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1. IEEE Technical English Program History

Alexander G. Mikerov

IEEE Senior Member

Department of Automatic Control Systems

St. Petersburg State Electrotechnical University “LETI”

Prof. Popov str. 5, St.Petersburg, 197376, Russia

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Abstract—Targets, structure, peculiarities and main development stages of the IEEE Technical English Program are considered. Being started as a Russia Northwest Section local educational course the initiative converted into the worldwide IEEE educational university program predominantly for Regions 8 - 10, where English is not a native language.


Index Terms—Engineering education, technical English, students’ activity.

 

  1. Introduction

In modern fields of Electrical and Radio Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science, Technical English becomes а common language of communication, publication, edition and conference presentation. Technical English Program (TEP) is an IEEE educational program targeting to improve technical English in non-Anglophone developing countries. It was started in St. Petersburg, passed several stages and now is the IEEE worldwide educational program.

  1. Main Technical English Program Stages and Details

The idea of founding the TEP was initially proposed at the IEEE Region 8 Committee Meeting of April 2005 in Paris by the IEEE Russia North West Section Vice-chair Alexander Mikerov [1]. The detailed TEP concept was presented in the breakout session 1 at the Tampa’s IEEE Section Congress (October 2005). This concept is based on the former Soviet Union experience where English was not obligatory in secondary schools and even technical universities curriculum. All technical literature (even all IEEE publications) was in Russian. Soviet engineers lived behind the iron curtain and international contacts were not encouraged, English was not useful in the engineering practice and everyday life. This caused a very low IEEE membership in Russia of about 710 members (in 2005) while its closest neighbor, relatively small Finland had 969. The proposal was to launch the Technical English Program similar to the Distinguished Lecturer Program (DLP) as a powerful tool for IEEE volunteers in developing countries to increase the IEEE membership and activity as it is shown in Fig. 1 [1,2].

At first it was expected that the TEP provides free training for all students by local IEEE volunteers during one semester, which will be concluded by a one

Fig. 1. TEP initial target - to increase membership

 

day tutorial conducted by visiting professor from an Anglophone country and  a student conference with every TEP participant presentation in English.

Detailed Technical English Program budget for the Region 8 was submitted in April 2006 at the Region 8 Committee Meeting in Vilnius [3]. It contained a pilot project for one student group with the cost $1,486 and further training of 10 groups in different Region 8 Sections with total amount of $13,470 per one semester. Budget expenses included additional DLP lecturer local expenses, textbooks from the USA (Schaum’s outlines series) for every student and one $1000 Grant for the best student for presentation of a paper at any IEEE Region 8 Conference. Vilnius’s Meeting approved the idea however assigned only $2000 for one pilot project in 2006. During 2007 – 09 such amounts were also assigned every year for the Russia Northwest Section TEP. The first pilot project was successfully concluded in December 2006 with 11 students trained by Professor Alexander Mikerov during 32 hours course “Basic Electrical Engineering” (Fig. 2). Tutorial “Development of Leadership Skills” was conducted by Professor Kurt Richter from Graz University (Austria) [4, 5]. The best student Sergey Miropolski got the Grant and presented a paper at the Eurocon2007 in Warsaw. The TEP enrollment was performed as an entrance English contest with 30 pretenders to 10 vacancies.

However, 2006 - 2007 Technical English Program experience demonstrated some disadvantages of the pilot project because free training caused big students number decreasing during a semester. Besides, one semester TEP was obviously not enough for serious English skill improvement. As a result very slow IEEE Section membership growth was indicated: 57 student members in 2007 against 52 in 2006.

In spring 2008 Dr. Yuriy Sepp, the Russia North West Section Treasurer and Student Branch Counselor took the TEP Administrator position.

Fig. 2. First TEP group

He proposed the following Technical English Program modifications discussed at the Region 8 Committee Meeting in Sofia in April 2007:

  • Technical English Program is provided only to IEEE members with a small tuition fee used for TEP lecturers remuneration;
  • Training period expands to three semesters, including three courses: General English, Basic Electrical Engineering and any Advanced subject;
  • Technical English Program participants should be involved in real IEEE activities, IEEE magazines should be wider used in classes.

All these arrangements permitted to increase the number of trained groups, introduce new advanced courses: “Control Systems” (Dr. Vicrtor Vtorov), “Advanced Electronic Stuff” (Prof. Sergey Karmanenko, Dr. Svetlana Zubko) and other.

Important boost occurred after the Technical English Program was headed by Professor Moshe Kam from Drexel University (Philadelphia, USA) and 2005-2007 IEEE Vice-President for Educational Activity, now the 2011 IEEE President. From November 2007 he and his IEEE colleagues Douglas Gorham, Chuck Hickman, Pramod Abichandany, Christofer Lester and other started free Technical English Program one day tutorials at first at Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University “LETI” and then at different rented beautiful St. Petersburg hotels (Renaissance, Carinthia Palace, Radisson SAS, etc.) [6 – 8]. For example on May 24, 2008 at the hotel Renaissance 34 students were informed during 8 hours about IEEE structure and advantages, high school training in the USA. They attended lectures and participated in exercises on such interesting subjects as “Introduction to Optimization” and “Neural Networks” (Fig. 3).

Free teaching materials, breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks were provided to all tutorial participants.

Main Technical English Program impact at 2007-2008 teaching year is shown in the Table I. One can see sufficient IEEE Student Membership number increasing to 72 in 2008 compared to 52 in 2006. The important Technical English Program result is also the growth of students admitted to foreign universities with training in English, such as the LUT. Besides, four best TEP graduates obtained Grants for presentation papers at the IEEE Conference Eurocon2009 in Saint Petersburg.

Fig. 3. 2008 TEP tutorial at Renaissance Hotel

 

Table I

Technical English Program figures

 

Index

Teaching semester

Note

Fall

2007

Spring 2008

Moshe Kam tutorial day

Oct. 24

May 24,

 

Number of student attended

23

34

 

Number of presentations in English the final TEP student conference

12

20

 

 

At the end of every semester

Number of TEP  certificates

12

20

Only for TEP groups

Number of students trained in all TEP groups

29

62

Including Basic English groups

Number of St. Petersburg active IEEE Student members

57

72

 

At the end of every semester

LUT 1) students enrollment

8

11

 

From LETI

 

Note: 1) LUT – Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland) admits students to the International Master Program only after an entrance test in Basic and Technical English.

Experience stored in Saint Petersburg allows the IEEE Educational Activity Board to consider the Technical English Programs as one of the basic IEEE Education benefits [9]. In 2009 it was included in the list of IEEE University Programs with its own website [10]. To disseminate the Technical English Program to other IEEE Sections the IEEE Educational Activity Board in cooperation with the Russia Northwest Section arranged the first Technical English Program Workshop on October 2-3, 2009 at one of the best St. Petersburg hotels, the Carinthia Palace Hotel and invited observers from all IEEE Region 8 and 9 Sections willing to introduce the Technical English Program at their institutions or community. It was attended by 71 participants including 39 St. Petersburg TEP students, 22 teachers and observers from 10 Region 8 Sections and Uruguay (Region 9), 5 local educators and 5 organizers from Piscataway and Drexel University [11]. The Section press attaché Elena Grigorieva collected a lot of students impressions about tutorial solving problem session as following: “I’ve never had this much of practice in English”, “After a few hours here I even think in English”, “The tasks are so fascinating that sometimes you forget that you are trying to solve them in foreign language, speaking English becomes more natural” (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Problem solving with Moshe Kam

Similar Technical English Program Workshops were arranged at Abu Dhabi Men’s College in United Arab Emirates (March 2010) and at the Shangri La Hotel in Beijing, China (November 2010) [10].

From 2010 two main amendments were made in St. Petersburg Technical English Program curriculum. It was decided that the final student conference and a full day tutorial will be held only once a year in January and in May respectively. This student conference will be included as a section of the annual St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University professors and teachers science conference.

  1. Conclusions

Main Saint Petersburg Technical English Program peculiarities may be summed as following:

1)     Technical English Program training is provided    only to IEEE members and includes three one semester steps: General English, Basic Electrical Engineering and  Advanced Course.

2)     General English lessons are conducted by professional English linguist teachers.

3)     Second and third step lessons are conducted by Electrical Engineering professors selected by the   local IEEE Section amongst its members.

4)     As a rule every Technical English Program course includes three components:
- 2-3 hours every week lessons in a technical field with English textbooks and local teachers;
- One day tutorial during 5-8 hours at a rented hotel with invited foreign lecturer from some English speaking country;
- Final student conference with 10-15 minutes Power Point presentation of every TEP student in a selected Electrical Engineering subject.

5)     A special IEEE certificate proves successful Technical English Program graduation. Every year the best Technical English Program graduate is granted to visit any IEEE Region 8 Conference with a paper.

6)     The IEEE and small student tuition fees cover all Technical English Program expenses. Local Technical English Program teachers obtain hourly payment.

 

REFERENCES

 

[1] Alexander Mikerov, «Technical English project prepares for September launch», Region 8 News,     v. 9, # 2, p. 7, June 2006.

[2] Alexander Mikerov and Anna Konstantinova, «Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Technical English project», Science, Education and Society in 21 Century. Proceedings of International Conference, Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University, June 15, 2006: SPbGETU edition, SPb, 2006, pp. 55 – 57 (in Russian).

[3] Alexander Mikerov, «Technical English Program», Region 8 Committee Meeting Agenda Book, Vilnius, Lithuania, April 8-9, 2006, Vilnius 2006, pp. 60-62.

[4] Alexander Mikerov, «Technical English Program is completed», Region 8 News, v. 10, # 1, p. 7, March 2007.

[5] Alexander Mikerov and Yuriy Sepp, «Technical English Program: one year later», Region 8 News, v. 10, # 2, p. 5, August 2007.

[6] Alexander Mikerov, «Tutorial concludes 2007 Technical English Program», Region 8 News, v. 11, # 2, p. 2, March 2008.

[7] Alexander Mikerov, «Russia Northwest Section expands English program», Region 8 News, v. 12, # 2, p. 5, May 2009.

[8] «IEEE to expand 'TEP' English courses», Region 8 News, v. 12, # 3, p. 2, August 2009.

[9] Kathy Kovalenko, «Program helps engineers master Technical English», The Institute, p.14, February 2010

[10] IEEE Technical English Program (TEP): http://www.ieee.org/education_careers/education/technical_english/index.htm

[11] Elena Grigorieva, «IEEE members converge in Russia to develop their technical English», Region 8 News, v. 13, # 1, p. 2, March 2010.

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