October 12th, 2012


IEEE has received the 2012 Summit Award—the highest recognition bestowed by the American Society of Association Executives—for the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge (HTC). The IEEE HTC is now merged with Engineering for Change, which seeks to develop technical, locally appropriate, and sustainable solutions to humanitarian challenges. The IEEE Power & Energy Society, IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society, and IEEE Computational Intelligence Society have contributed funding, technical knowledge, and volunteer work to projects under HTC.

Want to learn more about humanitarian projects under IEEE HTC? Check out the articles from our archive below.

IEEE launches major e-health pilot in India
IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge is saving lives in Peru’s Alto Amazonas
Self-maintaining solar power systems deliver electricity in impoverished regions
E-health solution tracks patient records in rural areas
IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge delivers solar power to villages in Haiti

September 13th, 2012

The IEEE Power & Energy Society is supporting Africa’s power access millennium goal through its recent Power Africa Conference. The conference, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, connected engineers and technology innovators with utility and generation companies, addressing issues from demand-side management to renewable resource grid integration in Africa.

NGO Sirona Cares was invited to give a workshop on its partnership with the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge-Reliable Electricity Program, a program bringing solar-power electricity to Haiti’s rural communities. Under the program, six Haitian villages received mobile Sunblazer stations capable of charging small portable batteries for distribution to residences and businesses for local use, which can be recharged at the stations. The program creates a technical solution to a problem that can be adopted locally through a sustainable business model. Four African-based NGOs that attended the workshop agreed to work together to bring a similar program to Africa under a partnership called the “SunBlazer Manufacturers and Users Group.” Details are available here.

The conference also presented a series of tutorials and webinars, and included technical visits to Eskom’s national control centre, a 765 kV static compensator and a thermal power station (Eskom is a South African electricity public utility.). There was excellent attendance from local universities, the national utility, African utilities, and international companies. More information is available on the IEEE Community Solutions Initiative Blog.

August 9th, 2012

Roughly 1,150 people from 78 countries participated in the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society’s (GRSS) Data Fusion Contest. The contest, which is helping connect students and researchers around the world, is a forum for the scientific community to evaluate and compare existing or novel methods to solve remote sensing problems with data from various airborne and spaceborne sensors. Participants were asked to examine three different data sets (optical, SAR, and LiDAR) over San Francisco, California, USA. Images from the sensors cover buildings, skyscrapers, commercial and industrial structures, parks and private housing, and highways and bridges. Participants used the data to quickly assess important information about the city, such as its urban density.

The Society awarded the winning teams with IEEE GRSS Certificates of Appreciation and monetary prizes at this year’s IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium.

1) C. Berger, M. Voltersen, R. Eckardt, J. Eberle, T. Heyer, N. Salepci, S. Hese, and C. Schmullius, from the University of Jena, Germany, with a paper entitled Fusion of High-Resolution Optical Imagery and Object Height Information for an Integrated Assessment of Urban Density (UD).

2) J. Tao from and R. Bamler from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and S. Auer from Technische Universität München, Germany, with a paper entitled Combination of Lidar and Sar Data With Simulation Techniques for Image Interpretation and Change Detection.

3) K. Ewald and A. Buswell from Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., M. Gartley from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and J. Jacobson from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, United States, with a paper entitled Radiosity Technique for Reflectance Retrieval Applied to Worldview-2 Data.

At the end of the contest, K. Ewald, M. Gartley, J. Jacobson, and A. Buswell said they would donate their monetary prize to United Way, a non-profit, charitable organization that supports education, income, and health (www.unitedway.org).

A manuscript summarizing the contest outcomes will be submitted for peer review to IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing (JSTARS).

The IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Technical Committee would like to express its great appreciation to DigitalGlobe, Astrium Services, and USGS/CLICK for donating data sets to the scientific community and for their continuing support in providing resources for this initiative.

July 9th, 2012

Istanbul Technical University wins Solar Splash CompetitionIstanbul Technical University took first place at the 2012 IEEE Power Electronics Society Solar Splash Competition, the World Championship of intercollegiate Solar/Electric boating, 13-17 June in Cedar Falls/Waterloo, Iowa. It is the first time a team from outside the United States has won the competition. Teams from 15 universities designed and constructed their own solar boats for the sprint and endurance races. Second and third place winners were Cedarville University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The competition consisted of five on-the-water events. Points were earned in seven categories. On-site competitions included visual displays and workmanship. On-the-water events began with a sprint and a maneuverability qualifier, followed by an event called the Solar Slalom, a combination of speed and maneuverability. The final days were spent in the sprint and endurance events. After passing inspection, the teams were entered into the Slalom and sprint heats. The qualification races ran from Thursday to Friday. All teams present qualified to be in the finals.

Timothy Dwight, former University of Iowa NFL Professional Football player, attended the event to speak to the teams about solar power. Mr. Dwight, who is an advocate for green energy and solar power, is currently the Director of iPower (Integrated Power Corporation). He encouraged the students to pursue careers in green energy- related fields. Other speakers included Reg Pecen, UNI 2012 IEEE PELS Solar Splash Administrator, Jeffrey Morehouse – University of South Carolina and IEEE PELS Solar Splash Headquarters, Donna Florek, Senior Administrator of the Power Electronics Society, and Andries van Weperen, University of Delft The Netherlands, International Ambassador for Dong Energy Solar Challenge – World Cup for Solar Powered Boats.

June 22nd, 2012

On 3 June, a group of mostly 10th grade students from Taylor High School in Austin, Texas, USA took first place at the IEEE Electron Devices Society’s (EDS) Austin Solar Day Competition. The team won for its B.L.A.D.E van (Beginners Learning Alternative Designs for Energy), which it transformed into an alternative energy vehicle (A.E.V.) from a donated 1995 GMC Safari. To win, teams had to demonstrate the use of photovoltaics in a practical application, using only photovoltaics as the power source for the project.

To build the vehicle, the team met each week after school to solder 6″ x 6″ polycrystalline wafers and construct 144-watt solar panels. The students mounted the panels on the AEV to charge a bank of (8) 6-volt deep cycle batteries connected in a series-parallel circuit. The batteries are charged through voltage regulators and wired to inverters, with the inverters wired to weatherproof receptacles cut into the van. The team won, not only for building the solar cells and the energy system, and for netting sponsorships and materials donations, but for teaching the public about solar energy with fun activities like free movies in the park using a projector, DVD player and amplifier plugged into a weatherproof receptacle – all powered by the B.L.A.D.E. van.

IEEE EDS Austin Solar Day, held alongside the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC), attracted about 2,000 people from the area. The competition allowed students to interact directly with world-famous photovoltaic technologists and businesses. Attendees included PV installers, PV buyers, students, utilities, and the general public interested in including solar power in their daily lives.

June 6th, 2012

Although India is rapidly producing engineers, there are far too few Indian students pursuing careers in circuits and systems, a major problem for a country where multimedia technology is expanding every day. Adding to the problem, there is no interaction between university research labs and high schools in the country. Getting high school/secondary students interested in circuits and systems before they head for college will help boost the number of college students pursuing careers in this important field.

The First IEEE Circuits & Systems Society Outreach Workshop on Machine Intelligence is designed to do just that. On 18 – 20 May 2012, 55 high performing students from 34 schools in Kerala, India were selected to attend the workshop, where they learned all about intelligent systems, circuit and systems, pattern recognition and image processing. The workshop included lab sessions on image processing and understanding creativity and emotions for intelligent machines. Many students found the sessions on emotional intelligence in robots, bioinformatics and geoinformatics appealing as career options. They also had fun interacting with research scientists from industry and academia who participated in the workshop.

(View the full list of programs here.)

The IEEE Circuits and Systems Society (IEEE CAS) supported the workshop through its outreach program funding (the program was one of 15 proposals selected worldwide). It was the only IEEE CAS outreach-supported program in India for 2011-2012. The Machine Intelligence Research Group of the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management – Kerala (IIITM-K) organized the event. Another workshop is scheduled to be held in December.

(View the workshop’s image gallery.)

May 23rd, 2012

The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE RAS) sponsored its second Teen Robotics Program at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). The program — designed to give high school students insight into the exciting challenges and opportunities in the field of robotics — took place on 17 May 2012 in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA (the ‘Twin Cities’). IEEE RAS contacted local public schools, the FIRST Robotics Organization, the Explorer Scouts, and the IEEE Twin Cities Section to recruit motivated high school juniors and seniors to attend. Even though mid-May is a busy time for teenagers with proms, exams, and graduation, IEEE RAS managed to recruit a dozen teenagers and one teacher to participate in the six-hour program.

Students watch a demonstration of the winning Robot Challenge team, a hockey-playing robot.

(Video: Check out some awesome robots in action at ICRA 2012!)

The teenagers learned much about the exciting field of robotics during their visit. After Professor Wesley Snyder of North Carolina State University gave an overview on robotics, the students watched a TED Talk video featuring Professor Vijay Kumar of the University of Pennsylvania and his flying robots. About five minutes into the video — much to the students’ surprise–, Professor Kumar strolled into the room and finished the talk in person. Next, ICRA General Chair Nikos Papanikolopoulos of the University of Minnesota spoke to the students about the robotics programs underway in their home state of Minnesota.

Afterwards it was time for the students to see some real robots in action. The students met Dr. Steve Cousins, CEO of ICRA Robot Challenge sponsor Willow Garage, a company that develops hardware and open source software for personal robotic applications. The company provided several of its sophisticated, commercially available PR2 robots (only U.S.$400,000 each!) for the ICRA Robot Challenge that took place the day before. Dr. Cousins presented a demonstration called “Yesterday’s Sushi,” which featured robots as they cleared and reset a full-sized table and served sushi dishes in a mock sushi restaurant. The demonstration was a reenactment of the Mobile Manipulation Challenge, also known as “The Sushi Boat Challenge,” one of six challenges that had taken place during the challenge competition. The students spoke with one of the challenge teams — a group of graduate students from the University of Michigan — and saw the team’s robots before visiting the main exhibition. They also met with representatives from many of the 30 companies and organizations that attended, including DARPA, NASA, iRobot, ABB, KUKA, and Barrett Technologies. The students not only witnessed robots in action, but also got to operate them.

The ICRA Twin Cities Teen Robotics Event was originally scheduled to end at noon, but several of the students accepted an invitation to attend the ICRA plenary talk on the Development Outline of the Humanoid Robot: HUBO II by Professor Jun Ho Oh of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Korea. The students were impressed with the cool robots as well as the enthusiasm of the academic and industry professionals they met, all of whom were more than willing to answer their questions.

(Videos: View the full list of TechTalks from ICRA 2012.)

The ICRA Twin Cities Teen Robotics Event was the second youth event sponsored by IEEE RAS. The first was held in San Francisco, California, USA in September 2011 at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

May 9th, 2012

Last September, we reported on the successful launch of the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge RFID Individual Tracking and Records Management (RFID-ITRM) pilot in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). We are pleased to announce that a second and larger test-bed for this project has successfully deployed in Ahmedabad, India, an impoverished slum community of about 100,000 people. The system is allowing health care workers to track patients in the city and is saving and improving lives every day. A video of the solution is available here.

RFID-ITRM technology is central to preventing medical errors, identifying victims of natural disasters, and tracking and monitoring diseases and outbreaks, as well as infants and vaccination history. Several operational components are involved. An electronic medical record system is installed in a local community health care center. Members of the community are given RFID chips embedded in ID cards that allow community health care workers to update their patient information into the system using mobile RFID devices that can read the patients’ RFID chips. The technology continuously updates and tracks patient health records in the electronic medical record system.

The system, managed by local NGO Manav Sadhna, deployed in a clinic in Ahmedabad in December 2011 and has been successful to date. Community health workers provide door-to-door service and use mobile devices to identify individuals via RFID cards tagged to an individual record on the system.

“The records part of the system is providing a history of patients’ illnesses and medications, hence minimizing errors and facilitating better health care,” says Dr. Ali Zalzala, an IEEE volunteer and lead for the project. “The RFID tracking part of the system in providing an identification mechanism and allowing field workers better interaction with clinic doctors.”

The IEEE Computational Intelligence Society, whose Evolutionary Computation Technical Committee is directly involved with advising the solution team on the theory and implementation of the system’s CI-component, has been vital in supporting the project. The solution team oversees the tests and local volunteers are involved in fieldwork.

“This initiative is a systems integration project, including software/hardware development, management frameworks, and algorithms development,” says Zalzala. “Computational Intelligence is an effective approach to data mining, and there is a great deal of data to analyze in this project.”

The final target for the pilot is to establish around 15 clinics in the slum, according to Zalzala. He and others involved in the project are working with a local hospital to become the central hub for outreach to these clinics. If efforts continue to be successful, the e-health system will eventually serve the entire community of around 100,000 people. Currently, it is expanding into a second health clinic in Ahmedabad, with more planned.

Partners assisting with the solution’s deployment include Vodafone Americas Foundation, Institute of Management Technology, and American University in the Emirates.

The IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge, or HTC, is a part of Engineering for Change, in which IEEE is a supporter. Engineering for Change provides a forum to connect, collaborate, solve challenges and share knowledge among a growing community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, local governments and community advocates, who are dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world.

April 24th, 2012

A lack of female colleagues and role models in the engineering community discourages many women from pursuing engineering as a career, according to Charlotte Blair, coordinator for the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society’s Women in Microwaves program (IEEE-MTT WIM). Since women tend to bring a different perspective than men, the engineering community suffers from a lack of diversity as a result.

“Diversification of perspective and life experience is always valuable in advancing any field whether its politics or engineering,” Blair says. According to her, a major part of the problem is there are not enough women engineers within positions of authority, including IEEE Fellows, who serve as role models for young women. “We have to start at the grass roots and get more women to advance to senior and management levels,” she says.

What can the engineering community do to help bridge the gender gap? According to Blair, women need to be encouraged to become engineers at a young age. Focusing efforts at the high school and college level to get young women to consider engineering as a career path is a major step, but once a woman becomes an engineer she must be encouraged to stay.

“Women are social,” says Blair. “To be the only woman in an engineering department or group can be lonely.” IEEE Societies and other engineering associations can encourage women to continue their careers in engineering by organizing meet and greets for women at conferences and events, she added.

Many IEEE Societies are doing just that. The IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society is at the forefront of this initiative. Several years ago, the Society – realizing it needed to do more to support women in its community – launched its Women in Microwaves program (formerly MTT Women in Engineering). WIM’s goal is to promote activities that help to enhance both the professional and personal growth of women involved in any MTT activity, including, but not limited to, all women RF or microwave engineers. The community is open to both women and men.

As part of its efforts, Women in Microwaves held two major receptions last year: one at the International Microwave Symposium (IMS2011) in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and another at the European Microwave Conference 2011 (EuMC) in Manchester, United Kingdom. Both events, focused around MTT industry conferences, were social events where women could network and socialize with other women as well as men in their career fields.

The IEEE MTT also established a gender-neutrality policy in 2011 aimed at preventing its women members from feeling isolated. As part of the policy, the Society adopted gender-neutral written communications in its governance documents and operations manual and encourages gender-neutrality in all its communications. It also formed an ad-hoc committee charged with enforcing the policy.

Blair says her participation in IEEE and the WIM program influenced her decision to stay in her own career as an engineer at Ansys, Inc. after taking years off to raise her children. “My involvement with IEEE played a role in my reintroduction,” she says. “I am now with a great company who supports my volunteer activities.”

How else can the engineering community better encourage women to pursue engineering fields?

Charlotte Blair, PhD, would like to thank Dr.Kate Remley, Dr. Dominique Schreurs, Dr. Rashaunda Henderson, and Sherry Hess for their significant contributions to the WIM program.

April 9th, 2012

In rural areas, poverty, geographical distances between villages, and lack of services such as water, electricity and drainage leads to poor health and high mortality rates. Thousands of people in these mostly roadless areas must travel long distances to get quality care at urban health facilities; sometimes they cannot even travel by boat if river levels are low. In addition, they have no access to mobile or any other communication technology. To solve this, the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge Data Connectivity for Remote Health Clinics program successfully helped deploy telemedicine infrastructure in various locations of the Peruvian Amazonia. The project connected three remote health centers to a hospital in Yurimaguas, a city in the Loreto region.

“The project focuses on the empowerment of locals for the design, development, deployment and sustenance of appropriate solutions,” says Dr. Martin Murillo, an IEEE volunteer and project manager for the Peru project. This focus is central to IEEE HTC’s goal to not only implement technology in impoverished communities, but create solutions that allow them to sustain it over time, which requires innovation and awareness of cultural, political, environmental, and social contexts.

Following the vision of IEEE HTC, a group of committed IEEE volunteers partnered with the Peruvian Grupo de Telecomunicaciones Rurales (GTR), Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP), and the Alto Amazonas Health Network and spent three months in location implementing massive tower infrastructure rarely seen in the Amazon or elsewhere and equipping health posts with computers, long-distance Wi-Fi radios, parabolic antennas, and solar panels for 24/7 operation. These technologies, combined with open source software for high-resolution videoconferencing, form a data connectivity system that makes it possible for doctors to diagnose patients in remote areas. The system, serving over 2,000 villagers, has improved service levels, prevented deaths, and made for more efficient medical work in Peru’s rural regions.

“The project has been effective from the very start, not only through a positive adoption of the solution, but through the intensive use of the solution,” says Juan Antonio Paco Fernandez, project coordinator for the GTR.

If a diagnosis is severe, a plane is sent to transport patients to a city hospital. If a local physician has questions about a patient’s case, he/she can consult face-to-face via the system with a specialist in the Yurimaguas hospital. Without the system, locals would have to travel hours or days via river boat to receive a diagnosis, often in life-threatening situations. 

IEEE, GTR, and local volunteers helped engineer and implement the solution, lead by the GTR group, which has over 10 years experience deploying such solutions in remote areas. The construction of towers was done mostly by local expert tower builders. IEEE, Peruvian municipalities, and the Alto Amazonas health authority contributed towards funding. The system has been working for almost a year, supported by local personnel and funded entirely by local institutions for its sustainability.

“This system has a much higher value than its monetary cost,” says Roel S. Vargas Perez of the Upper Amazon Health Network. “It is bringing joy and happiness to the villagers in terms of health care and daily life.”

The HTC vision is to replicate the solution in Peru and other parts of the world in partnership with local expert groups, IEEE sections, IEEE members, and other volunteers, as well as to encourage technical and business model creativity and innovation. The Peru pilot is expanding telehealth applications, maintained entirely with local staff. Another system is being deployed in the Andean region of Bolivia with IEEE members as key stakeholders. Other international organizations have noticed the success of the implementation and empowerment methodology and will follow a similar approach to expand the network in Peru.

The IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge, or HTC, is a part of Engineering for Change, in which IEEE is a supporter. Engineering for Change provides a forum to connect, collaborate, solve challenges and share knowledge among a growing community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, local governments and community advocates, who are dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world.