Tinkering toward success: Using campus resources to get ahead

computer engineers Daniel Delannes-Molka and Shanelle Ileto

SEAS students Daniel Delannes-Molka and Shanelle Ileto are taking advantage of the SEAS Reverse Engineering Lab to get ahead in their field.

by Amanda Hellwig ’19, Experiential Learning Network

Published June 7, 2018

Two aspiring computer engineers, sophomores Daniel Delannes-Molka and Shanelle Ileto, are taking advantage of the SEAS Reverse Engineering Lab to get ahead in their field.

By building a laptop computer from scratch, the two have learned to problem-solve and connect with faculty outside the classroom, enriching their learning and building skills that will be invaluable in their careers.

It all started with Daniel needing a new laptop his first semester as a freshman, and he didn’t want to buy one, so he decided to make one using PC (personal computer) parts. He teamed up with Shanelle, whom he had met in one of his classes, and they obtained permission to access the Reverse Engineering Lab in Bonner Hall.

From there, they started tinkering. They took apart laptops to see how they worked and what kinds of parts were needed, and they quickly realized a valuable lesson: plans change.

“We didn’t know in the beginning that it’s actually hard to make a laptop from computer parts, so we had to change the way we approached the project,” says Shanelle.

Daniel adds, “We have to think about it in more unorthodox ways to make it work.”

The problem is that laptops and PCs are completely different. PCs are made up of a bunch of interchangeable parts made by different companies, while laptops are the exact opposite; they’re made by certain companies and only one part will work for that laptop. But parts weren’t the only challenge.

“We have all the parts, the only thing we need to figure out is how to keep it cool. PCs have big steel things that act as heat sinks that pull the heat away from the CPU [central processing unit]. But since we need to be conscious of the size, we have to figure out a way of keeping it cool without carrying a block of iron around,” says Daniel.

While the laptop is not finished yet, the duo has certainly made progress, and they credit the Reverse Engineering Lab, one of the tinkering spaces on campus, with giving them everything they needed to branch out and connect with expert faculty, as well as access to tools that allowed them to get more information on their specific challenges.

“Because it’s all in one place, it makes our lives easier and it’s easier to tinker around. You just need an idea,” says Daniel.

It's true, all you need is an idea! Once you know what you want to work on and how the lab could help you, simply submit a brief application for access and then meet with Dr. Andrew Olewnik about your proposal.