Fred Heep's hands-on skills training a boon for students

March 04, 2015

By Allen Tung for SFU News 

Fred Heep has seen a lot of change in his three decades as an electronics lab technician in the School of Engineering Science.

During the 1980s he was working with large components like vacuum tubes, and designing custom hardware for various lab experiments. Today, he’s working with electronic components that are so small they are only visible under a microscope, often rendering it impossible to work with them by hand.

His colleagues will tell you there’s one thing that hasn’t changed—his commitment to the school and its students, which has earned him the 2014 SFU Staff Achievement Award for student service.

“Fred has been a constant source of electronics expertise for the school, providing valuable advice and custom equipment in support of our operations,” says one nominator. “His attention to detail is legendary.”

The custom instructional materials and experimental equipment he produces embody his unwavering dedication. They focus on strengthening the students’ knowledge by increasing hands-on technical skills training.

He believes this is something lacking in many programs today.

“Too few students now-a-days are given the opportunity to revel in the pleasure and personal satisfaction associated with building things from scratch with their hands, then figuring out how it should work and fixing what doesn't meet the anticipated goal,” says Heep.

He calls this his “dream job,” since he’s been fascinated with all things electrical and electronic since he was a young child. It’s not surprising he’s always eager and motivated for another workday filled with new tasks and challenges.

While class dynamics differ from semester to semester, Heep is glad to see that students all share an unequivocal curiosity about the world and how things work.