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Barnes-Wired for the future

Wired for the Future

Electrical engineering student makes quick work of challenges to graduate in three and a half years. 

By Amanda Cairo

Electrical engineering graduate Kora Barnes doesn’t back down from a challenge, whether it’s finding a solution to an assignment in a classroom of largely male peers or staring down an opponent on the rugby pitch.

The Helena, Mont., native graduated with an electrical engineering degree in three and a half years, in addition to being a teaching assistant, experiencing two internships, competing as a walk on the UI soccer team, participating in rugby club, volunteering for events throughout the year, and holding down a job and holding offices in several organizations.

“I didn’t originally plan on graduating in three and a half years, but there’s a lot of really interesting classes that I wanted to take and once I realized it was possible, I made it my goal,” says Barnes, who averaged 20 credit hours a semester. “I don’t do well with being idle, I need to be busy and less than 20 credits wasn’t busy enough.”

While looking for a school in the Northwest, Barnes really felt at home during her campus tour at the University of Idaho. The professors especially helped her make the decision.

“The professors in the electrical engineering department were really personable,” says Barnes. “They really took an interest in me and made me feel welcome. They are passionate about what they do.”

Barnes was drawn to that passion. She always enjoyed math and science and knew engineering would be her career, but when it came time to choose a specialty, she went for the area she knew the least about.

“I didn’t understand how everything displayed on a computer originates as ones and zeros, and I wanted to know how that works,” says Barnes. “It’s been so interesting learning new processes.”

Wired for the Future

Those new processes resulted in her senior capstone design group project, a remote controlled helicopter that her team worked on for the College of Natural Resources’ students to sample treetops for research. She experienced working with a real client and in a group setting with other students to design the end product. 

Beyond her hard work, determination and inclination for learning, her education gave her a solid foundation. University of Idaho’s capstone program is among 29 engineering education programs chosen for its achievements, and one of only seven capstone programs highlighted in the National Academy of Engineers' report, "Infusing Real-World Experiences into Engineering Education."

Barnes also was able to take an honors course to study an electro-magnetic accelerator, where she worked on the design of the firing mechanism.

Outside of the classroom, Barnes also applied her skills as an intern at locally owned Biketronics doing meta design work and at Forza Silicon, Inc., in California, where she was a test engineer.

“It was really great to see all the different avenues you can take as an electrical engineer,” says Barnes. “I got a chance to see what I really enjoy about this field and what I didn’t.”

While she enjoyed the role of student and the learning, process Barnes also had a taste of being on the other side of the desk as a teaching assistant in the Digital Logic and Micro-controllers Labs.

“It really gives you a new perspective on the material,” says Barnes.

As an out-of-state student, Barnes has benefited from scholarships to help make her education more affordable, including the Western Undergraduate Exchange scholarship, an ECE Electronics Scholarship and the Scott and Christine Dredge Engineering Scholarship.

After commencement, Barnes is considering job offers and graduate school.