Two Innovative Educators Will Be Recognized at the IEEE Honors Ceremony

The founder of Connexions, a provider of free textbooks, and a Stanford dean who helped establish several research centers will receive IEEE medals

17 June 2015

When it comes to paving the way for the next generation of engineers, two IEEE Fellows have gone above and beyond. Their contributions to engineering education are being honored on 20 June at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in New York City.


Fellow Richard G. Baraniuk’s education initiatives continue to change the way students learn by sharing free engineering textbooks online. The professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, in Houston, will be honored with this year’s IEEE James H. Mulligan Jr. Education Medal. The award, named for the 1971 president of IEEE, recognizes leadership in engineering education, the development of new teaching methodology, and other accomplishments.

In the mid-1990s, Baraniuk noticed that his students had trouble with traditional engineering textbooks—they were often unable to understand how concepts linked together and how to apply them to real-word situations. When he began writing a new textbook for his Signals and Systems class, Baraniuk decided to put his content on the Web. He also developed a new model that broke down material into smaller, interchangeable modules, each dealing with a single topic. These modules could be combined and customized as needed, providing free, dynamic learning to anyone with an Internet connection.

In 1999, Baraniuk launched Connexions, the world’s first website to offer free textbooks online. It has since evolved into an extensive online repository known as OpenStax CNX, which is used by millions of students around the world. In 2012, Baraniuk launched OpenStax College, which offers a library of free peer-reviewed textbooks on topics such as sociology, biology, history, and physics.


The longest-serving dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering, Fellow James D. Plummer, led efforts to establish several major interdisciplinary research centers to address challenges facing engineering in such areas as energy, the environment, and biomedicine. He will receive this year’s Founders Medal, which recognizes outstanding contributions in the leadership, planning, and administration of affairs of great value to the electrical and electronics engineering profession.

Plummer was dean from 1999 to 2014. He helped establish the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment in 2004 to address such issues as climate change, ecosystem preservation, public health, and sustainable development. The following year, he helped found Stanford’s Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering, which teaches computational methods with applications in several areas of engineering and science. With Plummer’s help, in 2009 the Precourt Institute for Energy opened its doors. Researchers there focus on energy efficiency, distribution, and generation. Another center created during Plummer’s tenure is the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, which is known for its hands-on, product-centered approach to engineering education.

He also introduced several education methods to the School of Engineering, including massive open online education courses, better known as MOOCs, and the flipped classroom model, in which students can watch video lectures before attending class so that they can focus on classroom exercises and discussions.

Watch these recipients and the others receive their award on live stream on Saturday.

Read about the rest of the pioneers who will be recognized at this year’s Honors Ceremony and watch them receive their awards on Saturday at

You can also nominate someone for IEEE’s 2017 medals and awards. Hurry, the deadline is 1 July.

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