IEEE President: Let’s Focus on Continuing Education

Toshio Fukuda lays out the plan for 2020

3 min read
Photo of Toshio Fukuda
Photo: Christie’s Photographic Solutions

Our shared vision is for IEEE to be essential to the global technical community and to technical professionals everywhere. Our organization also strives to be universally recognized for the role that technology and technical professionals play in improving global social conditions.

During the past two years, the IEEE Board of Directors has worked with members around the world to create the IEEE Strategic Plan for 2020 through 2025, providing a clear picture of the vision and goals that will guide IEEE as we move forward.

For the next five years, we are committed to continuing to drive global innovation through broad collaboration and the sharing of knowledge. A key element of the new strategic plan is a renewed focus on continuing education and professional development programs, which will enhance the value of IEEE for our members and which will be vital to the future growth of the organization. The plan commits IEEE to be a trusted source of educational services and resources to support lifelong learning and to provide new opportunities for career and professional development.


Our international membership is the heart of IEEE. As president, I am interested in exploring new opportunities to leverage technology to empower us to collaborate, communicate, and connect globally.

It is also important for IEEE to engage diverse audiences to attract and retain new members. Today, young professionals, students, women in engineering, entrepreneurs, and engineers and technologists working across a wide variety of industries are looking for new ways to engage with IEEE through networking and learning opportunities. We will need to continue to engage and welcome a growing member community for IEEE as membership expands in China, India, and across Africa and South America.


I believe education at all levels is a fundamental activity for IEEE. Education underpins everything: the disciplines we immerse ourselves in; the desire to inspire the next generation of scientists and technologists; the need to excite young people about science, technology, engineering, and math early in their education; the role we play in shaping university-level education and research; and the support we provide to our members in maintaining their technical currency and proficiency across their careers.

Continuing education has long been one of the top five reasons members give when asked why they joined IEEE. Member surveys and my own conversations with members have reinforced my belief that enhancing IEEE's continuing education offerings must be a critical new pillar of member value.

As the existing body of technical knowledge continues to grow exponentially, engineers and technology professionals are working hard to stay current, competent, and informed. Today, technologists are seeking trusted sources to support their long-term and just-in-time learning needs, and this demand will continue to grow in the future. IEEE has a vital role to play in delivering “educational value" to our members. I believe a high-quality continuing education program can significantly increase the “value" of IEEE membership.

Because IEEE's technical scope covers a broad range of scientific and technical areas, our robust education program must address the needs of members working in dynamic industries such as computers, power and energy, telecommunications, robotics, consumer electronics, biomedical systems, software development and engineering, and semiconductors.

We must also address emerging and cross-disciplinary technical opportunities, as we do in our successful Future Directions initiatives.

During the strategic discussions held by the IEEE Board of Directors in January, we focused on rethinking the way we address the lifelong educational needs of technical professionals and
engineers and, in particular, on expanding opportunities to provide continuing education as a unique member value proposition.

All of IEEE can play a part in elevating the role that our continuing education programs play in delivering value to our members. This is an opportunity for our major operating units—Member and Geographic Activities, Technical Activities, IEEE-USA, Publication Services and Products, Standards Association, and Educational Activities — to work together around the goal of improving the value of membership through education.

I believe that the best scientists and engineers working today are those who recognize that education is a lifelong journey. No matter how much they learn or how much they contribute to the advancement of science and technology, there will always be a need to acquire more knowledge and sharper skills to make the next innovation even more beneficial to our world. IEEE should be a trusted partner for our members in their journey of lifelong learning.

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This article appears in the March 2020 print issue as “Engage Globally, Empower Locally."

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Can This DIY Rocket Program Send an Astronaut to Space?

Copenhagen Suborbitals is crowdfunding its crewed rocket

15 min read
Five people stand in front of two tall rockets. Some of the people are wearing space suits and holding helmets, others are holding welding equipment.

Copenhagen Suborbitals volunteers are building a crewed rocket on nights and weekends. The team includes [from left] Mads Stenfatt, Martin Hedegaard Petersen, Jørgen Skyt, Carsten Olsen, and Anna Olsen.

Mads Stenfatt

It was one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen: our homemade rocket floating down from the sky, slowed by a white-and-orange parachute that I had worked on during many nights at the dining room table. The 6.7-meter-tall Nexø II rocket was powered by a bipropellant engine designed and constructed by the Copenhagen Suborbitals team. The engine mixed ethanol and liquid oxygen together to produce a thrust of 5 kilonewtons, and the rocket soared to a height of 6,500 meters. Even more important, it came back down in one piece.

That successful mission in August 2018 was a huge step toward our goal of sending an amateur astronaut to the edge of space aboard one of our DIY rockets. We're now building the Spica rocket to fulfill that mission, and we hope to launch a crewed rocket about 10 years from now.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is the world's only crowdsourced crewed spaceflight program, funded to the tune of almost US $100,000 per year by hundreds of generous donors around the world. Our project is staffed by a motley crew of volunteers who have a wide variety of day jobs. We have plenty of engineers, as well as people like me, a pricing manager with a skydiving hobby. I'm also one of three candidates for the astronaut position.

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