IEEE-USA in Action

National Engineers Week Is Out Of This World–Literally

National Engineers Week is out of this world–literally.

During the Future City Competition National Finals in Crystal City, Va., on 21 Feb., attendees and participants heard a message from astronaut Dan Burbank, commander of Expedition 30 aboard the International Space Station. He began by congratulating all engineers and volunteers who helped make the 61st observance of EWeek a success.

“We appreciate what you do every day to keep us safe up here, to keep our families secure at home, to contribute to the economic vitality of our nation, and to make technological progress for the benefit of all people on Earth,” said Burbank, courtesy of the Engineers’ Council of San Fernando Valley, Calif., and NASA.

A former astronaut also joined the 9,596 attendees at the annual Discover Engineering Family Day at Washington’s National Building Museum on 18 February. Dr. Roger Crouch, a payload specialist on two Space Shuttle Columbia missions in 1997, signed autographs and posed for photos throughout the day. His autograph card quoted him saying:

“America’s greatness can only be maintained through new technologies and engineering advancements.”

Family Day, which began under IEEE-USA auspices in 1993, has averaged 9,277 parents, teachers and children the past four years. A National Building Museum one-day record, 13,994 visitors, attended the 2011 event. Family Day brings visibility to the key role engineering plays in our lives and promotes the importance of technological literacy.

At IEEE-USA’s exhibit, nine local IEEE members demonstrated the increased energy efficiency of LED and CFL light bulbs vs. incandescent bulbs; how a model dance pad from the PBS Design Squad Nation TV show converts mechanical energy into light and sound energy; some internal components of an MP3 player, printer and computer; and what type of materials conduct electricity.


“I think Family Day was a huge success,” said Joanne Seelig, National Building Museum family programs coordinator. “It was especially great to have Design Squad drawing connections between dance and electricity with their large dance pad; watch ASME explore pulleys with their food elevator; and see Curious George from WETA [TV] inspire the youngest engineers.

“The event really gave children an opportunity to see engineering in a hands-on way.”

Honoring a Wireless Pioneer

IEEE Life Fellow Martin Cooper was honored at the Chicagoland Engineering Awards Benefit on 24 February, “for his contributions to the technology of personal wireless communication.” Cooper is the father of the portable cell phone, an idea he conceived in 1973, while working as a vice president for Motorola. He holds a bachelor’s, master’s and honorary Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Cooper, an IEEE Centennial Award recipient in 1984, was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2010. He received the Washington Award in Chicago, named for George Washington as a reminder that our first president was an engineer. (EWeek is celebrated during the week of Washington’s birthday, 22 February.)

Bob Johnson, a structural engineer and member of the Chicagoland Engineers Week Committee, said Cooper was honored alongside 50 exceptional science students.

“His remarks to the students were stirring,” Johnson said. “He noted they would be the future problem-solvers, trying to correct the problems of today.”


The Washington Award was created in 1916. Among the past winners are former U.S. president and mining engineer Herbert Hoover; aviation pioneer Orville Wright; inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen; former astronaut Neil Armstrong; automotive pioneer Henry Ford; and the inventor of the first effective implantable pacemaker, Wilson Greatbatch.

Bright, Young Engineers

2012 IEEE/IEEE-USA New Face of Engineering ” Professional Edition Dr. Jacquelyn K. Nagle was featured alongside other engineers under 30 in a full-page ad in USA Today.

An assistant engineering professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Nagle is conducting pioneering research in the use of biological systems as models for sensors, processes and instrumentation. She worked as a blogging team member during the 2009 IEEE-USA Annual Meeting and, from 2009-11, served on IEEE-USA’s American Institute of Physics “Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science” editorial board.

Engineers of the Future

The Future City Competition, an engineering design contest for middle school students, that was created in IEEE-USA offices and held for the first time in 1993, reached more than 1,3000 schools and 35,000 students during the 2011-12 season. At the National Finals, Murty Polavarapu, IEEE-USA’s representative on the EWeek Steering Committee, presented two IEEE-USA-sponsored awards.

Our Lady Help of Christians School of Abington, Pa., placed third overall and won a $2,000 scholarship for its science and technology program. Valley Middle School of Oakland, N.J., won the IEEE-USA Best Communications System Award for having the most “efficient and accurate communications system.” The three New Jersey students will also receive a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.

“Every year we say to ourselves the finals can’t get any better but they do,” said Thea Sahr, National Engineers Week director of programs. “The models, the essays and, of course, the presentations just keep improving. This improvement illustrates how our participants are using the engineering design process to break down the problem into bite-size chunks, and to think about how the issues affect every piece of their future city.

“We are looking forward to what amazing cities we see next year.”

St. Mary Parish School of Hales Corners, Wis., won the grand prize, and will receive a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., courtesy of Bentley Systems, Inc.

Inspiring Innovation

The DiscoverE Educator Awards ” new in 2012 ” were presented to three teachers during a 22 February event at the Newseum in Washington. The awards are designed to recognize educators who are inspiring students to become tomorrow’s innovators. IEEE President Gordon Day attended the event, and said he was impressed with the production and the honorees.

President Barack Obama, in his EWeek message, highlighted the important role teachers play in inspiring students to devise new systems, processes and products.

“By collaborating with educators and providing opportunities for hands-on instruction in science, technology, engineering and math,” Obama said, “initiatives like National Engineers Week help shape and enrich tomorrow’s innovation generation.”

Chris McManes is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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