IEEE Educational Activities Board Bestows Awards

The IEEE Educational Activities Board honored seven people, one company, and an IEEE society

8 January 2010

The IEEE Educational Activities Board honored seven people, one company, and an IEEE society for their outstanding contributions to engineering education at a ceremony in November at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, N.J.

IEEE Fellow Meyya Meyyappan received the Meritorious Achievement Award in Continuing Education for “contributions to the education of practicing professionals in the emerging field of nanotechnology.” Now the chief scientist for exploration technology at the NASA Ames Research Center, in Moffett Field, Calif., Meyyappan served until 2006 as director of the Ames Center for Nanotechnology in nearby Mountain View. During the past decade, he has given numerous tutorials and short courses on nanotech at IEEE and other professional societies’ conferences, and has delivered more than 200 talks around the world on the topic. In 2007, he helped launch IEEE Nanotechnology Magazine, and he is its managing editor. Last year he founded TryNano.org, a resource that introduces nanotechnology to students, their parents, and teachers [The Institute, August 2009].

“There’s a great need to educate high school students in nanotechnology, because this is the breakthrough technology of the 21st century,” Meyyappan said in accepting the award.

The Meritorious Achievement Award in Informal Education, given to IEEE members who volunteer in settings such as workshops for preuniversity students and teachers, went to IEEE Senior Members Laura J. Bottomley and Nicolaas “Niko” Beute.

Bottomley received the award for “developing and implementing programs that increase interest in science, math, technology, and engineering education in elementary and secondary students.” She is an associate professor at the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, and is director of the university’s Engineering Place program, which seeks to interest young people in engineering by sending instructors to elementary schools. Bottomley is inspired to teach children about engineering because, she says, they often surprise her with fascinating ideas. “After one of our recent [Engineering Place] workshops, a student greeted me in the hallway and said he wanted to discuss some ideas he had on nuclear fusion,” she recalled in accepting the award. “That student was in the third grade.”

Beute, an engineering professor at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in Cape Town, South Africa, was recognized for his leadership in pioneering, organizing, and managing the IEEE Teacher In-Service Program in that country. As part of the TISP, IEEE volunteers train preuniversity teachers on how to incorporate engineering exercises in their classrooms so as to interest students in the field. Beute is chair of the IEEE Education Chapter in his country and has been organizing TISP workshops there, as well as in Malaysia and Trinidad, since 2003. He is also working with educators and engineers in South Africa to develop a new curriculum for preuniversity schools that emphasizes the sciences.

That is important, he said, because graduating more engineers will likely lead to the creation of more entrepreneurs and start-up companies—which will lead eventually to more jobs.

“It is extremely important that technology is brought into South African schools,” he said. Read about him in this month’s member profile.

Helena Jeanette Coetzee and Robert Spira received Pre-University Educator Awards. Coetzee, who works on improving engineering education in South Africa, was honored for engaging the country’s preuniversity students in science and engineering projects. She teaches life sciences to 12th-grade students at Waterkloof High School, in Pretoria, and directs academic projects there. For the past few years she has organized the school’s annual seven-day science fair, which draws more than 1200 students. Last year she coached a team of students who competed in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) LEGO Robotic World Championship, in Atlanta. The team’s submission was voted “best-researched project,” and Coetzee was honored as best coach.

Spira is the science department chair and a physics teacher at Ward Melville High School, in East Setauket, N.Y. He was recognized for inspiring and motivating high school students through “imaginative teaching and extracurricular activities to excel in the study of physics and to choose careers in science and engineering.” Spira implemented a summer course on particle physics for his students at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a particle and nuclear physics research center in Upton, N.Y. He also leads teams of students in the Regional Science Bowl competitions, in which they answer questions on biology, chemistry, physics, math, astronomy, earth science, and general science. The competitions are tailored after the Jeopardy TV game show. Last year his team won first place and went on to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.

IEEE Senior Member Barry L. Shoop received the Meritorious Service Citation for “leadership and service to engineering education in the formation of the engineering programs at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.” Shoop is a professor of electrical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

In 2004 Shoop was chief of the Military Academy implementation support team that helped establish the National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA), in Kabul. He helped select a location for the academy, obtain funding for renovations, and write a curriculum. Last January, NMAA graduated its first class. In a speech at the ceremony, Shoop compared the contributions that first class would make to ones made by West Point’s first graduates.

“Those first West Point engineering graduates went on to build railroads and make other significant developments,” he said. “It makes you think about what great things these students at NMAA will do for Afghanistan.”

The Vice President’s Recognition Award went to IEEE Life Fellow Mischa Schwartz. The 2009 vice president of IEEE Educational Activities, Teofilo J. Ramos, selected Schwartz for “outstanding contributions to electrical engineering education, theory, and practice in the fields of communications, signal processing, and networking.”

Schwartz is professor emeritus of engineering at Columbia University and founder of the university’s Center for Telecommunications Research, where he spent 22 years. Before joining Columbia, he was a professor of electrical engineering at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York. He has been a visiting professor at the Ecole Normale Superieur, Paris; University College, London; University of California, Los Angeles; and University of California, San Diego.

The Employer Professional Development Award went to DRS Technologies, a Parsippany, N.J., company that supplies defense electronics to government and industry. The award honors employers of IEEE members that have made contributions to their employees’ continuing education and professional development. Through a partnership with Northwest Florida State College, the company’s continuing education program, offered through the DRS TCS Industrial Institute, has hundreds of online classes in such topics as business, customer relations, management skills, computers, and production methods. DRS also provides training in such areas as engineering best practices and manufacturing processes.

The IEEE Power & Energy Society was honored with the Society/Council Professional Development Award for “outstanding contributions to continuing education and development of professionals in the power and energy industry.” In recent years, the PES has developed a number of continuing education programs for its members, including technical courses and tutorials for power engineers on advances in their field; online courses on technical subjects; and courses about power and energy for members and executives of state utility boards, legislators, attorneys, and other non-power engineering professionals.