THE INSTITUTEThanks to converters invented by IEEE Fellow Frede Blaabjerg, it’s less expensive to generate electricity from renewable energy sources. His development of variable speed drive technologies has led to more efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
For his work on energy storage and integration technologies, Blaabjerg received this year’s prestigious Global Energy Prize. The award—given by the Global Energy Association, a nongovernmental organization in Moscow—honors outstanding research that addresses energy challenges. He shares the US $600,000 prize with Khalil Amine, leader of the advanced lithium battery technology team at Argonne National Laboratory, in Illinois.
“I have been in the power electronics field for 30 years,” Blaabjerg told The Institute, “and my absolute major contribution in terms of impact has been in applications such as renewables, like wind generation. That includes connecting wind turbines to the grid and all the things that make it possible for going from wind to electricity.”
REDUCING ENERGY COSTS
The converter technologies, new design tools, and control electronics developed by Blaabjerg improved the quality of energy being fed into the power grid from photovoltaics, wind turbines, and other renewable sources, making the electricity more reliable and less expensive.
“Many years ago, it was not really economically feasible to apply this technology in these kinds of applications,” Blaabjerg says.
He also invented ways to make HVAC systems run more efficiently. The Global Energy Prize website reports that his invention of energy-optimal control systems for asynchronous induction motors and permanent magnet motors has increased efficiency by up to 20 percent compared with standard methods. He also reduced the number of sensors in HVAC systems’ industrial drives—which lowered the cost to run them.
Continuing to innovate, he’s now working on ways to predict when new power and electronics equipment will fail by using mathematical models that describe the wear out of the applied components in the power electronic circuits. He says he is basically trying to predict how long a product will last and at the same time take into account statistical variation.
He also is developing an automated way of conducting reliability assessments on the millions of renewable energy generators on the power grid.
Even with such accolades, Blaabjerg remains humble. Although he’s pleased to see the technologies he’s worked on for so long finally being used to benefit society, he says what he likes doing most now is working with his Ph.D. and postdoctoral students.
“I enjoy seeing young people have the opportunity to contribute technologies that make a difference in the world,” he says. “They understand the importance of having a reliable power system, and that electricity is necessary in modern society. By working in the power electronics field, they’ll have the opportunity to introduce and implement technologies related to power generation and power distribution and their efficient use.”
As president of the IEEE PES, he says, he’s happy to see increased interest in the discipline.
“Five years ago, we had 7,000 members, and we’ve just passed 10,000,” he points out. “We are seeing fast growth in this field.”
He has been an IEEE member since he was a power electronics engineering student at Aalborg, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
He says IEEE has inspired his work. “Through conferences, I was able to network with others, and there were seminars that I was able to learn from,” he says. “IEEE has helped bring visibility to my work and the ability to impact others. I also enjoy the high quality of IEEE’s publications.
“To me, the organization stands for excellence and respect.”
THE INSTITUTEI want to reflect on the unique times we live in and how they force us to rethink our organization.
Our roots go back to the founding of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) in 1884. It is interesting to note that AIEE was around at the onset of the second industrial revolution in the last quarter of the 19th century. That time period was dominated by electricity, radio, the telephone, and many other advances. Fast-forward to 1963, when AIEE and the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE), which had been founded in 1912, decided to bridge any remnant rivalry, joined forces, and restructured into one organization more attuned to the times: IEEE.
Again, it is interesting to note that AIEE and IRE were aware of the shift in technology that was moving us into the third industrial revolution, which would be dominated by electronics, computing, information, and digital advances.
We once again find ourselves facing a time of significant change. During the past 15 years of this 21st century, we have witnessed a perfect storm of technology convergence that includes the dominance of data arising from the physical, the social, and the business worlds; massive computing thanks to the miniaturization of chips and other components, as well as other factors predicted inexorably by Moore’s Law; progress in algorithms and processing methodologies; and the integration of disparate technologies on the wondrous smartphone.
Our world is interconnected, “smart,” and mobile. We aspire to “intelligent” infrastructure, “intelligent” transportation, smart homes, and smart everything.
RETHINKING SOCIETIES, COUNCILS, AND REGIONS
The question is how IEEE should evolve to address the new opportunities of this fourth industrial revolution. Our 46 societies and councils (S/Cs) are the professional homes for technologists in a large number of important technical fields, but it is clear they currently do not cover many of the areas driving the technological progress of the future. We face a conundrum in the way we manage ourselves. Many of our S/Cs are narrow in their discipline, while much of the current technology challenges are broad and require complementary expertise.
IEEE Technical Activities is addressing this quandary of covering emerging technologies through its Future Directions initiatives, which are nimble ways to evolve and expand IEEE’s technical horizons. The initiatives have a fixed horizon of three years, after which one or several of the existing S/Cs absorb them. It has become clear in some cases, however, that we might better sustain a specific initiative by creating a new technical S/C rather than merging it into an existing one.
The important point is to guarantee that IEEE has the right mix of S/Cs and that we nurture and sustain new technology areas. Herein lies an opportunity to rethink the current portfolio of S/Cs and develop ways of combining or sunsetting existing ones by creating new organizational units that are home to the emerging areas in which our technological world is evolving.
There is a similar opportunity for IEEE Member and Geographic Activities (MGA), which comprises 10 regions, 339 sections, 2,430 chapters, 543 affinity groups, 2,266 student branch chapters of S/Cs, and 3,284 college and university student branches—all of which support our members across the globe at the local level. These numbers reflect the vitality of IEEE. Our members as technical professionals identify with one or several technical S/Cs and belong to a section and a region, and possibly to a chapter, branch, or affinity group.
Two regions—Regions 8 (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) and 10 (Asia Pacific)—account for about 49 percent of membership, while the eight regions in the Americas account for 51 percent. One drawback of IEEE’s method of dividing membership is that there are regions with fewer than 20,000 members and others with more than 120,000. The largest regions include communities with a wide variety of economic development levels, member needs, and concerns.
An alternative, more-balanced regional structure might allow local leadership to better address a specific area’s membership needs. MGA has been discussing what a more appropriate structure might look like and how to smoothly transition to it as IEEE continues to evolve.
The dual nature of IEEE—technical activities that include journals, conferences, and standards development and member and geographic activities—presents a third opportunity: centralized and decentralized management.
There are activities best managed centrally for efficiency. These include recruiting members, marketing the IEEE Xplore Digital Library, IT, and financial operations. Then there are activities best managed at the edge of the organization. For example, S/Cs manage their journals, conferences, and other activities, while sections and chapters deliver tailored offerings to members through events and conference activities that provide specific results to local professional communities.
There is clearly a lot of engagement between the core and the edge. Between the two ends, IEEE has many tiers: operational units, S/Cs, regions, and geographic councils, with many subcommittees. The question is how best to align resources across the organization. Is our internal bureaucracy too large and too rigid? How much of IEEE’s resources should be focused on each of our major activities?
Membership activities are struggling with meager resources at the local level. How much of our resources should be pushed to and executed at the member-facing edge? How do we encourage agility, adaptation, and local engagement while ensuring efficiency and consistency across the organization? We need a better balance of resources between the core and the edge, reinforcing a decentralized operation.
We should support the local geographic units and their activities at the appropriate level, providing them with access to meaningful resources to unleash our members’ ingenuity and volunteerism.
Now is a good time to engage in these not-so-easy discussions. We have many reasons to have confidence in our future. Our operational budgets are positive, offering the opportunity to invest resources in our future. Our diverse membership, committed volunteers, and enthusiastic students and young professionals afford a robust foundation to strengthen our global presence.
This year the Board of Directors engaged in a number of focused efforts, investigating how to better engage the vast audiences of electrical engineers, computer scientists, information and communication technologists, and biotechnologists. The Board also considered new membership models.
In January IEEE will launch a mobile app to provide access to all our activities and offer members ways to network and engage.
The Board developed and implemented a strategy to promote open science and open access, launching new open access journals, further developing repositories for data (Dataport) and codes (Code Ocean), and designing new business models to market our publications.
It also addressed head-on that IEEE is a diverse, inclusive organization, as well as a transparent one, with a policy of open meetings and discussions. The Board committed to balanced operation budgets, which we have achieved two years in a row, and reduced corporate overhead.
We are in the process of enacting an efficient financial system to better manage our operations and finances. The Board engaged in transforming IEEE into a data-driven organization, assuring it is prepared for the next technological revolution. Much work still needs to be done.
This year I have had the honor to meet with volunteers around the world, to see the great work they do, and to hear how important IEEE is to them. IEEE is a symbiosis of committed volunteers and staff, but at the top are our members, more than 422,000 of them.
At the conclusion of my term, my experience as IEEE president and CEO leaves me convinced of how critical IEEE is to our shared future.
THE INSTITUTEJonathan Dahl, former senior director for IEEE global sales, has been selected to receive this year’s IEEE Eric Herz Outstanding Staff Member Award “for leadership in and contributions toward the extraordinary growth in the awareness and reach of the IEEE’s electronic libraries.”
Dahl retired from IEEE in 2017 but returned later that year to work as a consultant for IEEE Educational Activities. He left that position in April.
He began his career at IEEE in 1990 as sales and marketing senior director. While he was running the marketing department, it grew to include sales for the print publishing group. Eventually the sales and marketing department became responsible for selling subscriptions to the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.
Dahl says one of his key accomplishments was working with volunteers to establish a common pricing methodology for society publications. That gave IEEE the tools to establish a robust sales strategy for IEEE Xplore, he says, and distribute net revenues back to the organizational units.
“The entire IEEE has benefited enormously from being a major player in digital publishing,” one of his nominators wrote. “Thanks to the vision and hard work of many volunteers and members of the staff, IEEE has a successful publishing enterprise. Jon Dahl is the single most crucial actor in making IEEE publishing a lucrative business.”
The IEEE Board of Directors created the Herz Award in 2005 to honor Eric Herz, an IEEE Life Fellow and longtime volunteer who served in many capacities, including IEEE general manager and executive director. He died in 2016 at the age of 89.
The award recognizes a present or past full-time IEEE staff member. It consists of a framed certificate, a cash prize, and travel expenses to the award presentation.
The nomination deadline for the 2020 Herz Award is 15 January. For more information, visit the awards website.
THE INSTITUTE IEEE mourns the loss of Life Fellow Dennis J. Picard, former CEO and chairman of Raytheon, a U.S. technology company specializing in defense and homeland security. He died on 21 October at the age of 87.
Picard, who rose through the ranks at Raytheon, was able to help the company become one of the largest military suppliers in the United States.
After graduating from high school in 1950, Picard joined the U.S. Air Force. While overseas during the Korean War, he took courses on how radio worked—which sparked his interest in engineering. After he was discharged from the Air Force in 1953, he attended RCA Institute in New York City, and he graduated as a licensed broadcast engineer.
Picard started a business repairing broken televisions in the basement of his parents’ home in North Providence, R.I. In 1955 he decided to pursue a full-time position with an engineering company in Waltham, Mass. According to his obituary published by The Boston Globe, on the way to the interview, he got lost and sought help from a police officer, who mistakenly directed him to a Raytheon hiring center in Waltham. Raytheon hired him on the spot as an engineering assistant.
While working at Raytheon, Picard continued his studies. In 1961 he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and management from Northeastern University, in Boston.
Picard worked as an electrical engineer at Raytheon for 21 years, until he was promoted to corporate vice president in 1976.
CLIMBING THE CAREER LADDER
According to IEEE Life Fellow Richard Cox, a research professor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, in Baltimore, Picard was a true success story. In both his technical and managerial career, he was known for his attention to detail. He made Raytheon a leader.”
In 1982 Picard became general manager of Raytheon’s equipment division, which designed and produced shipboard and large phased array radars for intelligence gathering and attack warning.
He became general manager of the missile systems division in 1983. He helped develop the Patriot missile, a ground-based mobile defense interceptor deployed by many countries including the United States. The system is used to detect and track unmanned aerial vehicles as well as missiles.
He was named CEO in 1991. During his tenure, he more than doubled the company’s yearly sales, to US $19.5 billion in 1998 from $9.3 billion in 1991.
Picard retired in 1998, and was honored by the company’s board of directors with the title of chairman emeritus.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dennis,” says IEEE Life Fellow John Treichler, president of the IEEE Foundation. “He was a visionary leader who understood that by weeding through the details, you would uncover what needed to be done. And then he did it. We are grateful that for nearly 20 years he chose to donate to the IEEE Foundation’s fund, ensuring that a wide variety of philanthropic activities would be supported.”
“For two decades, Raytheon has been proud to be a partner with the IEEE Foundation through the creation of the IEEE Dennis J. Picard Medal recognizing outstanding accomplishments in the field of radar technology and its applications,” adds IEEE Fellow Mark E. Russell, the company’s vice president of engineering, technology, and mission assurance. “Moving forward, Dennis’ vibrancy and commitment to investing in the progression of others will be carried on by honoring another whose inventive contributions will continue to have a sustained impact on our world.”
THE INSTITUTE Not many of us would have the courage to quit our day job to focus full time on a passion project. But that’s what IEEE Member Rupa Dachere, a software engineer, did last year. Her passion is CodeChix, a nonprofit in San Jose, Calif., that she formed in 2009 to offer mentoring, networking, and technical training programs for female developers and engineers.
Today CodeChix has more than 1,500 members. It publishes a monthly newsletter and offers free technical training through a partnership with O’Reilly’s, an online education provider. CodeChix has a strong presence on social media. This year the company partnered with SRI International, a nonprofit research center, to establish a technical mentorship program so CodeChix members could sharpen their open-source technology skills as a way to advance their career.
The company holds the popular DevPulseCon, an annual two-day woman-centric technical and educational conference in San Jose that now attracts hundreds of people.
The company’s growth, increased attendance at the conference, and new offerings would not have been possible if Dachere hadn’t been encouraged last year to give her full attention to building up CodeChix, she says.
HOW IT BEGAN
Back in 2009, Dachere grew tired of being the lone female software developer at Motorola in San Jose, so she began seeking out others by attending local meetings and conferences for technologists.
“I was awfully lonely. I wanted to talk about technical issues and do some programming projects with other women,” she says. “I’m an introvert, so I forced myself to go to meet-ups, but 99 percent of the attendees were men, and there were no technical conferences back then just for women developers.”
Dachere eventually came across two other female technologists. They became friends and began meeting regularly at her house in San Jose. Those women invited others, and the group became too large for Dachere’s small quarters, so they began meeting in conference rooms at nearby companies including Google and Intel. The women mostly talked about technical issues they encountered on the job, and they worked together on coding projects.
The group’s members participated in an international competition to build an open-source SDN controller and were the first all-woman team to submit a project to the event. Their work was acclaimed at the 2014 LinuxCon Australia.
One of Dachere’s frustrations at the time was the absence of conferences tailored just for female developers, technical project managers, and system administrators.
“I wanted to create a conference that I would want to go to,” she says. “One that had very technical talks and technical workshops that enhanced my skills to prepare me to be competitive.”
In 2009 she decided to solve the problem by forming CodeChix, which became a nonprofit company in 2012. She and other CodeChix volunteers organized the full-day conference in 2014, Coder [xx], which attracted more than 100 women. The annual conference now welcomes women as well as transgender and gender-nonconforming engineers and male allies.
The conference includes a “safe space” panel, where attendees can discuss sensitive workplace issues without worrying about being exposed to criticism, harassment, ridicule, or retaliation.
About 125 people attended the 2016 conference. In 2017 the event was renamed DevPulseCon, expanded to two days, and had 230 attendees. More than 250 people came to last year’s event, and this year close to 300 attended.
Topics covered over the years include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, open-source software, and new programming languages, tools, and techniques. The conference offers hands-on developer workshops created per CodeChix guidelines.
Like other startup founders, she uses her own money to keep the company and conference afloat.
“I’m not doing this to make money,” Dachere says. “I’m doing this so that women developers can all get better together.”
SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE
Dachere is heavily involved with organizing each of the conferences, something that was new to her when she first started. She picks the topics, finds speakers, develops the program, promotes the event, gets sponsors, and takes care of the hundreds of other time-consuming tasks.
She did all this while still working full time and climbing the career ladder. She left Motorola Mobility, worked at a startup for six months and then in 2012 joined VMWare in Palo Alto, Calif., where she was a senior member of the technical staff. In 2018, she moved to Walmart Labs, in Sunnyvale, Calif., working as a principal product manager running the company’s cloud infrastructure for e-commerce.
“I had no life,” she admits. “I had a full-time job where I was doing a lot of heavy lifting.” She also had to attend to her aging parents, who live in Denver. She confesses that her job responsibilities and eldercare duties were taking a mental and physical toll, and caused her to lose focus on organizing the 2018 DevPulseCon.
Although attendance was high, just about anything that could go wrong did, she says. She had a difficult time finding someone to help her organize the conference and the keynote speaker dropped out at the last minute. But she soldiered on. And then a life-altering event took place.
In the fall of 2018, she attended a one-week leadership program for product management at the University of California, Berkeley. On the last day of class, she was asked to do a pitch for CodeChix.
Afterward, Dachere says, the main instructor approached her and recalls her saying, “Don’t take this the wrong way but you really need to rethink your life. What you’re doing for work—they can hire somebody else to do. But what you’re doing outside of work with CodeChix, only you can do, so think about what you want to achieve in your life and what you want to be known for.”
Finally earning a good salary, Dachere says she had no intention of quitting her new job. But Beckman got her thinking: “What if I got hit by a bus and was going to die, what would be my number one regret?,” she recalls asking herself. “It would be that I never gave CodeChix my full attention. I always worked on it in my spare time. I didn’t want to have that regret. If I failed at least I gave it my best shot. I could live with that.” A week later she resigned.
In January she began working full time on CodeChix. She restructured her board and focused on this year’s conference. And her decision paid off. She says this year’s DevPulseCon had the most sponsorships, the highest number of attendees, and the best program.
She also formed a unique partnership with SRI International. It allows CodeChix members to work with the institute’s scientists to create and contribute to open-source projects in AI, cybersecurity, data science, and machine learning.
Additionally, CodeChix will be launching the Safe Space & Ally training program for female technologists and male allies in the industry who work in R&D roles, Dachere says. The program is the first to create a non-retaliatory space for open feedback, she says, adding that it will be tested at two companies next year and should launch in 2021.
“We’ll bring our successful safe-space program to companies to bridge the gap between senior leadership and rank-and-file developers to address critical concerns that force technical women to leave the field,” she says.
One reason they are leaving, she says, is because of the lack of advancement and promotion opportunities—which is tied to a lack of quality technical training in a palatable format.
“Part of it is also the workplace culture. That includes the mindset of management, management structure, and incentive plans,” she says. “Senior leadership does not understand what’s going on, so we want to help them. No one has ever done this type of program before.”
THE INSTITUTEThe Mediterranean fruit fly is a destructive pest. It can wipe out an entire year’s worth of crops. Infestations cause farmers to lose trillions of dollars in sales every year, according to the U.N. Environmental Program.
Crops grown in countries in Europe, the Middle East, and North America have been severely damaged by the pests. The flies lay their eggs in fruit and vegetable plants, and when the larvae hatch, they feed on the produce.
The only way to kill the flies is to use pesticides, but spraying too much of the chemicals can damage crops and kill off insects that are the pests’ natural enemies. Plus, the chemicals reduce the produce’s nutritional value.
Knowing how much pesticide to use, when, and where is tricky.
The startup Internet of Trees (IOTree) is trying to solve the problem with a system that alerts farmers when an infestation has occurred and sends them information via a mobile app about the right amount of pesticide to use. Farmers in Lebanon and the Netherlands are testing the app.
“To treat the infestations, farmers were spraying an excess amount of pesticides on their crops,” Chaccour says. “Instead of saving their crops, they were making the situation worse by using more chemicals than the law allows.”
El Turky was Chaccour’s professor when she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Notre Dame–Louaize. After hearing about the struggles that farmers in the Lebanon Mountains were facing during a trip there, El Turky attended workshops and seminars and met with farmers to understand the issue.
After discovering that the growers were spraying too much pesticide, she wanted to use technology to solve what she saw as an agricultural crisis.
El Turky came up with the concept for IOTree and showed it to Chaccour. The two built smart insect traps that use a deep-learning algorithm, machine vision, cameras, and sensors. There are currently two prototypes of the IOTree smart traps—one for greenhouses and another for fields and orchards.
Traps are placed so each one covers about 4,050 square meters (1 acre) to catch the insects. Once caught inside, the pests are photographed—their images transmitted to a server—and counted.
“The photos are sent to the program’s server on the cloud—which classifies the pest with the help of our repository of images,” Chaccour says. “The smart trap is capable of knowing which pest is targeting the farmer’s plot and how often.”
The information gathered from the images determines whether a fruit fly or another insect is damaging the crop. Then the system calculates how much pesticide the farmer should use based on the type of insect and the count. The sensors in the smart trap also measure the soil’s humidity and temperature.
The two women also built a mobile app. The information from the smart traps is sent to the farmers via the app, which can be used on a mobile device or computer.
“Once the farmer has installed the smart IOTree devices, the app will remotely provide him with all the agricultural practices he needs to complete, such as when to spray pesticides, where to spray them, and how much to spray,” Chaccour says. “The farmer can watch over his plot from the comfort of his own home.
“Our aim is to provide the farmer with an affordable solution that is less expensive than the price of applying pesticides. This technology also helps motivate farmers not to rely on pesticides, which drastically reduce the quality of the produce and negatively impact the ecosystem.”
IOTree is in the process of filing a patent application as well as registering for a trademark.
The company offers two levels of subscription service: premium and “freemium.” Farmers with a freemium subscription get notified of an infestation. The premium version provides the farmer information about what was detected—which could include not just fruit flies but also eggs and fungi. The price of the premium service is still being worked out. Both subscriptions require farmers to purchase smart traps. The overall price will vary depending on the plot size and how many traps are needed.
The startup is getting assistance from business incubators Agrytech, Flat6Labs, and Touch Lebanon as well as the Lithuania-based Women in Tech by Lebanese startup accelerator, Baltic Sandbox. Women in Tech provides women in STEM fields with career guidance and startup funding. Touch Lebanon is the country’s leading mobile telecommunications and data operator.
IOTree won this year’s regional Global Social Venture Competition in the Middle East. The startup was also named the best Lebanese solution by the Next Society, comprised of investors from countries such as France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.
“We want to raise awareness about the struggles farmers are facing all over the globe,” Chaccour says.
Based on the feedback the company has received, it’s enhancing its algorithms to make IOTree more accurate.
El Turky and Chaccour are working on adding Narrowband Internet of Things capability to their app. NB-IoT is a low-power network standard that is expected to enable a wider variety of cellular devices and services to be connected to the IoT. NB-IoT functions with low bandwidth and therefore can improve the smart traps’ battery life and power consumption. The startup can use the technology to send small packets of data to and from the server, and the NB-IoT will provide the traps with constant access to power. Thus, farmers should be able to use the trap system even when inclement weather causes power outages.
Chaccour says the company has partnered with Touch Lebanon to develop the traps’ NB-IoT capabilities. The feature is expected to be introduced next year.
THE INSTITUTE More than 150 teens from around the world spent two weeks this year experiencing what it’s like to be an engineer, thanks to the IEEE TryEngineering Summer Institute.
The program offers students an on-campus living experience while building teamwork and essential communication skills necessary for success as an engineer through hands-on activities and educational programs. It took place on three U.S. campuses: the University of California, Riverside; Texas A&M University, in College Station; and Vaughn College, in Flushing, N.Y.
Students ages 12 to 17—or those entering grades 8 through 12 as of September—are eligible to attend the two-week program. Registration is now open for next year’s enrollment.
The registration fee is US $3,495. Sign up by 31 December and save $200. Family and friends of IEEE members and employees are eligible for an additional $100 discount.
The TryEngineering Summer Institute sends students on an academic journey, building confidence and gaining knowledge, experience, and skills through five Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity.
Students can improve their communication skills by interacting and working with other students and mentors on projects including electrical engineering design challenges. The goal is to encourage students to work together on solutions, and to feel comfortable reaching out to instructors to gain further understanding of engineering principles.
The curriculum encourages students to collaborate on assignments and activities to learn how to work with others. One assignment that encourages teamwork is the team design challenge, which groups together students on an assignment. They must identify a problem, design a solution, and create a prototype.
Engineering principles are introduced and reinforced through hands-on work. They include design principles, expected outcomes, and the opportunity for students to discover what is possible. Students develop critical-thinking skills as they try to solve problems. In the process, they gain a better understanding of engineering technology.
Students discover the creative side of the profession by doing hands-on activities in class, using computer-aided design, 3D printers, and similar technologies.
Here’s what some people had to say about their experience this year:
“I enjoyed the summer institute because of the many new things I learned and the supportive people there. The lessons were fun, and I enjoyed learning about the many different disciplines of engineering and the lessons focused around the discipline of the day.”
—Attendee at the UC Riverside campus
“At first I was unsure about the summer institute because I did not know if I wanted to pursue an engineering career in the future. But then I learned that engineering is about developing solutions for the good of others, and that changed my outlook on the field. As time went on at the camp, I began to learn more about engineering, and my interest for it grew. I am still not sure if I want to be an engineer in the future, but it is definitely an option.”
—Attendee at Texas A&M campus
“I was impressed by the content, scope, and quality of delivery of the program within the short duration of two weeks. It helped my son’s understanding and appreciation for the field of engineering, and he had the opportunity to be exposed to lecturers, external mentors, and fellow students who participated in the program.”
Residential program tuition includes all academic supplies and classes, a double-occupancy room in the residence hall, daily meals in a campus dining hall, a T-shirt, site visit and excursion expenses, and transportation to and from activities.
For those who live near a campus where the summer institute is held, there is a commuter option. The pricing for commuters is $2,295. The hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
A limited number of needs-based scholarships are available through the generous support of IEEE societies.
Johanna Perez is the digital marketing specialist for IEEE Educational Activities.
THE INSTITUTEAs electronics get smaller and more powerful, they are generating more heat. One challenge for manufacturers is finding a way to cool down their creations without affecting performance.
Current methods to prevent overheating include fans, aluminum heat sinks, and liquid-cooled cold plates. A heat sink has a thermal conductor to disperse the heat. As devices get smaller and hotter, their heat sinks are getting larger.
Mechanical engineer Bernie Malouin, founder of the startup Jetcool Technologies, says making bigger heat spreaders is a backward approach. His team came up with a different way: a technology they call microconvective cooling, which uses small jets of fluid. Jetcool’s heat sink can be embedded within the substrate, be part of the baseplate, or be a modular add-on.
“Why develop smaller and smaller devices just to saddle them with larger and larger heat sinks?” Malouin says. “It just didn’t make sense to me. Jetcool uses small heat sinks that are essentially the same size as the device itself. On top of that, our approach provides 10 times better cooling than other methods such as microchannels, cold plates, or air cooling.”
Instead of spreading the heat, Jetcool’s small jets of high-velocity fluid are aimed directly at the surface to remove the heat right where it’s generated. The jets are built into the silicon substrate, integrating cooling into the processor chip. Its solution integrates seamlessly with almost all of today’s liquid-cooling infrastructure, requiring only industry-standard pressures and flow rates.
What’s more, Malouin says, Jetcool heat sinks are lightweight, don’t use thermal epoxies or pastes, and eliminate the need for metal heat sinks. The miniature cooling modules can be added during chip fabrication or to an existing component at the packaging stage, he says.
Jetcool’s on-chip microconvective cooling could be used in the motor drives of electric vehicle power systems, the laser diodes that are part of defense systems, and the performance processors powering data centers.
Several prototypes are being piloted, and Malouin said he expects to start selling products next year.
Malouin has nine U.S. patent applications pending. Some of his technology has been licensed from his former employer, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in Lexington, Mass., where for eight years he worked in its mechanical engineering and thermal engineering group. That’s where he and Jetcool’s technology director, Jordan Mizerak, first met and came up with their idea, which was based on technology the team had been perfecting for five years.
“At Lincoln Laboratory, we observed this trend in miniaturization that was happening all around us,” Malouin says. “Innovations were being built upon more powerful devices in smaller and smaller packages. We saw power density was really going through the roof, and that’s the problem we worked to solve. The company is very young, but our technology has actually been fairly well proven.”
The startup is currently self-funded, but Malouin envisions a seed round early next year to expand the pilot project. In addition to Malouin and Mizerak, there’s only one other employee, but Jetcool is looking to hire people who “want to help reshape the future of electronics cooling,” Malouin says.
Malouin says the IMS provided a great forum for him to network with other startups, get feedback about his product, and better understand customers’ needs. Just as important, he adds, was that IEEE and the IMS brought small and large companies under one roof.
“Large organizations provide a fairly unique vector to turn new technologies into real products,” he says. “I think building relationships between startups and large companies is really key, and that’s something that IEEE and the IMS do very well.
“Being named the Next Top Startup has brought a lot of recognition to us and our technology. From our viewpoint, the competition was a tremendous success and something of high value to the startup community. We hope it continues in the future, because the event was well received by everyone.”
THE INSTITUTECitizens in several cities including Aspen, Colo.; Bern, Switzerland; San Diego, Calif.; and Totnes, England have been protesting the installation of 5G wireless base stations over concerns about the harmful effects these network nodes could have on humans, animals, and plants. They point to the potential danger of radio frequency (RF) radiation emitted from antennas installed in close proximity to people.
Protestors also cite the lack of scientific evidence showing that 5G signals, specifically those transmitting in the millimeter wave region of the electromagnetic spectrum, are safe. Today’s mobile devices operate at frequencies below 6 gigahertz, while 5G will use frequencies from 600 megahertz and above, including the millimeter wave bands between 30 GHz and 300 GHz.
Enough concern has been raised about 5G that some cities have cancelled or delayed the installation of the base stations.
The Institute asked two members of the IEEE initiative about their take on the controversy over 5G. IEEE Fellow Rod Waterhouse is on the editorial board of the initiative’s Tech Focus publication and edited the 5G report. His research interests include antennas, electromagnetics, and microwave photonics engineering. He’s the CTO and cofounder of Octane Wireless in Hanover, Md.
IEEE Senior Member David Witkowski is cochair of the initiative’s Deployment Working Group He’s a wireless and telecommunication industry expert. Witkowski is the executive director of the Wireless Communications Initiative for Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit based in San Jose, Calif., that works to solve problems in that region such as communications, education, and transportation.
Most of the concerns about 5G’s supposed negative impact on health stem from its cell towers having such a different architecture than the ones supporting today’s 3G and 4G cellular networks, Waterhouse says. Those towers are kilometers apart and placed on tall, raised structures that are typically located away from populated areas. Because a 5G base station can be smaller than a backpack, it can be placed just about anywhere, such as on top of light poles, street lights, and rooftops. That means the stations will be located near houses, apartment buildings, schools, stores, parks, and farms.
“Wireless companies are going to incorporate the devices into everyday structures, such as benches and bus stops, so they’ll be lower to the ground and closer to people,” Waterhouse says. “There also will be more of these base stations [compared with the number of cell towers around today] because of their limited reach. A 5G mm network requires cell antennas to be located every 100 to 200 meters.”
That being said, one of the benefits of these small base stations is that they would not have to transmit as much power as current cell towers, because the coverage areas are smaller.
“If the same amount of power that’s currently transmitted from a cell tower located 30 meters up were to be transmitted from a 5G base station installed at a bus stop, then there would be cause for concern,” says Waterhouse, “But that will not be the case.”
A 5G radio replacing a 4G radio at 750 MHz will have the same coverage as the 4G radio, presuming no change to the antenna, according to Witkowski. But, of course, it will provide higher data rates and quicker network response times.
Waterhouse predicts that 5G will be rolled out in two stages. The first, he says, would operate in bands closer to the slice of spectrum—below 6 GHz—where 4G equipment works. “There will be a little bit more bandwidth or faster data rates for everyone,” he says. “Also, 5G base stations will only be in certain small areas, not everywhere.”
In the next phase, which he calls 5G Plus, there will be huge improvement in bandwidth and data rates because there will be more base stations and they will be using mm wave frequencies.
Witkowski says U.S. carriers that already have dense deployments in sub-6 GHz bands will start deployment of 5G in the K/Ka band and mm wave. There also will be some swapping of 3G and 4G radios for newer 5G radios.
“For the U.S. carriers that have access to vacated/re-farmed spectrum, such as T-Mobile in 600 MHz and Sprint in 2.5 GHz, their deployment strategy will be to leave 3G/4G alone for now, and add 5G into these lower bands,” Witkowski says.
The ICNIRP and IEEE guidelines, which are periodically revised, were both updated this year. The limits for local exposure (for frequencies above 6 GHz) were set even lower. Belgium, India, Russia, and other countries have established even more restrictive limits.
As to whether the millimeter wave bands are safe, Waterhouse explains that because RF from cellular sites is on the non-ionizing radiation spectrum, it’s not the kind of radiation that could damage DNA and possibly cause cancer. The only known biological impact of RF on humans is heating tissue. Excessive exposure to RF causes a person’s entire body to overheat to dangerous levels. Local exposure can damage skin tissue or corneas.
“The actual impact and the depth of penetration into the human body is less at higher frequencies,” he says. “The advantage of that is your skin won’t be damaged because millimeter waves will reflect off the skin’s surface.”
Waterhouse admits that although mm waves have been used for many different applications— including astronomy and military applications—the effect of their use in telecommunications is not well understood. Waterhouse says it’s up to regulatory bodies overseeing the telecommunication companies to ensure the safety of 5G. The general perception is that mm waves are safe but should still be monitored, he says.
“The majority of the scientific community does not think there’s an issue,” Waterhouse says. “However, it would be unscientific to flat out say there are no reasons to worry.”
Many opponents insist that 5G must be proven safe before regulators allow deployments. The problem with this assertion, according to Witkowski, is that it isn’t logically possible to prove anything with 100 percent certainty.
“Showering, cooking breakfast, commuting to work, eating in a restaurant, being out in public—everything we do carries risk,” he says. “Whether we’re talking about 3G, 4G, or 5G, the question of electromagnetic radiation safety (EMR) is whether the risks are manageable. The first medical studies on possible health effects from EMR started almost 60 years ago, and literally thousands of studies since then reported either no health risk or inconclusive findings. A relatively small number of studies have claimed to find some evidence of risk, but those studies have never been reproduced—and reproducibility is a key factor in good science.
We should continue to look at the question of EMR health effects, but the vast majority of evidence says there’s no reason to pause deployments.”
THE INSTITUTEFor the past year, students and faculty at the School of Engineering of Guaratinguetá (FEG) of São Paulo State University, in Brazil, have been busy creating a cycle of sustainability on their campus.
Through the FEG-Sustentável project, the team has installed a photovoltaic solar energy generation system, made outdoor campus lighting more efficient, built a recycling center, and designed a prototype rainwater-harvesting machine. (Sustentável means sustainable in Portuguese.)
IEEE Member Thiago Matheus Martins de Moraes, who founded FEG-Sustentável and is its director, is pursuing a master’s degree in management and sustainability at the university. The core team includes a doctoral student studying medical science, an electrical engineering grad student, and two EE undergrads. An additional 10 undergrads and 80 volunteers, including faculty members, lend a hand when they can. They have helped with tasks such as installing solar panels and developing the recycling center.
One of the project’s first steps was to install 18 photovoltaic panels on the campus to generate solar energy. The university used to get all its electricity from the national power grid. In Brazil, with each kilowatt hour consumed from the grid, more than 83 grams of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere. Solar energy does not generate greenhouse gases and reduces the emission of CO2 into the air.
“The university used to spend about US $20,000 a month on electricity,” Martins de Moraes says. “But with solar energy panels and our energy-efficiency plan, we estimated that we could reduce that amount by 30 percent.”
The solar panels also help address a problem Brazil has faced: big losses on transmission lines. The losses have been greater than the power generated by the country’s largest hydroelectric plant.
The solar energy is fed to the campus’s electricity grid through an on-grid sine wave inverter, which converts DC to AC.
The team plans to install eight more solar panels. With 26 photovoltaic panels, the system could generate 1.45 megawatt hours per month, Martins de Moraes estimates.
The solar energy center has been operating for 1,000 hours and has been able to generate 1 MWh of electricity. That’s not enough to power the entire campus, but it reduces conventional energy consumption.
The streetlights that illuminate the campus at night were modernized. They not only are more energy efficient now, but the revamped lights also make the campus safer by providing a greater source of lighting.
“I surveyed the campus to see where most of the energy was being expended and found the streetlamps were the biggest culprit,” Martins de Moraes says. The old streetlights, which used 250-watt sodium-vapor bulbs, were responsible for about 42 percent of the university’s monthly electric bills, he says.
Sodium-vapor bulbs need to be replaced about every two years, and the cost to replace aging or expired components such as reactors, capacitors, and ignitors is expensive. Another concern was the small amount of mercury the bulbs contain—which presents a disposal problem because they can cause health problems if they break. On top of that, because of their low color rendering index, the bulbs made it difficult for students to see at night.
Martins de Moraes and his team replaced 154 lamps with LED bulbs, which offer a longer life span, better light distribution, and lower maintenance costs. The LEDs also draw less power than traditional lighting.
As a result of the solar energy center and the energy-efficiency plan, the university has been able to save more than $50,000 thus far while reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Another issue the team tackled was waste disposal. Recyclable materials including glass and paper were being comingled. When waste is not recycled properly, more of it ends up in landfills.
The FEG-Sustentável project worked with the university’s campus services and civil engineering departments to build the recycling center. It has separate areas for paper, glass, and plastics.
In addition, the team set up a drop-off area for outdated printers, cellphones, and computers. “These donated electronics can be picked up by underprivileged families to sell—which gives them an additional source of income,” Martins de Moraes says.
He is organizing awareness campaigns and classes to teach students and families how to recycle and ways to keep the campus and neighborhood clean.
“I show them how to properly sort trash,” he says, “and explain how disposing of it correctly can have a positive impact on the environment and the college itself.”
Conserving water is another goal the team has addressed. In partnership with the university’s civil engineering academic center, FEG-Sustentável developed a prototype reservoir that can collect 4,000 liters of rainwater. The team plans to use the water to irrigate the university’s garden and clean the campus grounds. Ultimately, Martins de Moraes would like rainwater to be the school’s main drinking-water source, but first it has to pass Brazil’s potable-water regulations.
The team has decreased water consumption by installing automatic-shutoff taps in bathrooms and lubricating water-fountain push buttons so they are less likely to get stuck in the open position. And there are plans to replace the campus water fountains with ones that feature efficient cooling technology.
Martins de Moraes is spreading the word about sustainability.
“I have visited five other local universities to share the work we’re doing,” he says. “My goal is to help implement the FEG-Sustentável project at other schools throughout the world.”
FEG-Sustentável has met 12 of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and it was ranked among the top three projects in the area at an IEEE student branch meeting in Brazil.
Martins de Moraes was invited to give a presentation at the IEEE Global Humanitarian Conference held in October in Seattle. The conference recognized FEG-Sustentável as one of the best IEEE student-led humanitarian projects in the world.
THE INSTITUTEThis article is part of a series on advice for engineering entrepreneurs.
In this column IEEE Fellow Chenyang Xu shares five common pitfalls he’s seen that can sink a startup and suggests how to avoid them. Xu is a founding partner at the Silicon Valley Future Academy of Palo Alto, Calif., and a partner at the Corporate Innovators Huddle of Menlo Park, Calif. The CIH provides a forum to help large companies be more innovative by investing in and partnering with startups. Xu is also a managing partner at Perception Vision Medical Technologies, a startup in Guangzhou, China, involved with artificial intelligence. He has advised hundreds of tech entrepreneurs and investors during the past two decades.
STAYING IN THE WEEDS
Engineering entrepreneurs sometimes are their own worst enemy, Xu says. They tend to be so passionate about their invention that they spend too much time on engineering tasks rather than on customer needs, business development, fundraising, sales, and growing the company.
“It’s understandable,” Xu says, “because engineering is what they excel in and are most comfortable doing. But this can bring down the company.
“You just have to change your mindset. The success of the company does not lie in staying in your comfort zone. It takes courage to leave your comfort zone to do activities you’re not experienced with.
“Often it requires someone else to alert them that they can’t just focus on engineering.”
WORKING IN ISOLATION
Don’t spend time developing a product without knowing there’s a market for it, Xu cautions.
“I’ve seen many engineers develop a product—some for far too long—thinking somebody will buy it. But when it’s finally ready, there are no customers for it, or the market has shifted,” he says. “That’s a lot of wasted time and money, and very sad to see.”
Never develop a technology or a product without doing your homework first, Xu says. He advises getting out of the lab or office and visiting as many prospective customers as possible to learn about their needs and workflow as well as their frustrations with current products. After you’ve done that, figure out the value proposition for your product and why a customer would want to buy it. Also learn about your competitors’ products and their selling points.
“It’s critical to show investors tangible evidence that you’ve done all this,” Xu says. “They want to make sure your invention is the right product or market fit for scaling up and growing the company.”
OVERLOOKING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Xu says it’s important for tech startups to ensure the intellectual property (IP) on which their invention is based is their own and doesn’t violate that of another company. If it does, that’s a major risk with serious implications.
“I’ve seen startups sued by other competitors—large or small,” Xu says. “This prevents them from raising money from investors or selling the product. Eventually the startup goes out of business.”
Those who have left an employer to start their own company in the same market or are developing a similar technology have to be especially careful, Xu says. If the invention was derived from work done for the former employer, he suggests asking the company to license its technology to you.
He recommends hiring a patent attorney to regularly conduct IP audits at key company milestones, such as when the company starts developing a new product, makes improvements to an existing one, or adds a new feature.
And be sure to protect your own IP by filing for patents.
Don’t overlook the challenges that come with selling the product, Xu says. Founders need to put a lot of work into developing the sales strategy and hiring the right people. The salesperson needs to know the product inside and out, as well as the customers’ needs—and be able to explain those needs to the engineering team.
A common mistake an engineering founder makes, Xu says, is hiring a sales manager who has prior experience selling existing products from established companies but is inexperienced in selling new products to new markets.
“I’ve seen many sales managers pull down a promising startup because they’re used to selling an existing product in an existing market to existing customers,” Xu says. “Selling a new technology from a startup is a very different process.”
Another mistake is hiring too many salespeople before the product is ready to hit the market.
“That can be a recipe for disaster,” Xu says, “because the company may not be ready to scale the product that quickly, but the sales people are waiting around to sell it. That puts pressure on the engineering team, and it’s not a good way to grow.”
FALLING DOWN ON FUNDRAISING
Founders need to raise capital constantly to keep their company afloat and growing. Fundraising is never easy, but it’s particularly difficult for those engineering founders who used to work for large public companies and never had to worry about where the money was coming from.
Preparation is key. Xu recommends creating a clear fundraising strategy, which includes a business plan with goals and objectives, as well as a timeline for how long the money is likely to last.
“The vast majority of tech startups require multiple rounds of fundraising to reach profitability,” Xu says. “Just raising the initial funding doesn’t mean you’re successful.”
After the first round of fundraising—the seed round—it’s on to others: first Series A, then B, then C. Each one targets different stages of the company’s growth. Potential investors expect different things from a business plan, depending on the fundraising stage, including a proof-of-concept demonstration, details on revenue realized and forecast, or expansion plans.
Xu says founders need to stay on top of each round’s investment requirements.
“My recommendation is the moment you complete the first round, get the investment requirements for the next round ready and build them into your product-development plan,” he says. “The key to successful company building is to not run out of cash.”
Xu considers the following books to be essential reading for engineering entrepreneurs:
Zyda, a professor of computer science practice at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, in Los Angeles, established the school’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in games and game development. He frequently comes up with new courses to teach, such as applied machine learning for games, which he introduced at USC this year.
He’s also the creator of America’s Army: Proving Grounds, a 3D mission-experience game commissioned by the U.S. Army. Its debut in 2002 was the first time the military had used game technology as a recruiting tool. More than 3 million people have played America’s Army, Zyda says.
He holds two patents on a magnetic sensor found in the Nintendo Wii U controller. The sensor allows the controller to understand its orientation.
Zyda’s pioneering work in gaming as well as computer graphics, modeling, simulation, and networked virtual reality has been recognized by a number of organizations including IEEE, which gave him an award for technical achievement in virtual reality in 2017. This year he was elevated to IEEE Fellow for his contributions to game design and networking.
In this interview with The Institute, Zyda talks about games he’d like to see developed, what makes for a successful designer, and the benefits of gaming tournaments.
What kind of games do you foresee in the future?
Most of today’s games are “press a button and shoot a bullet at something” or a facet of that. They don’t deal with actually interacting with another player on a personal basis. Game developers should be thinking about games that understand our emotions, and designing AI characters with software so they can interact with players based on their emotional state.
For example, say a pirate character is trying to make your life miserable but he senses that you’re happy. The pirate’s goal is to change your emotional state to angry by communicating with you in some way. Next thing you know, he’s able to interact with you like a human would.
Characters from novels or stories could be turned into interactive forms so we could talk to them. For example, someone might want to play Hamlet or one of the other characters in the play. Using artificial intelligence, Hamlet and others will be able to express emotions, have behaviors, and share knowledge. You might even be able to rehearse your lines with other characters. This is not like watching a movie—this is you interacting with others and being completely immersed in the game.
How is teaching game design different from teaching more traditional subjects?
It turns out the only way you can really teach games is to teach students through active learning. I put together a framework for them about how to write and draft their design, track their progress, and build their game. It’s very hands-on.
The classes are mostly labs. I check on the students’ progress with their design, give them ideas, and stir the pot by saying, “What if you did this instead and made the story go that way?”
I’ve calculated that the games my students have designed and shipped have been played by 5 billion players.
What does it take to become a good game developer?
I think the absolute best game developers are students who are multitalented. When you build games, you have engineers who program the games, artists who do the game art, and game play designers. Some of the best and brightest students have had at least two—sometimes all three—of these skills.
What do you think about video game competitions, also known as electronic sports, such as the recent Fortnite tournament?
They’re great. E-sports is going to provide a huge increase in revenue for the gaming industry. Because of the publicity they get, gaming companies can extend their intellectual property franchise. More people will buy the game and also try to become better at playing it. Viewers can learn a lot more about strategy and game play by watching master players.
Anything excessive can probably be a disorder. If you do something too often and too much it usually leads to bad health circumstances. I saw the effects of excessive game play when I first started teaching at USC. When World of Warcraft came out, two or three students missed my class for a few weeks. One told me he had been playing the game nonstop seven days a week for three weeks. He said, “I finally got to the top level, and realized I needed to get back to life.”
My students today don’t get that obsessed, because they’re engaged in designing games. Those in our program know that if they build a fantastic game in our classes and show it to a prospective employer, they’ll automatically get the job. I can say this because I’ve placed some 2,765 students in jobs in the games and computing industries.
THE INSTITUTEIEEE TryEngineering Together is looking for volunteers to mentor children who are interested in pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The program—an e-mentoring platform that connects industry professionals with children in third, fourth, and fifth grade—was developed in partnership with Cricket Media. IEEE TryEngineering Together incorporates both teacher-led, in-class activities and virtual communication and engagement with a volunteer who is remotely interacting with the student.
Volunteers have the opportunity to share their personal experiences, discuss how science has changed their life, and support hands-on in-classroom activities.
Growing up, most of my family and neighbors had blue-collar jobs; they all worked with their hands. There was one neighbor in particular who was an engineer, and he inspired me to pursue a career in the field. He took the time to talk to me about his work and shared some technical magazines and journals with me.
It really made an impact on me—that someone I knew was able to succeed at doing creative engineering design work. When I was in school, I was very interested in math and science. Meeting someone who was working in engineering, someone who was using these disciplines every day, helped me to imagine myself pursuing a career in technology.
IEEE TryEngineering Together is a terrific opportunity for young people to receive that same kind of exposure to working engineers. Through providing students with e-mentors, we can show students that careers in STEM are attractive, rewarding, and fun.
Professional societies, such as IEEE, are invested in the next generation of STEM professionals. In attracting students to choose STEM paths, what challenges do you see from the IEEE perspective?
STEM talent will be critical to our collective and economic future. The next generation will be working to solve the major problems that face society, and it’s vital that we attract capable and devoted young people to these professions.
Many groups remain underrepresented in technical fields. This leads to a shortage of role models to inspire young people to consider careers in STEM.
It’s important for organizations, like IEEE, to connect students with role models and mentors who can help them recognize that STEM is going to be a welcoming and fulfilling field for them to be a part of.
The TryEngineering Together program addresses these needs with a focus on e-mentoring. With so many well-known benefits from face-to-face mentoring, what makes virtual mentoring different?
Face-to-face mentoring is important, and IEEE supports it. IEEE volunteers and staff are engaged in face-to-face mentoring programs around the world. These programs help bring STEM capabilities into local schools, but there are challenges to face-to-face mentoring, including time constraints and the ability to reach young people living in remote locations.
E-mentoring allows students to use electronic means to engage, ask questions, and have a dialogue with their mentors, as pointed out in the IEEE TrEngineering Together ebook, “Introducing eMentoring.” Rather than having to commit time to traveling to in-person meetings, e-mentoring allows volunteers to engage with students directly from their desks, at work, or from their home. It is more convenient for both students and mentors.
One of the limitations with other mentoring activities is that they are not directly integrated into the classroom curriculum. IEEE TryEngineering Together projects engage teachers and mentors with hands-on activities. We actively work to integrate these experiences together in this program so that students and volunteers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
TryEngineering Together completed its first academic year. What type of feedback are you receiving?
To date, we have had more than 600 student and e-mentor pairs participate in the program. The feedback from the eMentors and students has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are ready to increase the number of participants.
We have had reports that students, after their experience with IEEE TryEngineering Together, are calling themselves future engineers. The students are imagining themselves in the roles of their e-mentors. We’ve inspired them to think about new paths they might not have considered before. This program offers a real opportunity to scale this outreach to a lot more young people and have them share that kind of experience.
What would you share with an employee who might be interested in volunteering?
I would urge anyone considering volunteering with IEEE TryEngineering Together to watch some of the videos on the program’s website. In these videos, mentors, mentees, and teachers share their experiences about being in the program. IEEE TryEngineering Together also works with organizations that want to sponsor classrooms and that would like their employees to participate in the experience. It’s a great way to give back to their communities.
THE INSTITUTEIEEE Life Fellow James J. Spilker, Jr., Global Positioning Systems (GPS) pioneer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur died on 24 September at the age of 86. Lives around the world are better every day thanks to Professor Spilker’s passion and dedication to his work.
“I easily could have been homeless.”
Professor Spilker’s early childhood was marked by difficulties. He was raised solely by his mother, battled illnesses, and, as he noted in the IEEE Oral History recorded, became legally blind in one eye when he was young. But, adversity did not hinder Spilker’s passion for learning, which continued throughout his life.
Concerned that his mother could not afford tuition at a four-year college, he enrolled in the College of Marin, a two-year community college, in Kentfield, Calif. His excellent performance, coupled with support from his teachers, led him to apply for a scholarship to Stanford. He passed the required entrance exam and had a perfect score in mathematics. In just five years, Spilker earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the university.
He then joined Ford Aerospace, in Newport Beach, Calif., where he was the payload team leader for the first U.S. military communication satellites. He later led the Ford Aerospace Air Force 621B satellite navigation program, the predecessor to GPS.
In 1973, Spilker cofounded Stanford Telecommunications in Santa Clara County, Calif., with two colleagues from Ford Aerospace. When the company received the contract to design the signals for GPS, Spilker and GPS became intricately linked. He was the key architect of the unique GPS signal structure, and his company developed the global monitoring equipment that has enabled unprecedented world-wide accuracy.
In 1982, Spilker was elevated to IEEE Fellow “for contributions to the development of digital satellite communications and navigation systems.”
“If you are going to finish, finish fast.”
Over the next 25 years, Spilker grew Stanford Telecommunications into a company of 1,300 employees that operated in five states.
After he sold the company in 1999 to a consortium of buyers, including Dii Group, now Alcatel; Intel; and ITT Industries, Spilker helped develop the L5 civilian signal. This technology, which was launched in 2011, provides higher accuracy and more resistance to the effects of interference on navigation, such as from space weather.
Spilker also co-invented the split spectrum mode, now called binary offset carrier, for modern GPS ranging. This technology allows civilian and military signals to use separate areas of the spectrum. He also developed adaptive vector tracking for simultaneously tracking ranging signals from multiple satellites. This will be critical to handling GPS satellite navigation expansion as new satellites and signals are introduced by space agencies around the world.
Spilker joined Stanford in 2001 as a consulting professor of electrical engineering and aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
Professor Spilker’s key contributions to the development—and subsequent enhancement—of GPS, have a profound impact on more than 4 billion people using the technology around the world. Today, each of us benefits from his efforts and the myriad applications stemming from his work are intricately woven into the fabric of everyone’s daily lives. From mobile phones and commercial and private aviation to agriculture and disaster warning and recovery systems—all rely on GPS.
IEEE and its philanthropic partner, the IEEE Foundation, relished their relationship with Professor Spilker and his wife Anna Marie.
“We will continue to honor his legacy through promoting his entrepreneurial spirit, facilitating the education of future engineers, and preserving his unparalleled contributions to technology, which betters lives daily,” IEEE Foundation President John Treichler says.
Spilker is survived by his wife, Anna Marie Spilke; two sisters; four children; 12 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; as well as Merry, his German Shepherd, and two rescue cats, Siam and Tiger.
THE INSTITUTEImagine trying to read a book by candlelight or risking your health with kerosene lamps so you can hold a town hall meeting. That is the reality in many communities around the globe that lack access to electricity.
To combat such challenges, the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (IEEE SIGHT) partners with local organizations to bring technology to underserved communities. The IEEE volunteer network looks to bring sustainable technological solutions to communities so they can prosper.
IEEE Student Member Joel Wong of the University of Calgary, along with 11 other IEEE SIGHT volunteers from the Southern Alberta Section in Canada, traveled to Peru in May with Light Up the World. The Canadian nonprofit focuses on the principle that access to energy can improve lives. The IEEE volunteers teamed up with Light Up the World volunteers to install a 325-watt solar-panel system in Hanchipacha, an off-grid community of 150 people. The volunteers drove on mountain roads for 75 minutes from Checacupe, where they were staying, to reach the remote village.
“It’s the smaller, remote communities that have the greatest need, because services won’t be brought to them any time soon,” Wong says. “These villages are not prioritized for development. It could’ve taken 10 to 20 years for Hanchipacha to gain access to [electric] energy.”
Wong first heard about IEEE SIGHT through an event at the University of Calgary, where he is a senior working toward a dual bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. The idea of helping others through engineering inspired him to join the group.
“I feel like those of us living in Canada and other developed nations are very privileged,” Wong says, adding that Canadians have a responsibility to help those without the same level of access to education, electricity, food, and shelter.
To choose which villages could benefit the most from access to electricity, Light Up the World surveys the needs of communities around the globe.
“All of the communities are off-grid, so no power and no cell phone coverage,” Wong says. “Light Up the World surveys things like government plans for services in the community, access to energy, population, and potential uses of the electricity. One of the villages most in need was Hanchipacha.”
The students received training from Light Up the World staff about the fundamentals of solar energy as well as wiring conventions in Peru. They also learned about the importance of safety, maintainability, and sustainability of the solar-panel system, which included batteries for energy storage and nine 5W lights.
Wong says the volunteers and Light Up the World staff worked with Peruvian technicians to install the system. The process took three days to complete.
In the Light Up the World system, DC current generated by the solar panels is used to charge a pair of 150-ampere-hour batteries or fed through an inverter to immediately supply AC electricity to a set of 220-volt outlets. The outlets can power lights and other things the villagers need—which are mainly located in the community center and other shared spaces.
“When the installation was completed, a ceremony was held, and it was a very meaningful experience for everyone,” Wong says. “One leader of the community spoke at the ceremony and said that he was grateful to us for installing the system. The community will use it for years to come.”
The system will be maintained by trained local technicians as well as Light Up the World staff, Wong says.
HOW IT HELPED
The installation of the solar-panel system has positive environmental, economic, and social effects, Wong says.
As in many communities, Hanchipacha was relying on one-time-use batteries and kerosene lamps for lighting, he says. Kerosene lamps have both health and environmental risks. According to the University of Calgary’s Energy Education website, the lamps emit carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and sulfur dioxide, which can reduce lung function and increase the risk of cancer. Also, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, kerosene lamps are a more significant source of black carbon than previously thought. Black carbon is a significant contributor to global warming.
Wong says that with the solar panels in place, the community no longer faces the health and environmental risks of kerosene and avoids the financial burden of paying for those lighting sources. The people also have an opportunity to diversify economically because they now can use power tools, for example.
“In terms of social impacts, the solar energy system can help the residents of Hanchipacha hold town hall meetings after dark,” Wong says. “This is quite important for the village because they are an agricultural community and daylight hours are very valuable.”
The system has enabled children to study in the community center at night, he says. Children are expected to do chores to help their farming families, he points out, so “they have limited hours to study, and when they do have time to study, it’s at night.” In the past, he says, students used candles to light the room and had a difficult time reading. Now, he says, they are able to keep up with their schoolwork.
IEEE SIGHT is planning another solar project in Peru in May—which Wong is leading.
THE INSTITUTEJust about every consumer electronics device that has gotten smaller also has changed shape. Think computers, telephones, and cameras. One product that has lagged behind is the speaker, whose conical form has been around for more than a century. But that’s about to change.
Resonado, a startup in South Bend, Ind., has developed flat core speaker (FCS) technology that allows speakers to be thinner and lighter than traditional ones. They can be shaped to fit into corners, nooks, and crannies such as vehicle headrests and steering wheels.
The technology originated in South Korea. Leeg Hyun Cho, an engineer who goes by LH, and son Brian Youngil Cho came up with the idea while tinkering on other projects. LH, once an executive at LG, is now a serial entrepreneur in South Korea with several successful “exits.”
Resonado was founded two years ago in Indiana at the University of Notre Dame to commercialize the technology, with Brian as CEO and LH as CTO. Brian recruited three fellow Notre Dame undergraduates as cofounders, including IEEE Member Christian Femrite, who is the company’s vice president of engineering.
“Flat core speaker technology is a complete redesign of the internal structure of conventional speakers,” Femrite says. “The biggest advantage is the technology offers design flexibility that has not been possible before. We’re talking about making speakers that conform to whatever shape you want, while still maintaining high-quality sound.”
The eight-person company recently signed several partnership agreements. In August, Resonado was designated the official sound partner of Notre Dame athletics. If you’ve watched the school’s Fighting Irish football team this season, you might have noticed the startup’s logo adorning coaches’ headsets. The headset logos are purely an advertising vehicle now, but in the future the technology could be implemented within those headphones or even the stadium’s entire sound system.
In July the startup partnered with Menlo Scientific, an audio consultancy firm in Richmond, Calif. The company provides prototyping resources, connections to manufacturing facilities, and engineering insights into materials technology.
The company is about to start mass-producing its first commercial speaker model at a factory in Dongguan, China. Femrite is working alongside LH Cho, who manages mass production. The goal is to finalize the product by the end of the year.
FCS technology means a fundamentally different internal structure from conventional speakers’ workings, Femrite says. Instead of a cylindrical, magnet-and-voice-coil assembly, Resonado’s speakers use a planar voice coil with bar magnets. The voice coil can be coupled to the diaphragm in different configurations including those that offer a new style of modular driver design. Different voice coil windings and material implementations are made possible by FCS structure, and the damper of a flat core speaker is now located under the speaker to offer better overall control.
“Understanding the fundamentals of a speaker and Maxwell’s equations was the key to rethinking how to use and rearrange those principles to make a better speaker,” Femrite says.
The speakers can take on virtually any shape, so they can be used in creative ways.
There is demand for a personalized audio experience in automobiles, for example, but space and weight restrictions are tight. “With purposefully placed speakers, each passenger could have a unique experience,” Femrite says. “This philosophy will gradually become the norm in self-driving cars, as these vehicles no longer will simply be a means of transportation but an entertainment center.”
Femrite says the startup’s two dozen prospective clients include vehicle manufacturers, headphone makers, and a five-star hotel chain.
The two Chos have been working on the technology since Brian was a child. The idea came about when Brian wanted to give his mother a gift of a picture frame outfitted with an embedded speaker. He couldn’t figure out how to make a speaker fit within the thin structure. He asked his father for help. LH said it wasn’t possible with the current speaker technology. The two have been trying to figure out solutions ever since.
Brian studied finance and applied mathematics in computational science at Notre Dame. As a junior, he recruited three cofounders, including Femrite, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, minoring in engineering corporate practice and actuarial science. Cho told them about the speaker technology he was working on, and together they started Resonado to commercialize it in the United States.
The group has since participated in multiple startup competitions, winning prizes and recognition at the national level.
With the traction received from those competitions and networking events in Silicon Valley, plus the $1 million the company received from its first fundraising round, the team was able to get the company off the ground.
The startup has benefited from links with IEEE. Femrite was a member of Notre Dame’s IEEE student branch and also served as president of the Delta Sigma chapter of the IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN) honor society.
Taking note of Wei’s success with his Lab360 portfolio startups, Cho asked Wei for advice and later invited him to join Resonado as an advisor. In addition to counseling Cho on startup strategy, Wei introduced him to several investors.
“Joseph has been a great advisor to our team,” Cho says. “His background in manufacturing, venture capital, and startup ecosystem and his cross-border network helped us develop our company and technology to the next level.”
Femrite shared his own piece of advice for entrepreneurs: Don’t give up, regardless of the obstacles.
“Be ready to endure the barrage of no’s,” he says. “Any startup will go through that, and the successful ones are those that endure it long enough to get the one that says yes.
“I can’t tell you the number of times we got knocked down and were told, ‘You’ll never be able to do this’ or ‘You’re too young,’” he says. “And every time, we’ve proven them wrong by continuing with our upward trajectory.”
IEEE Medal of Honor and National Medal of Science recipient
Nonmember, 95; died 6 July
Quate received the 1988 IEEE Medal of Honor for the invention and development of the scanning acoustic microscope. The device uses high-frequency sound waves to apply gentle pressure to objects under observation, allowing for new measurements of the internal structures, density, elasticity, and viscosity of living cells without harming them.
He also received the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1992, given to him by President George H.W. Bush, for his contributions to engineering science.
Quate started his career in 1950, when he began working on microwaves as part of the technical research staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories, now Nokia Bell Labs, in Murray Hill, N.J. He was later promoted to associate director of electronics research there. He left in 1959 to work for Sandia Corp., now known as Sandia National Laboratories, in Livermore, Calif., serving as part of the technical research staff. He was promoted the following year to vice president and director of research.
In 1961 he joined Stanford as a professor of applied physics and electrical engineering, eventually becoming a department chair, and remained there until his retirement.
Quate earned a bachelor’s degree in in 1944 in electrical engineering from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. After graduating, he was selected to work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee as part of the Manhattan Project. In 1950, Quate also earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford.
Berlekamp was a professor of mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. He left there briefly in 1967 to work for Bell Telephone Laboratories, in Murray Hill, N.J., but returned to UC Berkeley in 1971. Berlekamp worked at the university part-time in order to focus on his company, Cyclotomics, based in Oakland, Calif. He founded the company in 1973 and retired from there in 2006.
The company’s bit-serial encoders, which convert information from one format to another, and Berlekamp decoders, devices named after him that were capable of converting audio or video signals into different forms, such as analog, became the standards used in NASA’s space communications programs. Both types of devices are still operating on the Voyager I and II satellites, launched in 1977.
In addition, Berlekamp invented several algorithms. The Berlekamp polynomial-factoring algorithm was the first technique for finding solutions for large polynomial equations used in coding. It’s still used in cryptography. Berlekamp was also the coinventor of the Berlekamp-Welch algorithm and the Berlekamp-Massey algorithms, both used for efficient decoding of Reed-Solomon codes. Berlekamp also discovered an algorithm for factoring polynolmials over finite fields, included in computer algebra systems such as Pari.
In 2013, Berlekamp and his wife, Jennifer, founded the Elwyn and Jennifer Berlekamp Foundation, which supports math and science outreach and educational programs, especially those focusing on combinatorial game theory.
Shumate was the executive director of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society, now the IEEE Photonics Society, from 1999 to 2006. He oversaw the society’s financial planning activities and organized its many conferences. Shumate also led the effort to create free access to the society’s online journal archive service.
Shumate joined Bell Telephone Laboratories, in Murray Hill, N.J. in 1968, where he conducted pioneering R&D work on optical subsystems used for electronic switching systems, fiber access, and optical data links. He left in 1984 to work as a chief scientist and assistant general manager for Telcordia Technologies, in Morristown, N.J. (Telcordia has since been acquired by Iconectiv.) The company provides secure interconnection of networks, devices, and applications to a variety of organizations. While at Telcordia, Shumate conducted research in such areas as fiber access, digital subscriber line, and powering systems. He retired from the company in 1999.
Rackley cofounded du Treil–Rackley Consulting Engineers, now du Treil, Lundin, & Rackley, in 1987, in Washington, D.C. The firm specializes in frequency allocation and signal coverage optimization of broadcast stations for radio and television.
Before forming the consulting company, Rackley worked at Palmer A. Greer and Associates in his hometown of Greenville, S.C., and at Jules Cohen and Associates in Washington, D.C. He also worked as a radio station chief engineer and antenna designer for Kintronic Laboratories, in Bristol, Tenn.
During high school, Rackley worked for several radio and television stations, serving as chief radio operator and a radio transmitter supervisor in Greenville, S.C.
Player worked in the construction business for 20 years as a master electrician and project manager for several electrical contractors in Columbia, S.C.
Player began working in January 2000 for GWA, an electrical engineering firm, in Columbia. While there, his work focused primarily on infrastructure projects for institutional and industrial clients. Player was also in charge of the firm’s short-circuit and coordination studies as well as of analyzing arc flash hazard, which is the light and heat produced from electrical explosions or discharges. He also developed an in-house software program that kept track of labor and materials costs for the company.
Player was active with the Illuminating Engineering Society, a forum used by engineers to disseminate information on good lighting practices to the lighting community. It also educates consumers through a variety of programs, publications, and services.
He was a member of Wireless @ Virginia Tech, formerly known as the Mobile and Radio Research Group, a research group within the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering focused on the advancement of wireless technology.
Baral was vice president at Samsung’s Hard Disk Drives Labs, in New York City, where he led the development of high-capacity drives and drive integration technologies for personal computers. He retired from Samsung in 2017.
He also held several patents that greatly improved the storage and function of hard disk drives.
Baral grew up in Howrah, West Bengal, India, on the campus of the Bengal Engineering College, now Bengal Engineering and Science University, where his father was a renowned professor of electronics and telecommunication.
He cofounded Applied Dynamics, a computer firm in Ann Arbor, in 1957. He was also a key member of the Applied Dynamics group, a robotics research team where he was responsible for the conception and development of new products such as state-of-the-art analog and hybrid computers.
His highly referenced method, Gilbert’s realization—named in his honor—helps identify the roles of observability and controllability in state-space system representations. It is now a standard topic covered in electrical engineering textbooks. Gilbert also cowrote a paper in 1988 on model predictive control, the first such publication to specifically address certain stability issues crucial in many current control applications.
Gilbert was the recipient of the 1994 IEEE Control Systems Award for his contributions to linear state space theory and its applications.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering in 1952 and 1953, respectively, and a Ph.D. in instrumentation engineering, all from the University of Michigan.
“Raising funding is one of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur can face,” Xu says. “When engineering founders start to build a company, they often do not realize there are multiple pathways for seed funding. Knowing all the available funding sources can help them choose the right approach.”
Before you start asking for money, Xu suggests, make sure your idea is worthy of building a company around. Get feedback about the viability of your planned venture from contacts who have commercial and investing experience in the targeted technology and market spaces, he says.
“Many engineers think they can launch a startup based on an expansion of a product’s features or functions they’re working on, but these ideas are too narrow,” Xu says. “You need a game-changing technology or product combined with an innovative business model that addresses unmet market pain points.”
Once you have a solid business plan and a working prototype, check out the following six sources of funding to get your venture off the ground.
SELF-FINANCING, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS
Before seeking outside funding, founders with financial means often bootstrap their venture with their own money. Even a modest amount of cash could get the company started and take it to a point where an early prototype could be built. If there are multiple co-founders, each might contribute to the seed funding to increase the amount of working capital.
Beyond yourself, the most obvious people to ask for money are relatives and friends. But you should tread carefully, Xu cautions. “Because money is a touchy subject,” he says, “proceed with care, because you can put these relationships at risk.”
ANGEL INVESTORS AND EARLY-STAGE VENTURE CAPITALISTS
Angel investors are wealthy individuals who invest in startups in exchange for equity. In addition to individual investors, there are angel investment clubs. You can find investors and investment clubs through acquaintances and referrals, or by conducting an Internet search, Xu points out.
An angel investor, though often the first source of outside seed funding, likely will need more convincing than family and friends, so you must be prepared with a solid business plan and answers to possible questions on all aspects of the business, such as profiles of your team members, the marketing plan, market opportunities, and financials. If a working prototype exists, demonstrating how it works is always more convincing than just presenting your plan, Xu says.
Angel investors are likely to be located where there is plenty of entrepreneurial activity, such as Silicon Valley, Boston, and Tel Aviv. But, Xu says, it’s getting easier to find such investors all around the world, especially in Asia.
Early-stage venture capitalists are another source of seed funding. Unlike angel investors, VCs are employees of firms who invest from a fund financed by other wealthy people or organizations. Early-stage VCs often focus on certain investment areas or industries. Founders seeking VC funding should check the firm’s investment criteria before reaching out. Compared with angel investments, the VCs’ process tends to be more rigorous, and their decisions typically need approval by other partners.
Founders need to allocate enough time for meetings with angel investors or VCs, Xu says.
ACCELERATORS AND INCUBATORS
There are tens of thousands of accelerators and incubators for startups globally, Xu says.
Incubators provide shared office space and other services such as mentors, investors, and even prospective customers for free or at little cost in exchange for a small amount of equity.
Instead of offering office space, accelerators provide training programs in exchange for a small amount of equity. They offer mostly three- to six-month programs that can help a startup refine its idea and develop its business plan. At the end of the program, accelerators help to convene investors to participate in funding pitches, which substantially increases the startups’ odds of raising initial funding.
Although not common, some incubators and accelerators also provide early-stage companies with a small seed investment.
Plug and Play is one of the best-known incubators. Y Combinator was one of the first accelerator models. Xu says some incubators and accelerators are focused on a specific theme such as materials science, robotics, or agriculture technology. Commercial business-to-business accelerator programs include Alchemist Accelerator and TechStars.
“This funding is quite nice if startups are having a hard time attracting angel investors and early-stage VCs, which largely focus on a shorter time horizon and IT and software ventures than deep science and technology ventures, which require significantly more capital and time to scale successfully,” Xu says.
The funding, which often comes in the form of grants, is divided into phases based on the proof of concept.
“If you succeed in getting one of these grants,” Xu says, “you are likely to receive additional funding from follow-up investors such as VCs.”
This source of cash has become a viable source for startups. There are many crowdfunding websites including Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Crowdfunding sites collect small contributions into a larger fund. They do not require equity but charge a small percentage of the total funding received. Crowdfunding does require the founder to put together a compelling marketing pitch to attract donations.
Some engineers fund their startup with support from their employer, which typically is a large company. Some firms are willing to support their employees in licensing the company’s intellectual property to launch a venture or explore a new market in exchange for a portion of equity. Some even provide seed funding.
One example cited by Xu was MediGuide Technology, an Israeli company that developed a medical positioning system, similar to GPS, that uses miniature sensors inside the human body. Devices embedded with the sensors let doctors see their precise location in the patient during a medical procedure. The technology was developed by two engineers who used to work at Elbit Systems, an international defense electronics company in Israel. MediGuide was acquired for US $283 million in 2008 by St. Jude Medical, now part of Abbott.
Siemens’ Next47 venture firm partnered with TechStars to select teams of the company’s employees with a business plan and prototype to participate in a training program so they could learn to spin off as new ventures. One, DeepHow, an artificial intelligence learning platform, was able to raise seed funding.
Instead of funding their own company and dealing with all the associated risks, first-time engineering entrepreneurs might want to consider taking a technology or engineering leadership position with an existing startup, Xu says. Such roles can allow you to gain crucial insight into what it takes to start a company without the financial risk of being the founder.
“It’s the best way to gain firsthand experience,” Xu says. “Many engineers I’ve mentored have gone on to found their own companies after first joining startups.”
Equipped with the knowledge of all the possible funding pathways for seed funding, founders need to make fundraising the most important project in the company’s inception phase, aside from product development. Adequate time is needed to reach out to potential investors and to regularly create new contacts by attending startup events, connecting with referrals, and reaching out via email and social media.
The importance of fundraising to a successful venture can’t be overemphasized, Xu says. “After all,” he notes, “a startup dream will not last long without the money to finance it.”
THE INSTITUTEDementia affects millions of people worldwide. There is no treatment, but an early diagnosis can help patients slow the progress of their symptoms. The condition can affect people’s mental function, behavior, and memory.
Because dementia can cause different patterns of damage to the brain, no single test can determine whether someone has it. Instead, doctors use several screening tools including in-person interviews, questionnaires about daily routines, and drawing assessments. The tests, performed by clinicians and other professionals, are done regularly to check for changes—which can become expensive.
IEEE Fellow Helen Meng, a professor of systems engineering and engineering management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), is working on a machine-learning platform to helpmake screening more accessible and less expensive. The platform likely will use data analytics, human-computer interaction, and spoken-language technology.
Hong Kong has a large aged population, Meng says, and dementia is on the rise. Although all the region’s citizens are covered by the public health care system, it can take a long time to get an appointment with a specialist, she says, so valuable time can be lost. She is working with other researchers at the university, including many IEEE members, to make assessments accessible through AI, and eventually give people the ability to do self-assessments.
“As a researcher, a lot of our efforts have been focused on advances in existing applications such as high-accuracy speech recognition,” Meng says, “but I want to look into using the technology for new applications such as detecting early signs of dementia. The way to catch dementia early is to do frequent assessments on an individual’s capabilities. If dementia can be detected earlier, intervention can be started sooner.”
One well-known exam that neurologists perform is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Designed to evaluate short-term memory, language ability, and attention span, it includes activities such as naming animals and drawing components of a clock. As with other such assessments, the Montreal test is still done on paper, and the results are not digitized.
The neurologist interviews patients and asks them to assess their memory and cognitive functions. The patients’ responses might be subjective, varying from day to day even if their abilities don’t.
Meng says machine learning and big data can help make those diagnoses more objective. Artificial intelligence algorithms and other technology could automatically analyze collected data.
In particular, spoken-language technology could be used to assess a person’s cognitive health and emotional state based on their speech.
“We want to be able to identify spoken-language biomarkers that are indicative of neurocognitive disorders,” Meng says. “The reaction time after a question is asked could be recorded. For example, if there’s a lot of hesitation or pausing, even at millisecond intervals, these could be measured in an objective way using engineering approaches.”
Offering tests on a computer or recording people’s speech while they answer questions via a telephone could help reduce the number of needed visits to the doctor, Meng says. A clinical cognitive expert or neurologist would review the automated assessments.
“We don’t intend for our automated software to make decisions about whether someone has dementia,” she says. “Our objective is not to replace the clinicians. We look at AI as a decision-support tool.”
The project has recently been awarded the theme-based research scheme of Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council. This is among the highest level of research funding in the region, according to Meng.
COMBINING TWO PASSIONS
Meng, who grew up in Hong Kong, was accepted to medical school as well as MIT’s engineering program. She says she thought it would be a good experience to study abroad, so she attended MIT, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. She also got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science there.
“IEEE is a global platform, so there are many ways to participate,” she says. “I’ve made quite a few friends and met colleagues around the world who are experts in their area. It has been a great experience.
“Membership also broadens one’s horizons. Through IEEE’s conferences and publications, you get to look beyond your own area of expertise.”
Meng works to increase the number of women in engineering. She and other women have spoken during the annual IEEE Signal Processing Society conference’s luncheon.
“We make sure that female keynote speakers are invited to conferences, not just men,” she says. “We need more gender diversity.”
THE INSTITUTENew York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in July signed an agreement to create the United States’ largest offshore wind project, which is expected to create more than 1,600 jobs. Two wind farms, to be built off the coast of Long Island, are scheduled to start operating in the next five years. Together they’ll have the capacity to produce 1,700 megawatts of electricity, officials say, enough to power more than 1 million households.
Included in the legislation is funding to train people for clean-energy jobs and money for building an offshore wind training institute. That’s in addition to outlays provided by New York’s Clean Climate Careers Initiative, a workforce-development program launched in 2017.
IEEE Member Ilya Y. Grinberg, professor of engineering technology at Buffalo State College, is helping to create some of those programs. He teaches courses in power systems, electric machines, power electronics, and renewable energy and storage.
Here he outlines some of the approaches Buffalo State and the wider State University of New York system are taking to give full-time students as well as working adults the skills they need to compete in a competitive job market.
Ten of the 64 schools in the SUNY system, including Buffalo State, already have received nearly US $6 million to create apprenticeships, internships, educational programs, and certification programs in clean energy. Buffalo State got a $753,000 grant last September to develop several clean-energy certification programs. The college plans to offer the courses late next year.
During the past year, Grinberg and other SUNY faculty members and officials worked with utilities (such as National Grid and the New York Power Authority), large employers (including Siemens), industries, consulting firms, and service companies to understand their needs.
“The certificate program has to be industry-driven,” Grinberg says. “The programs have to reflect the needs of industry so our students can be readily employable and not only possess the skills employers need today but also those needed in five years. What we realized in our meetings is that different types of industries have different needs. One size doesn’t fit all.”
PRACTICAL SPECIALIZED TRAINING
The certificate programs developed by Buffalo State and other SUNY institutions will be geared to those already employed in the field who want to update their skills on clean-energy technologies, he says. Courses are being developed on topics such as smart buildings and energy efficiency.
Buffalo State and its academic and industry partners plan to offer industry-recognized certifications such as the certificate of electrical safety for electricians, installers, and other skilled trades, Grinberg says.
Other training is planned for installers of photovoltaic solar panels and windmills, as well as for those working in manufacturing, construction, and energy distribution, he says. Another certification is for people who already have a two- or four-year degree but need to update their skills on emerging technologies or want to switch careers.
“All these offerings mean employees will have the skills sought after by employers and can start working right away,” Grinberg says, “instead of going through training.”
A newly formed consortium of SUNY institutions plans to develop introductory courses for the general public to interest them in clean-energy careers, he says. One in five jobs in western New York are in industries with ties to green energy, according to a study by the Clean Energy Workforce Assessment for Western New York. The study reported an 8 percent job growth in the region between 2012 and 2017. The assessment shows that workers in the field earn $1,000 more annually than the average salary for the region.
University students will be able to take courses toward the certifications, in addition to their major, so they’ll be more employable, Grinberg says. The credits can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology, electrical engineering technology, or industrial technology. Students can gain hands-on experience in the clean-energy field through internships.
Those pursuing the certifications or taking a degree program will be able to use the state-of-the-art Smart-Grid Laboratory, a joint effort by Buffalo State and the University of Buffalo that offers experience in energy generation, transmission, and distribution, as well as the smart grid and microgrids.
“I believe SUNY can ensure sustainability in these training programs even when funding from the state runs out,” Grinberg says. “With new clean-energy technologies constantly emerging, there will always be a need for new training programs and research.”
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