Digital Innovator Uses Speak & Spell To Sell Engineering

Written by Cory Chandler

DATE: June 9, 2006
CONTACT: Cory Chandler,
(806) 742-2136

LUBBOCK – For teenage girls reared in today’s tech-savvy society, Speak & Spell is hardly groundbreaking technology. Yet a digital innovator and one of the country's foremost experts in digital signal processing is using that very education tool to hype the cutting edge fields of electrical and computer engineering.

Gene Frantz, principal fellow of Texas Instruments’ Digital Signal Processing Group, and his daughter, Allison, will speak from 3-4 p.m. Monday (June 12) to participants in Texas Tech’s WE CAN, or Women in Engineering: Curriculum, Applications and Networking, camp.

He will discuss the introduction of the Speak & Spell in the late ‘70s, which allowed children to learn spelling by using a talking toy. This break-through signaled the beginning of the Digital Signal Processor, or a processing device that converts physical input into digital data, and helped usher in the current digital era.

Aimed at recruiting more females to Texas Tech’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the WE CAN program provides stimulating and confidence-boosting activities emphasizing teamwork and collaboration. The camp began June 4 and will continue through June 16 on the university campus. It is funded by a Higher Education Coordinating Board grant through the Texas Workforce Commission Development Program.

WE CAN’s project-oriented curriculum exposes participants to various aspects of computer and electrical engineering as students complete a number of software and hardware projects. Those who complete the camp and a follow-up program during their senior year of high school may apply to obtain three hours of electrical engineering credit from Texas Tech.

Frantz, an electrical engineer who received an MBA from Texas Tech, was program manager for the Speak & Spell learning aid and led the development team for all early TI speech products. He is one of only four technology innovators named a Texas Instruments principal fellow. Allison also is a Texas Instruments engineer.

Frantz will speak from 2-3 p.m. and hold a discussion session from 3-4 p.m. in room 217 of the Electrical Engineering Building, located on the Engineering Key north of Memorial Circle.
NOTE: Frantz and students will be available for interviews around 3 p.m.

CONTACT: Dr. Tanja Karp, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, (806) 742-3533, or