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Master teacher

Lauded by students, the man behind ‘Larry Lab’ wins the Wittke award

Students have their own name for Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering 371, a circuit design course taught by Larry Sears ‘69.

“This sounds corny, but ‘Larry Lab’ changed my life,” a former student recently told a nominating committee.

He was one of several students who have described the class as “legendary,” and helped Sears win the 2020 Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Sears, the champion of Sears think[box], brings the experience of an engineer and the enthusiasm of a tinkerer and an inventor to the classroom.

Soon after graduating from Case Institute of Technology in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, he launched his startup in a storefront in Little Italy. Hexagram Inc. developed and manufactured electrical systems and controls for companies, solving problems on demand. Most notably, it produced a remote meter-reading device that was adopted by utilities across the land.

After 35 years in industry, Sears sold his company and returned to the Case School of Engineering as an adjunct faculty member, where he focuses on applying theory to real-world projects.

In his class, students are challenged to pursue a new project every week, with each project presenting different topics in analog, mixed-signal, and power electronics, according to The Daily, CWRU’s online news source. Students are encouraged to show independent thinking and creativity.

“Actual performance is always going to be different from simulations and calculations,” Sears told The Daily. “As in life, things rarely go according to expectations.”

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