TAB Ad Hocs bring Education and Networking Opportunities to Africa

Each year, the IEEE Technical Activities Board sponsors Ad Hoc committees to drive engineering initiatives around the world. In 2016, two Ad Hocs furthered engineering education initiatives in Africa.

2016 TAB Ad Hoc on East Africa

To advance its goal of empowering lecturers on technology content and delivery, the TAB Ad Hoc on East Africa hosted a workshop for Zimbabwean academics on optimizing delivery of engineering content through software tools. The Ad Hoc also held courses in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda on Solar Cells and Light-Emitting Diodes.

During the software workshop in Zimbabwe, Dr. Luis Linares of the University of British Columbia taught the attendees how to incorporate different software programs into their courses. The software programs included:

  • PowerPoint, for effective animated classroom presentations;
  • Top Hat, for in-classroom engagement;
  • WeBWorK, for personalized homework;
  • Piazza, for team-learning outside the classroom; and
  • Camtasia Studio and YouTube, to empower students to learn at their own pace.

“The attendees say that having an expert present this material to them is ‘like a breath of fresh air,’” says Rabab Ward, Chair of the TAB Ad Hoc on East Africa. “We are giving them something valuable, something they can implement in their classes.”

Lecturers from four different universities participated in the workshop. They built a great rapport amongst them and are now collaborating and exchanging knowledge and experience.

Attendees expressed their “gratitude and indebtedness for this initiative and for funding all that was required to run this very successful workshop.” Additionally, they conveyed their hope for continued support from IEEE as the workshop has “lit a fire that will go far and have tremendous impact in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries.”

The workshop gained attention and reached audiences beyond the attendees. The National TV Broadcaster, ZTV, covered the workshop during prime-time news. “This is good publicity for IEEE. It shows that we care and are active in our mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity,” says Ward.  

The course in Zimbabwe was part of a pilot visiting-lecturer series which also included a tutorial on engineering entrepreneurship held at the IEEE PowerAfrica Conference in Zambia and a course on Unified Modeling Language held at Makerere University in Uganda and Kenyatta University in Kenya. The course in Kenya was financially co-sponsored/co-organized with the IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on Africa Activities and attended by 36 participants from 15 universities in Kenya. The attendees of the courses gave their instructors “superb” ratings in all aspects of their teaching.  

“Attendees reported great enthusiasm for the course and the instructor, how it was extremely useful to their needs and their incredible gratitude to IEEE. Some even wrote to me asking for more,” says Ward.

Due to the overwhelming positive feedback from attendees, the Ad Hoc continued its efforts by holding a course on Solar Cells and LEDs: Theory, Design and Implementation for Sustainable Electricity Generation and Lighting. The course was held at the University of Rwanda, Kenyatta University in Kenya, and Africana Hotel in Uganda.

The course provided theoretical, practical, and environmental information to enable attendees to give an authoritative opinion on the cost-effectiveness and global desirability of using solar cells for electricity generation, and light-emitting diodes for general-purpose lighting. The course introduced the subject of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and practical aspects of Photovoltaics (PV) power generation.

Additionally, participants reviewed practical aspects of generating white light using LEDs, and employing such devices for general-purpose lighting like using LEDs to replace high-pressure sodium lamps for street lighting. Real-world example were used to evaluate the resulting improvements in cost, energy usage and GHG emissions.

To learn more about the TAB Ad Hoc on East Africa and its continuing initiatives, contact Katie Agin.


2016 TAB Ad Hoc on Education

The vision of the TAB Ad Hoc on Education was to leverage new learning technologies to create lasting educational content. The Ad Hoc focused on academia and developed curriculum that could 1) provide new revenue generation to IEEE and 2) disseminate using a teach-the-teacher approach – training local faculty to become educational multipliers.

It was decided early on to focus on Africa. The Ad Hoc Chair, Jelena Kovacevic, was at Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda and the Ad Hoc had a partner in the University of Rwanda. This gave the Ad Hoc’s effort distinct advantages including prior experience with instructing African students, a facility to hold event, knowledge of the local environment, and key volunteers in the area.

The Ad Hoc held a pilot workshop for its newly developed course, “Designing a micro hydroelectric generation plant (for Rwanda)”. The course’s main goal was in-person training of African professors. It created a framework for instructing engineering professors on the skills necessary to teach critical engineering thinking (CET).

Through the course, participants learned to identify assessment criteria and constraints, understand basic project planning models, propose and assess alternative locations and designs and identify final trade-offs, and propose a solution that best fits the assessment criteria and constraints. Then, teams had to present and defend their solutions.

The workshop had 19 participants from eight African countries.  There was a request to repeat the course in Africa in 2017 in conjunction with the Graduate ICT Research and Education Summit (GIRES).   

“The potential impact from this pilot program could be long-lasting; educating faculty on how to educate students in crucial areas of critical engineering thinking multiplies the educational achievements and propagates the effects down the line,” says Kovacevic.

With the success of the pilot workshop, the Ad Hoc hoped to repeat and scale this pilot outing to potentially create a new revenue stream for IEEE. A lesson learned that has lasting impact was that the ratio of professor to students in Africa is 1-200.  So, teaching-the-teacher is an efficient way to spread education in this area. In addition to the success of the workshop and the lessons learned, the Ad Hoc views its biggest accomplishment as building a community professors from different countries who now network and share ideas.

For more information on the 2016 TA Ad Hoc on Education, contact Mike Kelly.


2017 TAB Ad Hoc Committees

To continue its efforts of furthering engineering initiatives, the Technical Activities Board has approved the following Ad Hoc Committees for 2017:

  • Design For Ethics
  • Dig Once
  • Food Engineering
  • IEEE at the North and South Poles
  • (Re)-Connect

For more information on the 2017 Ad Hoc Committees visit: (IEEE account login required)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *