All posts by Kathy Pretz

GE Aviation Electrifies Airplane Engines to Meet Carbon Emission Goals

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original

Smaller lighter engines, 3D printed parts, and more electrical engineers are needed for the next era of flight

THE INSTITUTEThe aerospace industry is under intense pressure to reduce its impact on the environment. Between 2021 and 2035, the industry will have to offset a total of 2.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, an emissions mitigation approach for the industry.

GE Aviation is one company that is working to meet the mandates by increasing the electrification of the aircraft it builds. The company produces 65 percent of all commercial airplane engines. It also has a large market share of components and integrated systems for commercial, business, and general aviation aircraft. Every two seconds, an aircraft powered by GE technology takes off somewhere in the world, the company says.

Its electrical power technology chief, IEEE Fellow Hao Huang, along with his colleagues, is developing hybrid electric propulsion systems and exploring additive manufacturing of airplane parts.

Huang is an active volunteer with the IEEE Industry Applications Society and the IEEE Transportation Electrification Community.

He is the recipient of this year’s IEEE Transportation Technologies Award for his “quest to develop ‘more electric aircraft,’ with electric systems in place of today’s pneumatic and hydraulic ones for quieter, more fuel-efficient, and environmentally friendly flight.”

In this interview with The Institute, Huang discusses some of GE’s current projects that have been made public and talks about challenges facing the aerospace industry, including a shortage of skilled engineers.


Conventional jetliners have engines or propellers that rotate to move the aircraft forward or take off. In addition to the engines, there are three other systems. The hydraulic system uses pressurized fluid to move and actuate landing gear, brakes, and flight control surfaces, which are aerodynamic devices allowing a pilot to adjust and control the aircraft’s flight attitude. The pneumatic system bleeds air off the engines to power environmental control and protection from ice. The electrical system provides power to the engines as well as to equipment in the cabin.

The auxiliary power unit (APU), generally located at the rear of the aircraft, produces energy to power systems when the plane is on the ground as well as supplying energy needed to start the engines.

To make today’s planes ‘more electric’ requires changing the systems, Huang says. For example, the engine needs to be more electrical, the aircraft’s body more “actively” aerodynamic, and materials lighter to improve efficiency.

Huang points to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which uses electricity instead of pneumatics to power its environmental control system, to start its engine, and protect the wings from ice. The plane uses six generators to create more electricity. Two are located on each engine, and two are on the APU. The 787 also features a frame constructed primarily of composite materials.


Huang and his team are working on multiple electrification projects that have the potential to save fuel. One of its programs aims to eliminate the pneumatic bleed system and other parts to make planes lighter. Components such as bleedless turbo fans, high-speed generators that operate at around 270 DC volts, and high-speed solid-state DC circuit breakers are expected to reduce a plane’s weight by about 450 kilograms, Huang says.

GE has demonstrated engines that can more efficiently convert fuel to electricity. The company modified an F110 engine to generate 1 megawatt of electric power, for example. A megawatt of power is equivalent to 1,341 horsepower. The high-power-density device was tested at the company’s US $51 million Electrical Power Integrated System Center—or EPISCenter—in Dayton, Ohio, followed by additional evaluation at its test site in Peebles, Ohio, where it was used to drive a 3.4-meter-diameter Dowty propeller from a Saab 340 turboprop aircraft.

Adding electrical components can make planes heavier. Lightening the load requires new technology, materials, and design approaches, Huang says. High-voltage materials, for example, are needed to make electrical cables thinner. Another solution is to reduce the weight of parts. GE is looking into manufacturing them using additive technology such as 3D printing.

The company is working on hybrid electric aircraft concepts. Huang referenced an report published last year in Aviation Week and Space Technology on GE developing gas turbines for emerging hybrid-electric propulsion architectures, which play a big part in so-called flying cars. The electric, self-piloted, vertical-takeoff and -landing passenger aircraft are expected to replace short-range urban transportation such as cars and trains. Flying cars are projected to cost less than helicopters and be quieter to boot.

Huang expects flying cars to be used in congested cities such as San Francisco, where it can take two hours to drive 40 kilometers. “People are busy and don’t want to waste their time sitting in traffic,” he says. “Flying cars can vertically take off and land, so you could arrive in 20 minutes. I predict we’ll see these small aircraft in the next decade, but of course these planes will first need to undergo rigorous safety tests.”

You can view the presentation Huang gave last year about the future of electrification of aircraft for the IEEE Industry Applications Society’s webinar series.


The aerospace industry needs more engineers to achieve its goals.

“We are in the beginning of a new aviation era,” Huang says. “The growing industry needs skilled electrical engineers to design, build, and test components. We also need mechanical engineers and thermal engineers. There’s a lot of work to do. Companies need to get aircraft ready for the next decade.”

Huang encourages engineers who want to learn more about the industry to join IEEE, attend its conferences, subscribe to its publications, join its societies, and take advantage of the networking opportunities the organization presents.

“I joined IEEE in 1986, and the organization has helped me tremendously,” he says. “I cannot imagine where I would be today without IEEE. It’s really a wonderful organization to associate with. Its societies have helped me to broaden my knowledge.

“I’m a big fan.”

The Pioneers Behind MEMS Technology, Bose Speakers, and 4G Networks Honored

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Synopsys and Zipline innovators also receive top IEEE awards

THE INSTITUTERemember when electronic components tended to be big, slow, and unreliable? The technologies pioneered by several award recipients recognized at this year’s IEEE Honors Ceremony have brought us smaller consumer electronics, more accurate medical devices, and dependable wireless communication systems. They were celebrated on 17 May at the Marriott Marquis Marina hotel in San Diego.

IEEE Life Fellow Kurt Petersen received the organization’s highest award, the IEEE Medal of Honor, for his foundational work on microelectromechanical systems. MEMS technology involves merging miniature mechanical and electromechanical elements such as sensors and actuators onto a silicon substrate along with integrated circuits. The functionality of smartphones and human-machine-interface applications depend on MEMS.

“The MEMS industry has grown incredibly over the years thanks to the hard work of many researchers all over the world,” Petersen noted in his acceptance speech. “When I started working in MEMS in 1975, the market was $30 million. This year it’s going to be $20 billion.

“There are a lot of projects going on in research labs all over the world that haven’t been commercialized yet but will soon be,” he added. “I think the field still has a lot of momentum.”

IEEE Fellow Antun Domic also miniaturized an important technology: electronic design automation tools, which power many of today’s applications. EDA allows the creation of complex systems with computer software that aids in the design, verification, and testing processes and helps detect flaws in chips and circuit boards. As chief technical officer at Synopsys, in Mountain View, Calif., the IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal recipient has developed tools that enabled the design of chips containing billions of gates.

IEEE Senior Member David Flynn and Member David Jaggar developed reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture that can be found in more than 100 billion microprocessor cores. The recipients of the IEEE/RSE James Clerk Maxwell Medal created the foundations that launched the system-on-chip market with microprocessors that power smartphones, portable computing devices, and Internet of Things applications. Based on the RISC process, their designs use less energy.

Bose Corp. has changed the way people listen to music at home and on the go. The company received the IEEE Corporate Innovation Award, which was founded in 1964 by IEEE Life Fellow Amar G. Bose when he was a professor at MIT. Based in Framingham, Mass., Bose pioneered technology that provided more realistic recorded music with a full range of sound—from speakers that were a fraction of the size of conventional ones. He died in 2013.

Accepting the award was the company’s vice president of research, Thomas Froeschle, an IEEE member. He said Bose was frustrated that he wasn’t applying his innovations at MIT to real products that actually reached people. “Reluctantly he reached the decision to form the company and in doing that, he tried to ensure it would continue to innovate over its whole existence,” Froeschle said. “We have strived to do that for 54 years.”

The work by IEEE Fellow David Ngar Ching Tse increased wireless data transmission’s channel capacity and decreased interference. The recipient of the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal developed an opportunistic scheduler, demonstrating that fading can be harnessed to increase network capacity, contrary to the conventional thinking at the time. His theory helped enable today’s wireless data boom. His work was part of Qualcomm’s Evolution–Data Optimized telecommunications standard for high-data-rate wireless systems and was incorporated into all 3G and 4G cellular systems. Tse further developed the technology by using multiple antennas to induce fading.

In his acceptance speech, he thanked Claude Shannon, who in 1948 laid out a grand vision for digital communication. “After 80 years the vision is fully realized,” Tse said, adding that Shannon’s work “set a tradition of research from first principles. In this era of fast-moving research, it’s now left to the next generation to uphold and expand upon that tradition.”


Every day thousands of people living in remote areas of the world die because they can’t get access to medicine or a blood bank. To address the problem, the world’s first drone-delivery service, Zipline International, is distributing medical products—thus far in Ghana and Rwanda. For its efforts, the company received IEEE Spectrum’s Technology in Service of Society Award.

Founded in 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Zipline designs, builds, and operates small drone aircraft. The fixed-wing drones can fly 100 kilometers per hour and carry 1.8 kilograms of blood and medical supplies.

Zipline, which has two distribution centers in Rwanda, has made more than 10,000 deliveries since it opened its first center in 2016. Each facility services villages within an 80-kilometer range. It takes the aircraft about 30 minutes to deliver its payloads, and the drones can fly in all types of weather, day and night.

“Five years ago, when we started Zipline, we were told countless times that we were crazy,” said Keenan Wydrobek, the company’s cofounder and head of product engineering, who accepted the award. “We were told the governments we wanted to partner with weren’t going to be able to afford it. Our partners in the Rwandan and now Ghanaian government have moved barrier after barrier to make this a success. We now fly the equivalent of once around the equator a week delivering medical supplies, and we are just getting started.”

You can watch the entire ceremony on

Arm Founder Saxby Turned a TV Repair Hobby Into an Engineering Career

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And other observations from a cavalcade of IEEE awards

THE INSTITUTEI attended three back-to-back events held on 16 and 17 May in San Diego that spotlighted some people who laid the groundwork for many of today’s devices and showcased several emerging technologies. Here are highlights of those sessions.

At its San Diego headquarters, Qualcomm hosted the “IEEE Evening of Innovation” panel discussion on 16 May with four of this year’s award recipients. One of the questions they were asked was why they chose engineering as a career. IEEE Founders Medal recipient Sir Robin Keith Saxby said he got into the field to continue pursuing his hobby of repairing televisions, which he had been doing since the age of 14. He felt he was destined for the electronics industry. And he made his mark as the first CEO and chairman of ARM Holdings, one of the most successful semiconductor and software design companies. It was his decision to license ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) intellectual property instead of making the chips themselves.  

He was knighted in 2002. Since he retired, Saxby is an advisor and investor in several startups. His advice to those considering launching a startup is to not be afraid to try new things and make mistakes along the way.

The IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit got underway on 17 May with panel discussions on smart cities, social robotics, and cybersecurity. Kicking off the event was keynote speaker and computer scientist Telle Whitney, who is active in promoting women technologists. Whitney cofounded the National Center for Women and Information Technology and is chief executive officer emeritus of the Anita Borg Institute. At the Honors Ceremony that evening, Whitney was made an IEEE Honorary Member for her support and promotion of women in technology.

Whitney said she was drawn to technology at 13 after she watched the moon landing in 1969. Like many students today, she didn’t know any engineers to serve as role models. That’s why she said she became active in increasing the number of women engineers and those from underrepresented groups. She outlined four actions that organizations can take to increase diversity: Hold leadership accountable, evaluate diversity and inclusion programs, diagnose hiring and promotion practices, and mobilize people to work together.

“One of great changes in recent times is that many companies now report their diversity numbers,” she said. “What you can measure you will change.”

Member Irene Hu, one of the speakers on the IoT–Smart Networks and Social Innovations panel, is working on make cities healthier by examining urine in wastewater from sewer systems, known as wastewater epidemiology. Hu is a hardware electronics engineer at startup, Biobot Analytics. Urine contains a lot of information about citizens’ health that can be analyzed to help cities take preventative measures against bacteria, drug abuse, and viruses, she said. Biobot is working with Cary, N.C., to measure the concentration of opioids in its sewers, and map the data to identify where use of these drugs is highest. In the United States, overdosing on opioids is the leading cause of death of people under the age of 50, according to Hu. Armed with the information, municipalities can better target educational and prevention programs, and equip first responders with knowledge about where overdoses are most likely to occur.

“We can gather information about the health of a city before a situation becomes a catastrophe,” Hu said.

During the Ethics in AI: Impact of (Anti?) Social Robotics session, panelists Ayanna Howard, Kevin McGowan, and Kate Vredenburgh were asked about which field robots have the most impact. All three agreed that healthcare is where the need is greatest, especially caring for the elderly. When questioned about whether robots were going to bring people closer or further apart, McGowan said, “Overall, I think it’s a net-net, they will bring us closer together.” He’s an associate partner for McKinsey and Co. “Over the course of human history, machines have improved our way of our life, but have come with some downsides. The world is moving forward not backwards.”

That evening’s Honor Ceremony recognized those who paved the way for today’s wireless networks, microprocessors, lasers, and other technologies. Many recipients said the event felt like an “Academy Awards for engineers.”

There was a standing ovation for Katherine G. Johnson, who received the IEEE President’s Award for her work on the Apollo 11 spaceflight. Unable to travel to the ceremony, her daughters accepted the award on her behalf. Johnson’s mathematical calculations of orbital mechanics at NASA were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. human spaceflights. She was one of the women featured in the Oscar-nominated 2016 film Hidden Figures.

The new IEEE Theodore W. Hissey Outstanding Young Professional Award, established to recognize up-and-coming technology leaders and highlight their work, was presented for the first time. Hissey presented the award to Member Mario Milicevic. In his acceptance speech, Milicevic credited past and current award recipients whose lifelong work he said was the foundation of his research into error correction and quantum cryptography.

 “The future of technology is very interdisciplinary,” Milicevic said. “I challenge young engineers to push the boundaries in fields such as healthcare, robotics, sustainable energy, and quantum computing. The list of meaningful problems is endless, but ideas, focus, determination, and hard work truly can change the world.”

Simple, Effective Public Speaking Tips for Engineers

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IEEE-USA e-book offers advice on mastering the art

THE INSTITUTEThere are few skills that can help you climb the career ladder faster than the ability to speak well in public. Senior management is always on the lookout for employees who can clearly and effectively communicate information, ideas, and new concepts throughout the organization. That’s according to Harry T. Roman, author of a new IEEE-USA e-book, Public Speaking for Engineers. The e-book costs US $4.99, but IEEE members can buy it for $2.99.

Roman, who is retired, spent more than 30 years as a project manager for the R&D group of Public Service Electric and Gas Co. in Newark, N.J.

Senior management has little time to interact directly with lower-level employees, he says, so when you are asked to make a presentation to your managers, you need to do a good job.

Roman says he has seen plenty of engineers’ careers get derailed because they didn’t speak well in public.

Being a good public speaker also can raise your visibility. Roman says that because of his communication skills, he was asked to lead corporate project teams, present his work in front of PSE&G’s board of directors, lead VIPs on tours of the company’s facilities, and represent the organization at important forums and meetings.

His book covers how to master the basics of public speaking.


Make sure you do your homework on the topic and understand what you’re going to talk about. If it’s a subject you’re already well versed in, show the audience that you’re an expert. If the topic is not exactly your area of expertise, become better informed by doing research and talking with authorities in the field.

Knowing your audience is important: Are they senior managers, representatives from another organization, or engineering students? Your audience affects your approach and how sophisticated your talk should be.

“Remember, you are there to clearly and concisely communicate important information—not to show off and use big words,” Roman says. “To the extent you can, draw parallels to their interests, professions, or experiences.”


Start preparing your presentation by determining the conclusions you want the audience to leave with, and then work backward. Summarize the main points concisely to help attendees remember them. Roman offers three simple rules: Tell the audience what you are going to speak about, tell them the things you came to say, and sum up by telling them what you just told them.

Each slide in your presentation should contain a complete thought or concept that meshes with the previous one. Have one or two slides for each minute of your allotted time. Be sure to number the slides to preserve the order, and have an extra copy on hand, just in case you encounter technical problems.

To feel comfortable with your talk, rehearse it several times, Roman says. Speak clearly with a strong voice. Enunciate all your words.

Don’t race through the presentation, and be sure to look at your audience, not only at your slides or notes. Do not read your slides to the audience. The visuals should act as a cue about what you want to say.

At the end of the talk, summarize the main points concisely to help the audience remember them.

Encourage questions after your talk. Try to answer them; if you don’t know the answer, simply say so, but then get the person’s contact information so you can send the answer later.

“No audience wants to see a speaker do poorly, because they will have wasted their time,” Roman says. “Good public speakers are remembered, respected, and often emulated.”


A good way to improve your presentation skills is to give talks to groups such as your religious organization and civic groups. Roman also suggests joining your company’s speakers bureau or Toastmasters International, which operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication and public speaking skills.

Consider presenting a technical paper at a conference, visiting schools to talk about the engineering profession, or giving a presentation at an IEEE-sponsored event or section meeting.

“Whichever method you use to learn how to speak confidently in public is up to you, but do take the time to learn this valuable skill,” Roman says. “It’s a stepping stone to your career and the perfect way to develop your leadership skills.

IEEE Survey Finds That Female Technologists Face Unequal Treatment and Sexist Workplaces

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More than 4,500 respondents reported their experiences, and many offered suggestions

THE INSTITUTEFemale IEEE members say they face significant discrimination in the workplace, including demeaning comments, inappropriate job-interview questions, and exclusion from networking events and important business meetings.

Those were among the most common negative experiences reported by more than 4,500 members—associate member grade and above—from around the world who answered a survey IEEE conducted in 2017. The results were released last year.

Almost half of those surveyed worked in academia, and about 30 percent were from private industry. The rest worked for governmental or nonprofit institutions, or were graduate students or self-employed. The majority of respondents (65 percent) lived outside the United States.

Nearly 60 percent said they did not think men and women working in technology fields are treated equally. They also reported feeling they were held back by other factors including their ethnicity, country of origin, and race. More than 70 percent reported the same two negative experiences: Questions or comments that should have been addressed to them were instead directed to male colleagues, and male coworkers made disparaging comments about them.

More than half reported witnessing sexist behavior at off-site meetings and conferences.

Female speakers and panelists are underrepresented at tech conferences, and few are asked to serve as the event’s general or technical chair, respondents noted.

Twenty-eight percent said they had been subjected to an unwanted sexual advance at work by either a male colleague or a superior. Only about half of the women took some kind of action, and among those who reported the behavior, 47 percent said they were dissatisfied with the actions taken by their employer. Respondents who didn’t pursue the matter said they believed doing so would negatively impact their career or not make a difference—or they simply wanted to forget about the incident.

When it came to family matters, 51 percent of the women said that to be taken more seriously in their career, they needed to speak less about their children. Of the nearly 80 percent who took maternity leave, about half returned early for fear that being out too long would jeopardize their career.


The survey included an open-ended question asking for suggestions about what IEEE could do to help address women’s issues. More than 1,440 members answered the question. Their responses were grouped into eight categories.

  • Raise awareness of the issues, such as unconscious bias, harassment, sexist comments, unequal pay, and exclusion.
  • Create either online or in-person mentorship programs for students and professionals.
  • Make conferences more inclusive.
  • Highlight in IEEE publications people and organizations making changes. Raise the visibility of women who have made contributions to technology by nominating them for awards and other honors. Also praise and acknowledge organizations that are working to resolve the issues women face in the workplace.
  • Increase the number of scholarships and travel grants for women—especially for those who live in developing countries—by creating funding opportunities or improving existing programs.
  • Lobby governments to create better laws around family leave, including maternity and paternity leave.
  • Partner with other organizations that are already working on behalf of women to create programs or enhance existing ones.
  • Educate women on how to recognize and deal with discrimination.

Based on the suggestions, as well as other concerns that were brought to the attention of the IEEE Board of Directors, in February the Board approved the formation of an ad hoc committee on diversity, inclusion, and professional ethics. IEEE Fellow Andrea Goldsmith was appointed chair of the committee. Read The Institute’s interview with Goldsmith to learn more about the group’s goals.

Three IEEE presidents wrote a letter in response to an article published in IEEE Spectrum’s November issue about the findings from a U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study released in June that examined sexual harassment. The report found that sexual harassment in science, engineering, and medicine has broad impacts, and it undermines women’s educational and professional success. The Spectrum article was written by C.D. Mote Jr., president of the National Academy of Engineering, and two of the report’s authors.

In their letter, IEEE President José M.F. Moura, 2018 President Jim Jefferies, and 2017 President Karen Bartleson talked about IEEE’s commitment to maintaining a culture that is diverse, inclusive, and respectful. They discussed IEEE’s efforts aimed at improving transparency and accountability, encouraging strong and diverse leadership, and inspiring all members of the engineering community to be responsible for reducing and preventing harassment.

“Harassment and discrimination of any kind undermine us all,” they wrote. “At IEEE, we strive to advance a professional environment where all individuals feel welcome and safe and are able to contribute to the best of their abilities.”

New Hampshire to Honor Hometown Hero IEEE Fellow Ralph Baer

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Manchester’s Baer Commemorative Square will celebrate the Father of Video Games

THE INSTITUTEVideo game history buffs, you might want to pay a visit to Manchester, N.H., on 10 May to watch IEEE Fellow Ralph Baer’s hometown unveil a statue and plaza honoring the “Father of the Video Game.” He came up with the idea for a home console for video games in 1951. It let people play games on almost any television set and spawned the commercialization of interactive video games. Baer died 6 December 2014 at the age of 92.

In a news release, BAE systems (the successor company to his former employer) called the commemorative square a “fitting tribute to the man who helped the company develop a healthy disregard for the impossible.”

Called the Brown Box—which refers to the wood-grain, self-adhesive vinyl that covered the console—the soundless multiplayer system included some of the basic features most home video game units still have today, such as a pair of controllers. And it had some things unique to that era, such as clear plastic overlay sheets that could be taped to the player’s TV screen to add color, playing fields, and other graphics. It ran games off printed-circuit-board cartridges that controlled switches to alter the system’s logic, depending on the game. Users could play table tennis, checkers, and four different sports games, including golf and target shooting.

Over the years, The Institute has written several articles about Baer. We reported when his Brown Box was named an IEEE Milestone in 2015. Administered by the IEEE History Center, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments from around the world. In that article we wrote about how Baer got his idea for the console while working as an engineer at Loral Corp., a military electronics company in New York City. But the company could see no use for it, and it languished. Then in 1966, while sitting outside of New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, Baer used pencil and paper to sketch the technical details for what he called a “game box.” At the time, he was an engineer at Sanders Associates (now BAE Systems), a defense contractor, in Nashua, N.H. An intrigued manager gave him US $2,500 for materials and assigned two engineers to work with him. The project became an obsession for the three men, who built prototype after prototype in a secret workshop.

In 1968, Sanders licensed the system to TV-set maker Magnavox, which in 1972 began offering a version of the Brown Box as its Odyssey system in the United States for $100. Some 130,000 units were sold the first year. Odyssey included football, a shooting game, and a table tennis game that predated Pong, Atari’s popular version, which was introduced in 1972. Baer’s 1971 patent on a “television gaming and training apparatus,” the first U.S. patent for video game technology, was based on the Brown Box.

Aside from today’s high-tech video game consoles, Baer also invented greeting cards that play a recorded song or message when they are opened as well as the electronic memory game Simon, which became a pop culture icon in the 1980s. The saucer-shaped plastic toy has four colored buttons that light up and emit tones in a sequence that the player then has to reproduce. It is still being sold. Baer also developed interactive video entertainment and educational and training games for consumer and military applications.

In 2008, Baer donated his video game test units, production models, notes, and schematics to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. His papers are kept in the museum’s Archives Center. The Smithsonian collected his New Hampshire workshop in 2014 and it is on display at the American History Museum.

The Institute also reported on his son’s quest to get his father elevated to IEEE Fellow status. I sat next to Mark at the 2014 Honors Ceremony held in Amsterdam, where he shared his journey with me. Mark and his son Alex were there to accept the 2014 IEEE Edison Medal on behalf of his father, who at 92, was unable travel to Amsterdam from his home in the New Hampshire. The medal recognized him “for pioneering and fundamental contributions to the video-game and interactive multimedia-content industries.”

Even though Baer was the recipient of many distinguished awards—including the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2006 and induction into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010—he placed that of IEEE Fellow above all the rest. There is no doubt that Baer qualified to receive the organization’s highest membership grade conferred by its Board of Directors, but only other IEEE Fellows can nominate a candidate. When you are a lone inventor like Baer, busily toiling away in a workshop that’s attached to your house, you don’t get many opportunities to meet these distinguished members. 

Mark connected with IEEE Fellow and 2008 IEEE President, Lewis Terman, who helped him with finding other Fellows and took over the application and successfully completed the process. Baer was elevated in 2013 “for contributions to the creation, development and commercialization of interactive video games.”

In our conversation, Mark told me he has made it one of his most compelling personal projects to ensure his father’s legacy gets acknowledged. Mark is the one who notified me about this commemorative square. I think Ralph would be proud of the job his son is doing.

In my research for this article, I found out that Manchester also holds an annual Ralph Baer Day on 8 March, the inventor’s birthday. According to its website, the local community initiative believes the legacy of the Father of the Video Game “should be celebrated by exploring and encouraging creativity, play, and the inventive spirit.” Isn’t that what being an engineer is all about?

Q&A With Chair of New Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Ethics

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IEEE Fellow Andrea Goldsmith explains what the group will address

THE INSTITUTEThe IEEE Board of Directors in February approved an ad hoc committee on diversity, inclusion, and professional ethics. The Institute interviewed IEEE Fellow Andrea Goldsmith, chair of the committee, about what the group will be working on, what led to its formation, and what diversity and inclusion mean in a global organization.

Goldsmith, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, has been involved in diversity and inclusion efforts for the two IEEE societies she belongs to: Communications and Information Theory. She is the founding chair of the IEEE Technical Activities Board’s committee on diversity and inclusion—which came out of a TAB ad hoc committee on women and underrepresented groups.

What is the new ad hoc committee’s charter?

The committee has been organized into three subcommittees. The first subcommittee has been tasked with developing and implementing mechanisms to improve diversity and inclusion across all of IEEE. That diversity encompasses age, gender, geography, race, ethnicity, and work sector.

The second subcommittee is focusing on member and professional ethics and is looking to streamline and merge all of IEEE organizational units’ various ethics and conduct codes into one. Plans call for the subcommittee to develop training and outreach programs to raise awareness among members and volunteers about IEEE’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct and their responsibility to uphold it, report violations, and prevent retaliation. In addition, the subcommittee is developing professional ethics advice and support policies.

The third subcommittee is designing a method for expanding IEEE’s existing ethics processes around reporting, mediation, adjudication, appeal, and sanctions. The processes are to incorporate best practices for timeliness, tracking, transparency, and confidential reporting of violations. The subcommittee will also consider implementing an IEEE ombudsperson and creating a whistleblower program for member support around ethics and conduct.

Explain the definition of diversity and inclusion as they apply to IEEE.

Diversity is interesting to talk about in a global organization like IEEE. It encompasses gender and geography but also work sectors, such as academia, industry, and research labs. It also includes ethnicity and race, which in terms of underrepresented groups can be different in the United States compared with Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world.

It also encompasses age. There has been a movement to attract more young professionals to IEEE—and to make sure they are fully engaged and provided compelling benefits—because they are the future of the organization.

Inclusion is making sure all these diverse members are getting the full benefits of membership. One of the most important things is to collect diversity metrics so we know where we are as an organization, and publish these metrics. You can’t make improvements or set diversity goals if you don’t know where you are. The metrics could include things like diversity in leadership roles across all of IEEE and within its societies and councils. That is very important. We also want to look at mechanisms that improve diversity and outcomes in programs such as awards and Fellows.

What is your interest in leading the committee?

I’ve been a champion of diversity and inclusion pretty much my entire career because I believe diversity in my profession will lead to better technology and better benefits to humanity from it.

I was the first woman president of the IEEE Information Theory Society. I also founded the society’s student committee to make sure the society was more inclusive of younger members and people with diverse backgrounds.

I got more formally involved in IEEE’s diversity and inclusion issues when I chaired the selection committee for nominees for the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal. That was the first time I saw data on IEEE award recipients such as gender and geographic diversity. I realized that women and people from specific IEEE regions were rarely nominated for major awards, and I felt I had to do something about that.

What did you do?

My Bell Medal committee went about getting more women nominated as well as more candidates from countries that are geographically underrepresented. Also, during a discussion with the IEEE medals committee about why a specific female nominee didn’t win, I raised what I thought were issues of implicit bias in the committee’s discussions.

The chair asked me to work with him to write a document for the IEEE Awards Board on implicit bias. That document is now distributed to all IEEE committee chairs and boards working on award nominations. The Awards Board also formed a Diversity Task Force, which developed a formal diversity statement. This year four women and nine people outside the United States received IEEE medals and recognitions. While I don’t know if there is a direct correlation, I consider that outcome a very positive development.

When IEEE President José Moura was Technical Activities vice president in 2016, he appointed me to chair an ad hoc committee on diversity and inclusion that reported to the Technical Activities Board. It was made a standing committee in 2017, and I was appointed its chair. That’s what led him to appoint me to this IEEE Board-level ad hoc committee.

Did the IEEE Technical Activities ad hoc committee make progress?

It did, but of course there’s a lot more progress to be made. It was successful in raising the visibility about the issues of diversity and inclusion, not just within TAB but across all of IEEE.

The committee discovered that many of the issues around diversity and inclusion are IEEE-wide. Groups such as the TAB and IEEE Women in Engineering are doing parallel or complementary efforts, but they can’t change all of IEEE. Having a board-appointed ad hoc committee that can look at diversity and inclusion across the organization is valuable.

I was involved in the TAB reaffirmation of the IEEE’s Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics, and then other operating units also reaffirmed those statements.

Many members aren’t aware of these codes. There was a sense that abiding by these codes should be a condition of membership, so making them more visible and having more discussion around them is important.

Why was ethics grouped in with diversity and inclusion?

That’s an interesting question, because ethics is not part of the charter of the TAB committee I chaired. But as that committee uncovered issues around diversity and inclusion that needed to be addressed in IEEE, we found that ethics was key in being able to make those improvements.

For example, when women engineers are excluded from participating in IEEE leadership roles, or being invited to be distinguished lecturers and speakers at conferences, that means they’re not getting the full benefit of membership. When you talk about implicit bias or more severe things that women deal with, such as sexual harassment, that discourages members from participating.

Abiding by the codes of ethics and conduct became especially important after the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report in November about the sexual harassment women have faced in the scientific, technical, and medical workforce and its impact on their career advancement. The study talked about the role that professional societies can play in mitigating such incidents by requiring ethical behavior in society activities and events. The committee will also look into effective mechanisms to educate and support members regarding safe, ethical, and sustainable technology design and deployment.

You can’t separate out diversity and inclusion from ethics, so it became apparent that ethics should be addressed by the ad hoc committee.

Tips for EE Students on Getting Skills They Need for the Workplace

Post Syndicated from Kathy Pretz original

IEEE-USA book offers practical ways to become a better communicator

THE INSTITUTEAs a new college graduate, you might think all you need to get a job is a killer résumé that shows you can master the position’s technical aspects. But you also need to become adept at communicating with people, according to Harry T. Roman, the author of a new IEEE-USA e-book, Transitioning From Student to Engineer. The e-book costs US $4.99, but IEEE members can buy it for $2.99.

Roman, who is retired, spent more than 30 years as project manager for the R&D group of Public Service Electric and Gas Co. in Newark, N.J. He recently finished a three-year term serving on the advisory board at his alma mater, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, also in Newark. That experience, he wrote in the book’s forward, showed him that many of the school’s budding engineers didn’t see the value of acquiring skills such as project management, team building, and coaching.

Over time, he says, just 15 percent of an engineer’s job involves technical skills. The rest requires professional or people skills.

Once mastered, professional and soft skills never become obsolete, he says: They are always relevant in the workplace.

Roman cites several studies whose findings support the need for new engineers to master such skills. Google conducted a survey on what skills its employees will need to fulfill the company’s mission and goals. They include being a good coach, having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues, and becoming a good critical thinker and problem solver.

The results of a study by McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont., Canada, about what skills employers are looking for in new hires showed critical thinking, communications, and awareness about cultural perspectives were in demand. Nearly all the companies surveyed said a candidate’s capacity for thinking and communicating clearly, as well as the person’s ability to solve complex problems, were more important than what subject they majored in.


Students should start planning for their engineering career as early as their sophomore year, Roman says. Attend school events where seasoned engineers and representatives from engineering companies talk about their work. Those speakers are often alumni, whom Roman calls “little pockets of gold.”

“They are naturally interested in the next generation and have keen insights into what is happening in the field,” he says. Plus, they are always on the lookout for promising talent, and they could end up hiring you. Roman recommends networking with them and discussing the class projects you’re working on.

Get a part-time job or apply for internships at engineering firms, he recommends: “Employers tend to place more value on graduates who have relevant workplace experience. You’ll gain valuable experience about the rhythms and routines of engineering work.” Plus, an internship can give you practical skills, workplace experience, and a greater knowledge of the industry. Most companies expect candidates to have had at least one internship, he says.

Professors are another resource. Ask them if you can help with their research. “Becoming a team member is another way to perform meaningful work that will advance your understanding of the profession,” Roman says.

He suggests reading as much as you can about the engineering profession. He recommends books by Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University. Petroski has written nearly a dozen publications, on topics such as the evolution of everyday items, the history of America’s infrastructure, and design failures.

Also read what your professors have written about the profession, and consider subscribing to the publications they get. The literature can help you gain insights into how engineers solve problems and how they incorporate social, environmental, and other concerns into their decisions.

Join a professional engineering organization such as IEEE. There are nearly 3,300 IEEE student branches at colleges and universities in more than 100 countries. Student members organize events, work on humanitarian projects, and attend conferences.

To build up your oral and written communication skills, offer to write summaries of your professors’ research, write articles for your school newspaper, volunteer to give tours of your campus, or work at special events the school holds.

Those already in the workforce can polish their speaking skills by offering to give talks on their company’s behalf at schools and professional organizations. If your company has a speaker’s bureau, join it. You might want to check out another of Roman’s e-books, Public Speaking for Engineers.

If you’re put in charge of leading a team, your newly acquired communication skills are likely to come in handy. Good communication is the glue that unites a team, says Roman, who estimates that 75 percent of new products fail because of poor team communication.