IEEE Oregon and Education

August 22, 2007

Just thinking about Tony’s question at the last meeting about what the IEEE was doing about education.

What does IEEE Oregon define as education?  We can define our educational efforts operationally. You know, seminars, courses, publications, etc., which I think is what we did in our last meeting. More generally, we can talk about our goals, which we did a few meetings ago. You know, let’s think of ways to motivate young people to view engineering as a desirable and rewarding profession.

Let me talk about efforts first. Traditionally, we think of education as courses. Fill up a conference room, get a good speaker (even charge a nominal amount and put something in our budget), and then everyone goes home. Follow-up? Yes, we can distribute notes or a DVD (and again maybe even charge for it). And this is all good, but I wanted to submit that even with these efforts, we are still working a one-way street. We are imparting information, certainly doing our best to make it interesting and accessible, but essentially the interaction remains one-way.

Have we thought about (possibly we have before I became involved with the section?) educational efforts that have a more bi-directional nature? Like, well, starting and managing volunteer projects … either hardware or software. That rocket club at PSU is an excellent example of a collaborative project involving both hardware and software. There are a number of opensource and semi-opensource (those sponsored by Adobe, Intel, or Microsoft) that are examples of collaborative software projects. Is there an opportunity for Industry Relations here?

Have we considered being even more connected with local educational institutions? Could IEEE members volunteer to tutor engineering students? Or volunteer  to mentor student projects? Certainly teachers and professors do this sort of thing for a living, but I’m always hearing about how overloaded they are.

Should we get involved with such projects? Or even start some up on our own? Discussing these questions leads us to a discussion of want our goals should be. I’m making the case for IEEE Oregon to be a hands-on educational force in our community. I think we have the expertise and the time to be that.

This is the kind of discussion I’m hoping to start up on this blog. If some of the suggestions I’ve made are inappropriate to what IEEE Oregon should be, let’s discuss why. It’d give me (and others I’m sure) a better understanding of what roles IEEE Oregon should fill.