Frequently Asked Questions - Common questions

James M. (Jim) Conrad, Ph.D., PE, PMP
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UNC Charlotte



Electrical and Computer Engineering Department
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
Phone: 704-687-8597, Fax: 704-687-5588
UNCC email:
Home email:

James M. Conrad received his bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and his master's and doctorate degrees in computer engineering from North Carolina State University. He is currently a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has served as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas and as an instructor at North Carolina State University. He has also worked at IBM, Ericsson/Sony Ericsson, and BPM Technology.  Dr. Conrad is a Professional Engineer, a Senior Member of the IEEE and a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP).  He is also a member of Eta Kappa Nu, the Project Management Institute, and the American Society of Engineering Education.  He served on the IEEE Board of Directors as Region 3 director for 2016-2017.  He is the author of numerous books, book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers in the areas of embedded systems, robotics, parallel processing, and engineering education.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  Why are you Dr. Robot?
A:  I have published three books on the robot Stiquito.  I also have a Ph.D. (so students call me Dr. Conrad).  Back in 1999, when I signed up for eBay, I used the name "drrobot" as my ID.  Unfortunately, I do not own that web name :-(

Q:  What exactly is the difference from a degree from here (UNC Charlotte) as compared to one at a technical college such as ECPI?  It seems that here we mostly focus on designing hardware and circuits while at a technical college, they focus on things such as web building, network security, etc.
A:  The UNC Charlotte William States Lee College of Engineering is an accredited Engineering college in one of the 100 largest universities in the US (out of about 4600 in the US).  As an accredited program, you are taught design skills which help you solve a wide array of problems that engineers encounter.  An engineering degree is respected by companies that hire employees to design and develop products and services.  These skills should last a lifetime even though the technology will changes rapidly.  This is a reason why you should continue personal development after you graduate by pursuing an advanced degree, attending conferences, reading technical journals, and/or taking short courses.

A technical college (and a community college) will concentrate on specific technical skills, not the broad topic of problem solving.  These degrees are respected by employers that have specific immediate needs of employees trained in specific software/hardware environments.  Their useful skills decay faster that those with an engineering degree, so these degree holders have a more urgent need to continue technical personal development after they graduate.

Q:  What is the list of courses I need to take if I major in Computer Engineer? Also, what courses I need to take in high school?
A: For a "Plan of Study", a list of courses a student should take for a Computer Engineering degree at UNC Charlotte, visit:  In high school, it is helpful to have 4 years of science, math, and English (each of these subject each semester in high school).

Q. Can I get a letter of recommendation from you?

A. Dr. Conrad will be happy to write a letter for you if you are a current IEEE Member AND:
  1. You are one of his research students (MS with project or Thesis, PhD, or BS doing additional research).
  2. You are one of his Senior Design Project students and are performing well on the project ("pulling your weight").
  3. You were an active officer of the IEEE Student Chapter or the Charlotte Area Robotics Club.

Dr. Conrad will not write letters if you were only a student in one or more of his classes, except for UNC Charlotte Graduate School applications.  He will fill out UNC Charlotte Graduate School references for past students who earned A's and B's in his classes. 

The steps to follow to ensure a timely response to the recommendation request:
  1. Go to the UNC Charlotte Legal Department FERPA Consent web site and fill out/print out the FERPA consent form (this is a permission form to allow Dr. Conrad to actually complete your recommendation). Read more about the protections of the US FERPA law at the UNC Charlotte Legal Department FERPA web site
  2. Send Dr. Conrad a pdf of the signed permission form.
  3. Provide Dr. Conrad the detail of the reference (college application, fellowship application, job reference)
  4. Provide Dr. Conrad the first version of the letter that has the correct formatting, the correct address, and some important comments of your studies.  Here is a sample MS Word file you can use as a base.  (Not needed for UNC Charlotte Graduate School applications).

Q.  Have you been interviewed by the media?

A.  Yes!  Over the years I have been interviewed by various TV Stations, newspapers, and others for stories on the Space Shuttle, embedded systems, and robotics.

This page maintained by James Conrad - last modified 2018-08-22.
Copyright 1994-2018 James M. Conrad. All rights reserved.