Being More Inclusive Is Paying Off for This IEEE Society

The Instrumentation & Measurement Society saw double-digit growth

6 min read
Illustration of a world map with icons of people over different land masses of the map.
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Small changes made over time can lead to big results, the saying goes. A great example of that is the concerted effort the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society started more than two decades ago to become a more welcoming and inclusive environment for women and members from outside the United States. Since 2012, the society has increased the number of female members by more than 60 percent. And more articles are now submitted from authors in China, India, and Italy than from North America.

“We tackled one diversity factor at a time,” says IEEE Senior Member Ferdinanda Ponci, the society’s liaison to IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), a position established more than 10 years ago to coordinate joint activities and programs.


Ponci says being a liaison to the WIE committee has been a key factor for her engagement with diversity, equity, and inclusion activities.

“This amazing group is a constant motivator and my reality check that women’s participation, career advancement, and DEI are very real, life-changing missions,” she says.

Ponci is one of the people involved in the society’s efforts. She is also a member at large of the society’s administrative committee and conference treasurer.

“I think we have a very nice representation at all levels now,” Ponci says, though she adds that there is still more to do.

She is a professor and researcher in area monitoring and distributed control with the Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems at RWTH Aachen University, in Germany.

Ponci recently spoke with The Institute about how she and her colleagues improved diversity in the Instrumentation and Measurement Society. She said it was done “intentionally, strategically, and systematically” as the 2016–2017 society president, Ruth Dyer, reminded Ponci and others on the society’s AdCom. Dyer is currently the IEEE Division II director.

DETERMINED ADVOCATES

During the past 20 years, the society has increased the number of women who present and lead sessions at its conferences, workshops, and symposia; hold leadership positions; and serve on technical program committees.

The push came from advocates among the society’s officers who were determined to increase representation, Ponci says.

In 1992 there was only one member of the society’s AdCom from outside the United States and Canada, and no women. That was the situation when Dyer’s husband, Stephen A. Dyer, joined the AdCom as editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. The IEEE Life Fellow began the effort to identify more women and individuals from other geographic regions to include as candidates on the AdCom ballot. True discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusiveness started then and continues, Ponci says.

Ruth Dyer was elected to the AdCom in 1999, and served in her first officer role in 2007. A second woman wasn’t elected to the committee until 2009. Between 2010 and 2021, the society has had between six and nine female voting members, Ponci says. They have included elected members, officers not in a current elected position, and appointed representatives. Some were recruited from conference attendees.

Beginning in 2007, IEEE Fellow Reza Zoughi, who would later be elected the society’s 2014–2015 president, began nominating many of his current and former students for the appointed positions. He continues to be a strong advocate for diversity.

The society has had at least one woman appointed as the undergraduate, graduate, or Young Professionals representative almost every year since 2007, Ponci says.

That is important, she says, because the appointees have voting rights.

Ruth Dyer coordinated the first informal networking session for women in 2006 at the society’s flagship event, the IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference. There was more involvement by women as speakers and technical program committee chairs at this year’s conference, Ponci says. Since 2012, Women in Measurement events have taken place regularly as formal parts of the program.

The society’s nominations and appointments committee saw to it that experienced women were nominated for leadership positions. The idea was that the officers would in turn identify other talented women for committee appointments.

“It became normal, and it was expected that committees would be more diverse,” Ponci says. “I think this was emotionally and culturally a big change.”

Those efforts would not have been possible without visible support from the society’s leaders including the Dyers and Zoughi, along with many other officers who advocated for diversity and supported networking events for women at the society’s conferences, Ponci says.

“They attended these events and encouraged other male and female members of the AdCom to attend to show support of the society,” she says. “We need more male advocates because without them, it looks like it’s a ‘woman’s thing,’ and it’s not.”

Women and individuals from a diversity of geographic areas who have technical expertise in instrumentation and measurement were encouraged to publish their research papers in the society’s publications and to serve as reviewers and associate editors.

A cover for IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement with a title of \u201cWomen in I&M\u201d iStockphoto/IEEE

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine marked the contributions and achievements of the society’s female members and field experts in its June 2016 special issue [left]. In her president’s message, Dyer wrote:

“I am always impressed by the strength and excellence that result when we embrace and encourage diversity. Time and again, we discover that the most robust solutions are achieved when a plethora of perspectives are sought and incorporated. As the science and engineering disciplines continue to direct their attention and efforts toward increased inclusion, we know our Instrumentation and Measurement Society will continue to thrive and grow, because we are committed to fostering and reaping the benefits of an inclusive society.”

In June the society joined 21 other IEEE organizational units that took the IEEE WIE pledge [see below] to work toward “gender-diversified panels at all IEEE meetings, conferences, and events.”

GEOGRAPHIC DIVERSITY

To increase global representation within the society, it turned its attention to IEEE Regions 8, 9, and 10.

“We started the geographic diversity effort purposefully,” Ponci says.

The society used the same strategy as it had with women: Get more qualified people from other regions on the ballot and in member-at-large positions; push them to become associate editors and reviewers of papers; and increase their representation on editorial boards. Researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East were encouraged to submit papers to the society’s publications.

Prior to 1997, there had been only one or two elected AdCom members from outside the United and Canada, Ponci says. From 1997 to 2009, however, at least one of the four representatives elected each year was from Region 8, 9, or 10. That number increased to three from 2010 to this year.

The first representative from Region 9, IEEE Senior Member Jorge F. Daher, went on to become the society’s 2012 president. The society elected the second representative from Region 10 in 2010 and one each year since.

From 2017 on, IEEE Fellow Shervin Shirmohammadi, editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, has pushed for the inclusion of individuals from underrepresented geographic areas among associate editors.

Region 10, which covers Asia and the Pacific Rim and hosts the largest community of instrumentation and measurement technologists, was targeted first. Most of the current editorial board members for the Transactions come from the region.

“To be able to select the best of the best from a large group of submitters is more than we could hope for,” Ponci says.

REAPING THE BENEFITS

Ponci says the efforts to improve gender and geographic diversity are paying off.

“We managed to attract the most motivated and active individuals in every area” of the society, she says. “The society’s activities have increased and improved.”

Discussions with members are now a “mix of commonalities and differences,” she adds. “Of course, this requires people to really want to listen and not dismiss the point of view of others. This is something that diversity and inclusion really pushes. It makes you stop and listen before you dismiss and before you judge.”

WIE Pledge Update

By Lisa Lazareck-Asunta

The IEEE Women in Engineering pledge was launched on 23 April with a commitment from four IEEE societies: Computational Intelligence, Computer, Engineering in Medicine and Biology, and Power & Energy. Since then, much progress has been made. As of press time 21 IEEE organizational units (OUs) had confirmed their commitment to the pledge, and 13 more were considering it. That includes regions, sections, societies, councils, and one student branch.

Many OUs have broadened the scope of the pledge to encompass other aspects of diversity and inclusion that go beyond gender representation.

OUs are making the pledge visible through their membership communications and websites. Some are working to make it part of their bylaws.

WIE is collaborating with the IEEE Technical Activities Board’s diversity committee and IEEE conferences to ascertain how practices pertaining to the implementation of the pledge can best be achieved, shared, and improved across IEEE.

If your OU is interested in joining the community of pledge-takers and changemakers, contact the WIE office.

Taking the WIE pledge is just the first step on the road for more visible and equitable representation on panels at IEEE meetings, conferences, and events.

Lisa Lazareck-Asunta is the 2019–2020 chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering committee. The IEEE senior member has been an elected and appointed volunteer for IEEE, including WIE and the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, since 2003.

The Conversation (1)
Anjan Saha04 Jan, 2022
M

Electrical measurement and measuring Instrument is a vast subject. In automated Power Plants thousands of sensors and measuring equipments are used .

Two good books for reference in this field are:-

1) Electrical Measurement

Author: William Golding

2) Instrument System Design

Author: E.O. Doebelin

Above books are useful

for both students & professionals

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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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