IEEE Educational Activities Board Honors Leaders

The IEEE Educational Activities Board recently honored individuals, a society, and organizations with its awards

6 January 2011

Eight individuals, one society, and a pair of organizations were honored for their outstanding initiatives in education by the IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB) at a November ceremony in New Brunswick, N.J.

Life Member Neville Jacobs and Senior Member Jay Gamerman each received the Meritorious Achievement Award in Informal Education for their “exceptional contributions to the Robot Challenge that allows significant numbers of students, especially young women, to experience the excitement of working as an engineer.”

Jacobs developed the Robot Challenge, a hands-on engineering activity for high school students, in 1994. The teenagers build a robot that can walk, and do things that not only mimic what an engineer does but exposes the students to many aspects of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Gamerman became involved with the program in 2005, mentoring students and helping to organize and promote the annual two-day event. The competition is open to all high school students in Maryland and about 300 students from approximately 15 schools participate each year.

Until Jacobs retired in 1995, he was test director for ground-based radar systems at Westinghouse Electric Corp. Gamerman is a project engineer at Oceaneering, a Baltimore company that designs underwater vehicles.

“This program is a way of getting kids to understand what engineering is about,” Jacobs said when accepting the award. “The difficulty is that lawyers, doctors, and businesspeople get their time on television, but so many times we encounter students who do not know what engineers do. This challenge allows them to learn first-hand what it feels like to work on a project. The program is transformational.”

Involving students with robots was also the reason Lewis Chappelear received the Pre-University Educator Award, which recognized his “outstanding leadership and mentoring of students through projects and curricula in robotics that inspire them to pursue technical careers.”

Chappelear is an engineering design teacher at James Monroe High School in North Hills, Calif. His robotics teams have won several awards, including a 2010 Beach City Robotics Regional VEX Finalist award, and have competed at the VEX National Robotics Championship in Omaha, Neb. (The VEX Robotics Design System, developed by VEX Robotics of Clifton Park, N.Y., is a hardware and software package for students to experiment with building robotic devices.)

In his acceptance speech, Chappelear encouraged engineers in the audience to contact their local schools and ask them how they can help. “Go in, talk to the kids, and show them what you do, and share all of the great stuff about engineering, and tell them how great it is as a career,” he said. “Together we can make a difference in this world.”

IEEE Fellow Evangelia Micheli-Tzanakou received the Meritorious Achievement Award in Continuing Education for “vision and leadership in establishing the IEEE Biometrics Certification Program.”

Micheli-Tzanakou is a professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Computational Intelligence Laboratories in Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. As vice president of IEEE Educational Activities in 2007, she began the process of establishing a biometrics certification process, which is now in high demand by government and the security industry. The IEEE Certified Biometrics Professional Program, launched in 2009, consists of training and a certification exam.

In his presentation of the award, 2010 IEEE president-elect Moshe Kam described the challenges Micheli-Tzanakou faced. “IEEE had relatively few successes in certification programs until then,” Kam noted. “In addition, the organizational structure of biometrics within IEEE at the time was new and somewhat tenuous, and Dr. Micheli-Tzanakou certainly did not have the backing of an organizational unit with large financial reserves.

“There was even some skepticism that the task would be completed on time and within budget, or whether there would even be a market for it,” continued Kam, who called her effort to launch the program “bold.” “In the face of all this, Dr. Micheli-Tzanakou simply got to work. She was able to mobilize the best and the brightest in the biometrics field to help her.”

The Major Educational Innovation Award went to IEEE Fellow Karen Panetta for “leadership and mentorship in developing engineering education to attract, retain, and advance women and youth.”

Panetta is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Simulation Laboratory at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. She created the Nerd Girls Program in which female undergraduate engineering students use their engineering skills to solve real-world problems and serve as role models for younger students. Nerd Girls is now in production as a reality TV show.

“This award is a testament to the success of IEEE in helping its members not only to become strong engineers but also to help them become dedicated community leaders,” Panetta said in accepting the award. She thanked her mentor, Arthur W. Winston, IEEE Fellow and 2004 president, who received the Meritorious Service Citation at the ceremony for “exemplary leadership, ongoing service, and dedication in support of the IEEE Educational Activities Board, its standing committees, and special projects.”

Winston is director emeritus of the Gordon Institute at Tufts. When he was vice president of IEEE Educational Activities in 1998 and 1999, he obtained outside funding and extended the interests of the EAB to include preuniversity education. That led to the creation of several programs targeted at improving students’ technical literacy, including the first IEEE Web sites for the purpose: the Pre-College Engineer Training site and Pre-College Educators/Engineers Resource Site. Although the sites no longer exist, they led to the creation of the Teacher In-Service Program and The TISP partners IEEE volunteers with preuniversity educators to offer the teachers lessons on a variety of technical subjects. introduces students, teachers, and parents to engineering.

Life Fellow Simon Haykin received the Vice President’s Recognition Award for “fundamental contributions to research and education in adaptive signal processing and learning systems, applications in radars and communications techniques, and worldwide impact on education and training of electronics engineers.”

Haykin is an electrical engineering professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., Canada. There, in 1972, he established the Communications Research Center and served as its first director. The center was the first in Canada devoted to communications research, particularly in building radars and contributing to radar signal system design.

The Meritorious Achievement Award in Accreditation Activities went to Senior Member Eric Tappert for “exemplary contributions to the training and development of IEEE Program Evaluators, and dedicated efforts that enhance the quality of engineering technology program accreditation.”

Tappert is a part-time faculty member in the engineering department at Pennsylvania State University’s Berks campus, in Reading. His accreditation activities have spanned more than a decade. He is a program evaluator for IEEE, a member of the IEEE Committee for Technology Accreditation Activities, the IEEE Accreditation Policy Council chair, and a member of the ABET Technology Accreditation Committee. ABET is the accrediting body in the United States for academic programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.

“None of the accreditation projects I worked on were the sole work of one individual,” Tappert said in his acceptance speech. “Rather they were all the result of several dedicated individuals working together for a common goal.”

The IEEE Reliability Society received the Society/Council Professional Development Award for “leadership in developing IEEE educational products, student and chapter outreach training programs, and annual student scholarship programs.”

The society has been offering tutorials on reliability to its members since 1992, first on video and now online through the IEEE eLearning Library. It also sponsors tutorials and workshops at its symposiums, and about twice a year it runs outreach events aimed at students. They include technical presentations and workshops at universities held in conjunction with local IEEE Reliability Society chapter activities. The society offers as many as five US $2000 scholarships annually to students who demonstrate outstanding achievement in reliability or related fields.

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory and IBM each received the Employer Professional Development Award. A U.S. Department of Defense R&D center working on national security issues, Lincoln Laboratory was honored “for exemplary leadership in providing programs for its employees, IEEE members, and other professionals for continuing education and professional development.” IBM was recognized for “sustained excellence, innovative approaches, and continuous involvement in learning for its 400 000 employees working in 170 countries.”

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