Former student leaves lasting impression on new laboratory

Photo of Savage lab dedicationStanding in front of a small crowd of family, friends and colleagues, Scott Savage's father, Thomas Don Savage, teared up as he thanked the many people who made the opening of the Scott Savage ’05 Real Time Systems Laboratory possible.

The lab took two years to build and after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 14, the lab was made available for several upper-level classes and senior design projects in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Scott Savage, former photo editor for The Battalion, graduated with cum laude honors from Texas A&M in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering. He went on to work for National Instruments (NI) in Austin where he worked his way up in the company during the next five years. He had just been promoted to semiconductor test segment manager while leading an international marketing effort with numerous travels around the world when he died Sept. 22, 2010.

“He was a very high-energy, passionate guy,” said Charles Schroeder, the director of marketing for test at National Instruments. “It hit all of us really hard when he passed away.”

Michael Denton, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in electrical engineering, met Savage during his freshman year of college and the two of them became very close friends.

“Scott was the most energetic and in-your-face person I’d ever met,” Denton said. “He expected the world of the people he spent time with, but he would always give that much and more in return. We were friends freshman year and best friends by sophomore year. He was the reason I decided to work for NI.”

The new laboratory was the idea of National Instruments employees. It was put in motion when James Truchard, NI CEO and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, donated more than $100,000 to Texas A&M upon Savage's passing in order to help fund the building of the Real Time Laboratory. Some NI employees and fellow Aggies who knew Scott added to the fund, and the rest of the cost of the lab was picked up by differential tuition funds.

Schroeder said the laboratory will help remind students why they chose to study engineering. The lab will give students a chance to get some hands-on experience with real world situations.

“Engineers don’t want to just do math,” Schroeder said. “They want to build things.”

Michael Kelley, who recently interned for National Instruments, is an electrical engineering graduate student at Texas A&M. Using his knowledge from both school and his experience as an intern, he will be the head teaching assistant for the new laboratory.

“My job is basically to teach the TAs who will then teach the students how to use the equipment,” Kelley said. “It will give students a chance to get a lot of hands-on experience.”

The lab itself will be used to facilitate several courses starting part time this semester and full time next semester. Some of the classes will include wireless communications, signal communications and power electronics.

Several speakers gave high praises to Scott during the ceremony, including Truchard; Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering; Dr. Chanan Singh, electrical and computer interim department head; Kevin Schultze, vice president of R&D at NI; and Dr. Costas N. Georghiades, former electrical engineering department head and currently the associate dean for research. They said Savage truly represented what an Aggie engineer should be and the lab will honor his memory while supporting future countless Aggie engineers, which is a testament to Savage, National Instruments and Texas A&M.