IEEE Trains Preuniversity Teachers in India

Weeklong event in Kerala expected to affect 10 000 students

12 October 2012

This has been a milestone year for the IEEE Teacher In-Service Program (TISP). First it celebrated 10 years of training IEEE volunteers around the world how to demonstrate lesson plans about engineering, science, and math to preuniversity educators. During the past decade, those teachers reached an estimated 460 000 students with IEEE-provided lesson plans.

Now TISP volunteers in India have held the largest TISP event to date. Dubbed TISP Week 2012, the six-day event ran from 23 to 28 July and included eight workshops across the state of Kerala. Volunteers demonstrated lesson plans on engineering-oriented subjects to 172 teachers from 104 schools. Those teachers then are expected to take the lessons back to their classrooms, where it is expected they will eventually reach up to 10 000 high school students.

TISP Week was sponsored by the IEEE Kerala Section Graduates of the Last Decade group and the IEEE Educational Activities Committee (EAC) and supported by the IEEE Educational Activities Board and the Region 10 EAC. But it was the nearly 20 IEEE volunteers who traveled across the state to conduct the workshops, plus the support of IEEE student branches at each host school, that made it all possible. “The volunteers were the key to our success,” says the TISP Week Cochair Ranjit R. Nair, who is also chair of the IEEE Kerala Section GOLD group.

Rob Reilly, president of the IEEE Education Society, also praised the volunteers. “TISP Week is a sterling example of how collaborations can be formed among IEEE volunteer leaders in India, the IEEE Educational Activities Board, and IEEE societies,” said Reilly, who gave a keynote address to kick off TISP Week at the first workshop on 23 July, held at Sarabhai Institute of Science and Technology (SIST), in Vellanad.

The TISP Week committee originally planned on holding five workshops for 100 teachers, but because a number of IEEE student branches wanted to hold the sessions in their schools, the week expanded to eight workshops in eight locations: SIST, the College of Engineering in Munnar, MES College of Engineering in Kuttippuram, the National Institute of Technology in Calicut, St. Joseph’s College of Engineering and Technology in Palai, TKM Institute of Technology in Kollam, Toc H Institute of Science and Technology in Arakkunnam, and Vimal Jyothi Engineering College in Chemperi. The three extra locations enabled educators from every district in Kerala to attend.

Each workshop ran six hours and covered two of the four lesson plans prepared by the volunteers, all of which came from IEEE’s website. The Working With Wind Energy lesson plan teaches teams to build energy-producing windmills out of materials such as rubber bands and aluminum foil, proved to be the most popular, according to Cochair Namith Najeeb. “Teachers were competing with each other to fine-tune the performance of the windmills they built,” Najeeb says, “and in the process they learned a lot about aerodynamics.”

The three other lesson plans dealt with designing a car powered by rubber bands; constructing a simple telegraph using a battery, wires, a switch, and a bulb; and constructing a trebuchet, which is a type of catapult, from everyday materials.

Following goals set by the organizing committee, each teacher is expected to reach at least 60 students with the lessons. If each of the 172 teachers succeeds in the coming year, the engineering lessons will be taught to 10 320 students.

“We are confident that we will easily surpass that target,” says V.K. Damodaran, advisor to IEEE Kerala GOLD, who first proposed the TISP Week idea.

The committee would like to tap additional GOLD volunteers in India in each of Kerala’s 14 districts to help keep teachers and students involved with engineering projects.

“With a little extra effort, students can take on projects for their communities,” says S. Gopakumar, the IEEE EAC chair for the Kerala Section. “Such an experience might interest them in taking up basic science studies.”

The Indian teachers are already thinking of ways to expand the program’s impact. For example, they want to take small groups of students to nearby engineering colleges to see how various machines work, and organize information sessions to pinpoint the university classes students should need to enter the engineering profession.

The committee has high hopes for expanding the TISP Week program beyond the Kerala Section. “We would love to spread the message of TISP and see our model emulated in other parts of the world,” Najeeb says.

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