Daniel Gordon, Contributor

The longstanding partnership between Mini-Circuits and the University of South Florida (USF) has entered an exciting new era. This year both organizations came together to open two WAMI lab benches at Mini-Circuits’ Brooklyn, NY locations. These remote labs enable Mini-Circuits’ members to earn a graduate certificate from USF’s nationally ranked engineering program.

Start of Something Special

Mini-Circuits has sponsored the Wireless and Microwave Information Systems (WAMI) Center at USF’s Tampa campus since 1997. Having seen Mini-Circuits’ advertising across many RF/microwave publications and events, Dr. Larry Dunleavy, a professor and WAMI co-founder at the USF College of Engineering, sent a sponsorship letter to Harvey Kaylie, the late founder of Mini-Circuits and an industry pioneer. Dunleavy recalled his weekly phone inquiries with Kaylie’s secretary:

“I can tell you [Kaylie] has received it,” Kaylie’s secretary (name?) said for the first few weeks.

Next, “I’m sure he has read it.” Finally, after several more calls, “He said he’ll give you what you want if you’ll stop calling.”

Figure 1: WAMI Lab

Dunleavy’s persistence gained him Mini-Circuits’ sponsorship, and more importantly, Kaylie’s lasting respect. The two men went on to become close friends, with Kaylie supporting USF’s engineering school for over two decades. In 2013, the Harvey and Gloria Kaylie Foundation provided initial funding for USF’s Design X Laboratory, a collaborative makerspace for students to complete engineering projects. In 2017, the university honored Kaylie’s devotion to inspiring young engineers with the USF Corporate Impact Award.

“USF and WAMI are helping the country,” Kaylie told Dunlevy, “by making sure engineers not only have the theoretical knowledge of RF, but also that they know their way around the lab and how to apply the concepts to solving problems.”

Continuing Kaylie’s Legacy

Mini-Circuits’ president, Ted Heil, is committed to maintaining the relationship with USF that his predecessor, Harvey Kaylie, cherished.  After experiencing the energy, innovation, and collaboration for himself, during his first visit, Heil understood why Kaylie had been such a fervent supporter. Since then Heil has become invested in not only honoring the partnership, but also expanding it.

“We put the WAMI on him,” Dunleavy joked of Heil’s first trip to Tampa, during which the idea of a WAMI Bench at Mini-Circuits was born.

Figure 2: Harvey Kaylie speaking about USF.

USF’s Wireless Engineering Certificate Comes to Mini-Circuits

Following a successful pilot program, with two Mini-Circuits members in spring 2020, the first official cohort is currently underway for the fall semester.  The program includes 12 credits of graduate-level coursework in RF/microwave and digital communications technologies, made possible with the WAMI lab benches set up in Mini-Circuits’ Brooklyn offices.

RF design engineer at Mini-Circuits and USF student, Camilo Gómez-Duarte, sees the program as an opportunity to help further develop his love for everything RF.

“It’s a new dimension to know how a component fits and functions within a system, rather than simply designing for its own specifications,” Gómez-Duarte said.

Mini-Circuits Pipeline engineer, Christian Tyler, said “the program is illuminating the intricacies of the RF world by breaking down the theoretical concepts and displaying them in practical ways.” 

Figure 3: Mini-Circuits students at WAMI lab bench in Brooklyn.

Tyler went on to say, “I didn’t understand how much I didn’t know until I started taking these courses, and that’s what motivates me to put in the 10-15 hours of weekly study.”  Tyler said, “I am grateful for Ted Heil, Mini-Circuits and USF for providing me with the opportunity to be the best engineer I can possibly be.” 

Andre Gustave, an electrical test engineer, is thrilled to be working alongside his fellow engineers.  “It’s so helpful to be able to talk to your colleagues about what we are learning in this course,” said Gustave. 

“We figure things out together, and have fun doing it,” Gustave said.  “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work, but the three of us meet weekly for experiments in Mini-Circuits’ WAMI Lab, to participate in assignments, and to attend live remote lectures.”

According to Gómez-Duarte “The program is very well structured.  You know when everything is due and watch videos before each session, so the lectures are more conversational with the professors.”

Ready-Made for the Future

Like most things in 2020, the WAMI Lab saw serious challenges when COVID-19 hit the U.S. However, the hybrid learning model has proven to be a timely asset for all parties involved. It was already in the works and the pandemic only accelerated its refinement.

“Brilliant timing,” Gustave said of the partnership and program. “USF also quickly developed a two-week short course to help us adapt. Working full time, you anticipate difficulty when you add school to your schedule, but it has been more comfortable than expected. Having the lab on-site is a huge advantage.”

Joanne McDonnell, head of L&D at Mini-Circuits, credits the fortitude and passion of Ted Heil, Larry Dunleavy, and Joe Merenda (Mini-Circuits VP of Engineering) for the successful launch of the Mini-Circuits WAMI Lab.

“They are fulfilling [Kaylie’s] vision in a phenomenal way,” McDonnell said. “They have dedicated their personal time to seeing this program get off the ground. These three industry legends are committed to ensuring the world has highly qualified, RF engineers as brilliant as they are, well into the future.”

In addition to the education from USF and tuition covered by Mini-Circuits, Gómez-Duarte, Tyler and Gustave are enjoying the camaraderie of learning together in the lab.

Figure 4: Mini-Circuits students at WAMI lab bench in Brooklyn.

On the other side, Dunleavy feels energized by the new format and sees an opportunity for the WAMI Center to replicate the remote lab experience in other organizations using Mini-Circuits as a model.

“It’s a benefit to everyone—the company, the members, the school, and the industry,” Gómez-Duarte said.

Tyler and Gustave both shared Gómez-Duarte’s sentiment. “The resources that Mini-Circuits and USF are putting forth have been a highlight of my engineering education,” Tyler said. Gustave added, “It really feels like Mini-Circuits cares about members and is investing in us.”

To learn more about participating in USF’s graduate certificate in wireless engineering as a Mini-Circuits member at the Mini-Circuits WAMI Lab Bench in Brooklyn, contact Joanne McDonnell at JoanneM@minicircuits.com.