the thickness of their hairs with the interference pattern of a laser. They found the charge to mass ratio of an electron by bending an electron cathode ray beam in a magnetic field produced by a Helmholtz coil, and they identified atomic spectra.

PHYS 142: General Physics Laboratory I

In the Spring of 2006 I assisted with experiments in Newtonian physics and conservation laws. We also explored some simple thermodynamic processes. It was a wonderful experience introducing students to Physics for the first time.

This is a TA I held over the spring of 2013. It is a freshman engineering course. Its goals are to excite students about the study of electrical and computer engineering by exposing them early in their education to electrical components and their application in systems, and to enhance their problem solving skills through analysis and design.