IEEE depends on volunteer members for many things, including organizing conferences, coordinating regional and local activities, writing standards, and deciding on IEEE’s future.
But because the organization can be complex, many members don’t know what resources and roles are available to them, and they might need training on how to lead groups. That’s why in 2013, the IEEE Member and Geographic Activities board established its Volunteer Leadership Program. VoLT, an MGA program, provides members with resources and an overview of IEEE, including its culture and mission. The program also offers participants training to help them gain management and leadership skills. Each participant is paired with a mentor to provide guidance, advice, and support.
Program specialist for IEEE’s Volunteer User Experience Stephen Torpie and long-time volunteer and Life Member Marc Apter discuss the benefits of the VoLT program with visitors to the exhibit booth at IEEE Sections Congress.Stephen Torpie
VoLT, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has grown steadily since its launch. In its first year, the program had 49 applicants and 19 graduates. Now nearly 500 members from all 10 IEEE regions and 165 sections have completed the program. This year the program received 306 applications, and it accepted 70 students to participate in the next six-month session.
“When I first got on the Board of Directors, I didn’t realize all the complexities of the organization, so I thought it would be helpful to provide a broad background for others to help them understand IEEE’s larger objectives,” says Senior Member Loretta Arellano, the mastermind behind VoLT. “The program was developed so that volunteers can quickly learn the IEEE structure and obtain leadership skills unique to a volunteer organization.
“IEEE is such a large organization, and typically members get involved with just one aspect and are never exposed to the rest of IEEE. They don’t realize there are a whole lot of resources and people to help them.”
Soft skills training and mentorship
Before applying to VoLT, members are required to take 10 courses that provide them with a comprehensive introduction to IEEE. The free courses are available on the IEEE Center for Leadership Excellence website.
Along with their application, members must include a reference letter from an IEEE volunteer.
“The VoLT program taught me how expansive IEEE’s network and offerings are,” says Moriah Hargrove Anders, an IEEE graduate student member who participated in the program in 2017. “The knowledge [I gained] has guided the leadership I take back to my section.”
“IEEE is such a large organization, and typically members get involved with just one aspect and are never exposed to the rest of IEEE. They don’t realize there are a whole lot of resources and people to help them.” —Loretta Arellano
Program mentors are active IEEE volunteers and have held leadership positions in the organization. Six of the 19 mentors from the program’s first year are still participating in VoLT. Of the 498 graduates, 205 have been a mentor at least once.
VoLT participants complete a team project, in which they identify a problem, a need, an opportunity, or an area of improvement within their local organizational unit or the global IEEE. Then they develop a business plan to address the concern. Each team presents a video highlighting its business plan to VoLT’s mentors, who evaluate the plans and select the three strongest. The three plans are sent to each individual’s IEEE region director and section leader to consider for implementation.
“The VoLT program helped me to reaffirm and expand my knowledge about IEEE,” Lizeth Vega Medina says. The IEEE senior member graduated from the program in 2019. “It also taught me how to manage situations as a volunteer.”
Each year, the program makes improvements based on feedback from students and the MGA board.
To acknowledge its anniversary, VoLT offered an exhibit booth in August at the IEEE Sections Congress in Ottawa. The event, held every three years, brings together IEEE leaders and volunteers from around the world. Recent VoLT graduates presented their team’s project. Videos of the sessions are available on IEEE.tv.
On December 13, 2022, a payload carrying a European weather satellite was sent into orbit from its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. Known as the Meteosat Third Generation Imager 1 (MTG-I1), it was the first launch of the next generation of satellites from the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
Based in Darmstadt, Germany, and comprising 30 European countries as its members, EUMETSAT is the European operational satellite agency for monitoring weather and climate from space. EUMETSAT’s MTG-I1 satellite, developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), carries two instruments on board, both of which are imagers.
Saildrone has received classification for an autonomous, uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). The mid-class vehicle in Saildrone’s fleet is the first-ever commercial autonomous USV to receive the classification, the company says.
The Saildrone Voyager, a 10m USV used for near-shore bathymetry and maritime security, is a platform and a force multiplier providing near-real-time data across the world’s oceans. Classification is a major milestone for Saildrone, enabling the Voyager to operate in the ports and waters of countries that require vessels to be classed by organizations such as ABS.
“Saildrone has spent three years maturing the Voyager design to be the industry leader in capability, reliability and safety in the uncrewed vehicle sector,” said Richard Jenkins, CEO and founder of Saildrone.
An engineer at Google for more than 20 years, Barroso is credited with designing the company’s warehouse-size data centers. They house hundreds of thousands of computer servers and disk drives and have brought cloud computing, more powerful search engines, and faster Internet service. He died unexpectedly of natural causes.
In 1995 he joined the Digital Equipment Corp.Western Research Laboratory, in Palo Alto, Calif., as a researcher specializing in microprocessor design. While there, he investigated how to build hardware to run more modern business applications and Web services. Three years later, the company was acquired by Compaq and his project was terminated.
He left Compaq in 2001 to join Google in Mountain View, Calif., as a software engineer.
The company housed its servers at leased space in third-party data centers, which were basically cages in which a few racks of computing equipment were placed. As Google’s business expanded, its need for infrastructure increased. In 2004 Barroso was tasked with investigating ways to build more efficient data centers.
He devised a way to use low-cost components and energy-saving techniques to distribute Google’s programs across thousands of servers, instead of the traditional method of relying on a few powerful, expensive machines.
The company’s first data center designed by Barroso opened in 2006 in The Dalles, Ore. It implemented fault-tolerance software and hardware infrastructure to make the servers less prone to disruption. Google now has 35 data centers in 10 countries, all drawing from Barroso’s groundbreaking techniques.
He also led the team that designed Google’s AI chips, known as tensor processing units or TPUs, which accelerated machine-learning workloads. He helped integrate augmented reality and machine learning into Google Maps.
At the time of his death, Barroso was a Google Fellow, the company’s highest rank for technical staff.
He also was an executive sponsor of the company’s Hispanic and Latinx employee group and oversaw a program that awarded fellowships to doctoral students in Latin America.
He served on the board of Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting tropical lands and conserving threatened wildlife. Just weeks before he died, Barroso organized and led a weeklong trip to Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands.
Former director of the Indian Statistical Institute
Honorary member, 102; died 23 August
Rao was onetime director of the Indian Statistical Institute, in Kolkata. The pioneering mathematician and statistician spent more than four decades at the organization, where he discovered two seminal estimators: the Cramér–Rao bound and the Rao–Blackwell theorem. The two estimators—rules for calculating an estimate of a given quantity based on observed data—provided the basis for much of modern statistics.
For his discoveries, Rao received the 2023 International Prize in Statistics. The award is presented every two years to an individual or team for “major achievements using statistics to advance science, technology, and human welfare.”
Rao began his career in 1943 as a technical apprentice at the Indian Statistical Institute. He was promoted the following year to superintending statistician. Two years later, he published a paper in the Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society, demonstrating two fundamental statistical concepts still heavily used in the field today. The Cramér-Rao bound helps statisticians determine the quality of any estimation method. The Rao-Blackwell theorem provides a means for optimizing estimates.
Rao’s work formed the basis of information geometry, an interdisciplinary field that applies the techniques of differential geometry to study probability theory and statistics.
Rao was a professor at the ISI’s research and training school before being promoted to director in 1964—a position he held for 12 years.
He moved to the United States in the 1980s to join the University of Pittsburgh as a professor of mathematics and statistics. He left Pittsburgh eight years later to teach at Pennsylvania State University in State College, where in 2001 he became director of its multivariate analysis center. Multivariate statistics are data analysis procedures that simultaneously consider more than two variables.
After nine years at Penn State he moved to New York, where he was a research professor at the University of Buffalo until shortly before he died.
Rao authored more than 14 books and 400 journal articles during his career. He received several awards for his lifetime contributions, including 38 honorary doctoral degrees from universities in 19 countries.
In 2010 he was honored with the India Science Award, the highest honor given by the government of India in the scientific sector. He received the 2002 U.S. National Medal of Science, the country’s highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research.
In 1958 he left to join Airborne Instruments Laboratory, a defense contractor in Mineola, N.Y. At AIL, he was involved in electronic warfare systems R&D. He later was promoted to head of the analysis receiver department, and he led the development of UHF and microwave intercept analysis receivers for the U.S. Army.
He accepted a new position in 1970 as head of the advanced development department in the Amecom Division of Litton Industries, a defense contractor in College Park, Md. He helped develop technology at Litton to intercept and analyze radar signals, including the AN/ALR-59 (later the AN/ALR-73) passive detection system for the U.S. NavyE-2 Hawkeye aircraft.
By 1974, he was promoted to head of the laboratory’s electronic warfare systems branch, leading research in areas including advanced miniature antenna and receiver programs, intelligence collection and processing systems, and high-speed signal sorting.
In 1987 he was promoted to associate superintendent of the Tactical Electronic Warfare Division, a position he held until he retired in 1995.
Randall W. Pack
Nuclear and computer engineer
Life member, 82; died 2 December 2022
Pack was a nuclear power engineer until the late 1990s, when he shifted his focus to computer engineering.
Park decided to switch careers and at night took graduate courses at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. After graduating in 1997 with a master’s degree in computer science, he left General Physics and became a computer science consultant. He retired in 2008.
Diane Thompson, associate professor in the University of Arizona Department of Geosciences, explains the significance of studying Earth’s water cycle and how rising and falling temperatures have altered it.
It’s a multibillion-dollar question: What will happen to water availability as temperatures continue to rise? There will be winners and losers with any change that redistributes where, when and how much water is available for humans to drink and use.
To find answers and make informed predictions, scientists look to the past. Reconstructions of past climate change using geologic data have helped to show the far-reaching influence of human activity on temperatures since the industrial age.
After Vic Wintriss sold his sports-imaging company, Wintriss Engineering, to his cofounders in 2006, the electrical engineer was looking for a project to keep himself busy. Wintriss Engineering, based in San Diego, makes smart cameras for sports imaging such as tracking golf balls and inspecting paper, textiles, and plastics. While discussing with his wife what his next career move should be, an idea suddenly came to him in the form of a vision.
“I’ll never forget it,” Wintriss recalls. “It said: ‘You’re going to teach Java to kids in a nonprofit school.’ I didn’t even know Java.”
At the age of 75 he went back to school to learn the programming language. After teaching the subject to teenagers at his church, in 2006 the IEEE life member established The League of Amazing Programmers. The San Diego–based nonprofit after-school program teaches coding in Java and Python to students in Grades 5 to 12. The program offers 10 levels of coding, from beginner to advanced. It is the only one in the United States that awards the Oracle professional programming certificate to high school students.
“It was a privilege to recognize The League of Amazing Programmers for the critical work they are doing in my district to promote equity in our digital age,” Boerner said in a news release about the recognition. “Their dedication to helping our youth, especially girls and underrepresented communities, is transforming lives throughout San Diego.”
Java, Python, and game design
Wintriss, who is now 92, had some prior teaching experience. He was a Navy flight instructor and taught Sunday school classes for several years. To start fulfilling the Java vision he had, he began holding coding classes at the church. The course became so popular that he rented a larger space and bought more computers. Wintriss continued on his own until, he says, it became overwhelming.
That’s when he launched The League of Amazing Programmers. He retained professional programmers who volunteered their time to teach 90-minute weekly in-person and virtual classes seven days a week. The school’s monthly tuition is US $260, and tuition assistance is available.
This year 200 students are participating in the program. About half of them are from underserved communities, Wintriss says.
“The students who have completed the program have been amazing. The computer programs they write are just totally incredible.” —Vic Wintriss
“The students who have completed the program have been amazing,” Wintriss says. “The computer programs they write are just totally incredible.”
The league’s students put their skills to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were taught how to design a low-cost emergency ventilator system using a Raspberry Pi computer and automated versions of manual bag-based resuscitator devices, commonly known as Ambu bags. The compact, balloonlike bags have a soft air reservoir that can be squeezed by medical professionals to inflate a patient’s lungs.
Oracle certification success
More than 50 students have passed the Oracle Professional Programming Certificate exam, which is not easy for a high school student, Wintriss says. Students who take the exam are typically in the 11th grade.
Once students earn the certification, they can garner a high salary, Wintriss says.
“If you’ve got the Oracle certificate, any employer will hire you as a programmer without a college degree, although we encourage our students to go to college,” he says.
Some students have gotten part-time after-school programming jobs that pay about $60 per hour, he says. Former students who have landed a full-time job have told him they are earning more than $100,000 annually.
Wintriss says he hopes to expand the program to other states.
A student testimonial
Sam Sharp has completed the after-school program’s Java course and plans to take the Oracle certificate exam. Vic Wintriss
One student who is attending the after-school program is 15-year-old Sam Sharp, an 11th grader at San Diego High School. His parents signed him up for the program when he was 8.
“I’ve always been interested in computers,” Sharp says. “I’ve had this idea to make things that people are going to use in their daily lives. I figured that because everybody now does everything on their computers, I wanted to learn how to make things for computers.”
Sharp is at the Level 8 stage and has completed the Java course.
He says the league’s program has taught him other skills such as creating a project from scratch, meeting deadlines, pacing himself, and leading teams. He also helps teach younger students the programming languages.
What appeals to him the most about the league’s curriculum, he says, is its “five seconds of fun” principle.
“The concept,” he says, “is that students should get five seconds of just pure fun from what they’ve made or programmed.”
He says he intends to take the Oracle certificate exam, and he plans to pursue a college degree in computer programming.