Learn Who Will Receive a “Technology Oscar” From IEEE

At the pre-event, award recipients will talk about their innovations

3 min read

After two years of holding the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit virtually, this year’s event is scheduled to be in person. The annual VIC summit, to be held on 6 May at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, brings together technology innovators, visionaries, and disruptors to share insights on emerging technologies and discuss their potential impacts on humanity.

The summit culminates with the IEEE Honors Ceremony, what some call the “Oscars of Technology.” In the ceremony, to be live-streamed on IEEE.tv, the recipients of IEEE’s highest awards will be honored for contributions to communications, medical imaging, visual media, information systems, and other fields.

Marguerite Gong HancockMarguerite Gong HancockIEEE Awards

The moderator of this year’s summit is Marguerite Gong Hancock, vice president of innovation at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Hancock oversees innovation across the museum’s programming including its exhibits, educational sessions, and diversity and inclusion efforts.


Summit panels are expected to explore the impact of technology on aerospace, cybersecurity, and smart cities.

Keynote speaker Albert Greenberg is set to discuss networking in private clouds. Greenberg is vice president of platform engineering at Uber Technologies. The company develops applications for navigation and ride sharing as well as payment-processing solutions. He is the executive sponsor for the company’s senior engineers who are striving to make architecture and technical standards more effective, reliable, and sustainable.

Yi Soyeon, South Korea’s first astronaut, is part of a panel discussing aerospace technologies. In 2008 Yi was part of the crew on the Soyuz TMA-12 mission to the International Space Station. During the 11 days she spent at the station, she completed experiments that contributed content for South Korea’s science textbooks. She is now managing director of business development and partnership at biotechnology startup Noul, in Yongin, South Korea.


Asad M. MadniAsad M. MadniIEEE Awards

During the Honors Ceremony in the evening, award recipients will be celebrated. Life Fellow Asad M. Madni will be honored with the IEEE Medal of Honor—IEEE’s highest award. Madni is being recognized for “pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of innovative sensing and systems technologies, and for distinguished research leadership.” The award is sponsored by the IEEE Foundation.

Other pioneers being honored include IEEE Life Fellow John Brooks Slaughter, the recipient of the IEEE Founders Medal. The award is sponsored by the IEEE Foundation's Richard and Mary Jo Stanley Memorial Fund. An educator, scholar, ambassador, and champion of “engineering for all,” Slaughter is dedicated to advancing participation of underrepresented populations in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Deborah EstrinDeborah EstrinIEEE Awards

IEEE Fellow Deborah Estrin is set to receive the IEEE John von Neumann Medal for leadership in mobile and wireless sensing systems technologies and applications, including personal health management. The award is sponsored by IBM.

The first recipients of the IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal are IEEE Senior Member Eugene Myers and Webb Miller. Sponsored by IBM, the Allen Medal honors the computing pioneer and IEEE Fellow. She helped design and build Alpha, a code-breaking language that featured the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system-defined ones.

Myers and Miller are being recognized for pioneering contributions to sequence analysis algorithms and their applications to biosequence search, genome sequencing, and comparative genome analyses. Their computational innovations have been central to progress on DNA and protein sequence data analysis, enabling the genomic revolution.


As a pre-event to the IEEE VIC Summit and Honors Ceremony, on 5 May Qualcomm plans to host an Evening of Innovation at its offices in San Diego. It is scheduled to include a panel discussion with some of the award recipients—highlighting their journeys, innovations, and insights on emerging technologies.

For details about all the speakers or to learn more about this year’s honorees, visit IEEE Corporate Awards webpage.

The Conversation (0)

Get unlimited IEEE Spectrum access

Become an IEEE member and get exclusive access to more stories and resources, including our vast article archive and full PDF downloads
Get access to unlimited IEEE Spectrum content
Network with other technology professionals
Establish a professional profile
Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
Discover IEEE events and activities
Join and participate in discussions

The Inner Beauty of Basic Electronics

Open Circuits showcases the surprising complexity of passive components

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

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.