Explore Resources During IEEE Education Week

Learn about the offerings for students, educators, and technical professionals

3 min read
A photo of a woman working at home desk on laptop
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Education is changing fundamentally. STEM workforce shortages and a push for more diverse hiring practices have created opportunities for students and workforce professionals to explore science, technology, engineering, and math careers that might not have been available even 10 years ago. IEEE and other education providers are working to offer foundational STEM learning experiences, as well as the reskilling and upskilling opportunities required to support the workforce of the future.

At the preuniversity level, students have both in-class and extracurricular opportunities to engage in STEM education. Hands-on labs, robotics competitions, summer engineering camps and maker spaces are just a few of the opportunities to help interest children in STEM careers. Private and public investments are being made to ensure that kids of diverse backgrounds can access the educational opportunities.


University programs are moving away from traditional lectures to flipped classrooms and hands-on labs, and from traditional textbooks to bite-size digital media, with an increased focus on engaging students as they grow.

Continuing professional education programs also are evolving, with organizations and governments investing in technical upskilling and reskilling programs to prepare employees for the economies of tomorrow.

Companies are finding it difficult to fill many technical roles because of the shortage of qualified candidates, so they are turning their attention to internal education programs as well as alternative degrees and education programs.

LEADING THE WAY

With the vast technical expertise of its 400,000-plus members and volunteers, IEEE is a leader in engineering and technology education. Its technical societies and councils, sections, and regional groups offer educational events and resources at every level to support technical professions and prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

From preuniversity STEM programs, mentorships and engineering summer camps to scholarships, accreditation, and faculty support at the university level, to continuing professional education through conferences and online platforms such as the IEEE Learning Network, there are many educational opportunities designed to support the profession and help people improve their skills.

From 4 to 8 April, IEEE is highlighting many of its resources for students, educators, and technical professionals with the annual IEEE Education Week. It celebrates educational opportunities provided by the world’s largest technical professional association and its many organizational units, societies, and councils.

EDUCATION WEEK OFFERINGS

Here are some of the events and resources available during IEEE Education Week:

Preuniversity

University

  • Live Event: 9 April. IEEE Communications Society Student Tech Leaders Conference. This one-day event is being planned to develop and expand the foundational understanding of students to IEEE and IEEE Communications Society activities that are designed to grow career professionals in the field.
  • Live Virtual Event: 5 April, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. ET, Diversity in STEM Round Table/Panel Discussion.
  • Website: Teaching Excellence Hub. A website from the IEEE Education Society and the IEEE Educational Activities Board that provides articles and links to events and resources for those teaching engineering, computing, and technology at the university level.
  • Podcast: The HKN Connection. This podcast series gives behind-the-scenes access to the honor society from those who know it best: our volunteers, staff and partners.

Continuing Professional Education

  • Live Virtual Event: 5 April, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET. IEEE Education: Why Lifelong Learning is an Essential Part of Your Professional Home. Join IEEE President Ray Liu during IEEE Education Week to discover why lifelong learning and continuing education are an essential part of what makes IEEE the professional home for hundreds of thousands of IEEE members around the globe.
  • Website: IEEE Learning Network: Explore hundreds of hours of continuing education courses from IEEE, all in one place.
  • On-Demand Webinar Series: IEEE Digital Reality Webinar Series. The IEEE Digital Reality Webinar Series explores the latest innovations and challenges in the realm of digital reality. Hear from leading technologists about artificial reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality, human augmentation, immersive and related technologies, how they are affecting industries today, and how they will impact our future tomorrow.

Participants will have a chance to earn points toward an IEEE Education Week digital badge by participating in various events, and then completing daily quizzes on the website.

Check out the IEEE Education Week video to learn more.

You do not need to be an IEEE member to participate; however, members receive discounted or free access to many of the events and resources.

If you’re not an IEEE member, now would be a great time to join.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

IEEE-affiliated groups can participate in Education Week, by offering educational events, resources, and discounted courses.

This article was updated on 18 March 2022.

The Conversation (2)
Ashok Deobhakta31 Mar, 2022
SM

Great initiative and event!

Rodney Roberts27 Mar, 2022
M

The so-called STEM shortage was the result of a 1986 NSF study “The Pipeline For Scientific and Technical Personnel: Past Lessons Applied to Future Changes of Interest to Policy-Makers and Human Resource Specialists.” This study addressed the issue of a rising US market price of high skilled labor., not a talent shortage.

In other words, it sought to manipulate STEM wages.

See Eric Weinstein's 03/28/17 "How & Why Government, Universities, & Industry Create Domestic Labor Shortages of Scientists & High-Tech Workers" for more details.

Also see Robert N. Charette's 03/30/13 "The STEM Crisis Is a Myth", published on IEEE Spectrum website 03/30/13. It provides an analysis of available STEM compared to STEM jobs.

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The Inner Beauty of Basic Electronics

Open Circuits showcases the surprising complexity of passive components

5 min read
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A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.
All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay
Blue

Eric Schlaepfer was trying to fix a broken piece of test equipment when he came across the cause of the problem—a troubled tantalum capacitor. The component had somehow shorted out, and he wanted to know why. So he polished it down for a look inside. He never found the source of the short, but he and his collaborator, Windell H. Oskay, discovered something even better: a breathtaking hidden world inside electronics. What followed were hours and hours of polishing, cleaning, and photography that resulted in Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (No Starch Press, 2022), an excerpt of which follows. As the authors write, everything about these components is deliberately designed to meet specific technical needs, but that design leads to “accidental beauty: the emergent aesthetics of things you were never expected to see.”

From a book that spans the wide world of electronics, what we at IEEE Spectrum found surprisingly compelling were the insides of things we don’t spend much time thinking about, passive components. Transistors, LEDs, and other semiconductors may be where the action is, but the simple physics of resistors, capacitors, and inductors have their own sort of splendor.

High-Stability Film Resistor

A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.

All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

This high-stability film resistor, about 4 millimeters in diameter, is made in much the same way as its inexpensive carbon-film cousin, but with exacting precision. A ceramic rod is coated with a fine layer of resistive film (thin metal, metal oxide, or carbon) and then a perfectly uniform helical groove is machined into the film.

Instead of coating the resistor with an epoxy, it’s hermetically sealed in a lustrous little glass envelope. This makes the resistor more robust, ideal for specialized cases such as precision reference instrumentation, where long-term stability of the resistor is critical. The glass envelope provides better isolation against moisture and other environmental changes than standard coatings like epoxy.

15-Turn Trimmer Potentiometer

A photo of a blue chip
A photo of a blue chip on a circuit board.

It takes 15 rotations of an adjustment screw to move a 15-turn trimmer potentiometer from one end of its resistive range to the other. Circuits that need to be adjusted with fine resolution control use this type of trimmer pot instead of the single-turn variety.

The resistive element in this trimmer is a strip of cermet—a composite of ceramic and metal—silk-screened on a white ceramic substrate. Screen-printed metal links each end of the strip to the connecting wires. It’s a flattened, linear version of the horseshoe-shaped resistive element in single-turn trimmers.

Turning the adjustment screw moves a plastic slider along a track. The wiper is a spring finger, a spring-loaded metal contact, attached to the slider. It makes contact between a metal strip and the selected point on the strip of resistive film.

Ceramic Disc Capacitor

A cutaway of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor
A photo of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor

Capacitors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of static electricity. They’re used in countless ways, including for bulk energy storage, to smooth out electronic signals, and as computer memory cells. The simplest capacitor consists of two parallel metal plates with a gap between them, but capacitors can take many forms so long as there are two conductive surfaces, called electrodes, separated by an insulator.

A ceramic disc capacitor is a low-cost capacitor that is frequently found in appliances and toys. Its insulator is a ceramic disc, and its two parallel plates are extremely thin metal coatings that are evaporated or sputtered onto the disc’s outer surfaces. Connecting wires are attached using solder, and the whole assembly is dipped into a porous coating material that dries hard and protects the capacitor from damage.

Film Capacitor

An image of a cut away of a capacitor
A photo of a green capacitor.

Film capacitors are frequently found in high-quality audio equipment, such as headphone amplifiers, record players, graphic equalizers, and radio tuners. Their key feature is that the dielectric material is a plastic film, such as polyester or polypropylene.

The metal electrodes of this film capacitor are vacuum-deposited on the surfaces of long strips of plastic film. After the leads are attached, the films are rolled up and dipped into an epoxy that binds the assembly together. Then the completed assembly is dipped in a tough outer coating and marked with its value.

Other types of film capacitors are made by stacking flat layers of metallized plastic film, rather than rolling up layers of film.

Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

A photo of a cutaway of a Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

At the core of this capacitor is a porous pellet of tantalum metal. The pellet is made from tantalum powder and sintered, or compressed at a high temperature, into a dense, spongelike solid.

Just like a kitchen sponge, the resulting pellet has a high surface area per unit volume. The pellet is then anodized, creating an insulating oxide layer with an equally high surface area. This process packs a lot of capacitance into a compact device, using spongelike geometry rather than the stacked or rolled layers that most other capacitors use.

The device’s positive terminal, or anode, is connected directly to the tantalum metal. The negative terminal, or cathode, is formed by a thin layer of conductive manganese dioxide coating the pellet.

Axial Inductor

An image of a cutaway of a Axial Inductor
A photo of a collection of cut wires

Inductors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of a magnetic field. They’re used, for example, in some types of power supplies to convert between voltages by alternately storing and releasing energy. This energy-efficient design helps maximize the battery life of cellphones and other portable electronics.

Inductors typically consist of a coil of insulated wire wrapped around a core of magnetic material like iron or ferrite, a ceramic filled with iron oxide. Current flowing around the core produces a magnetic field that acts as a sort of flywheel for current, smoothing out changes in the current as it flows through the inductor.

This axial inductor has a number of turns of varnished copper wire wrapped around a ferrite form and soldered to copper leads on its two ends. It has several layers of protection: a clear varnish over the windings, a light-green coating around the solder joints, and a striking green outer coating to protect the whole component and provide a surface for the colorful stripes that indicate its inductance value.

Power Supply Transformer

A photo of a collection of cut wires
A photo of a yellow element on a circuit board.

This transformer has multiple sets of windings and is used in a power supply to create multiple output AC voltages from a single AC input such as a wall outlet.

The small wires nearer the center are “high impedance” turns of magnet wire. These windings carry a higher voltage but a lower current. They’re protected by several layers of tape, a copper-foil electrostatic shield, and more tape.

The outer “low impedance” windings are made with thicker insulated wire and fewer turns. They handle a lower voltage but a higher current.

All of the windings are wrapped around a black plastic bobbin. Two pieces of ferrite ceramic are bonded together to form the magnetic core at the heart of the transformer.

This article appears in the February 2023 print issue.

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