Teaching Telecommunications in Cape Town

July 01, 2010

Participants in the IEEE Communications Society  Initiatives for the Young Generation event
Participants in the IEEE Communications Society Initiatives for the Young Generation event

In May 2010, the IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc) held their Initiatives for the Young Generation event in Cape Town, South Africa - venue of one of ComSoc's flagship events, ICC 2010. Three days of activities were organized in order to inform local groups about the latest advances in telecommunications and to promote: Communications as a service for society (to show the major impact of communications in society), working in the field of telecommunications (about job opportunities and positions), and telecommunications in the context of humanitarian challenges (future trends in the field and initiatives).

ComSoc's Initiatives for the Young Generation event was founded by Professors Michael Devetsikiotis and Fabrizio Granelli to increase the visibility and awareness of telecommunications among university and high-school students. The goal of the initiative is to help students understand the importance of the telecommunications field and the value of belonging to an international community of professionals.

The success of the event required the support of technical experts that are able to effectively communicate with younger generations and get them involved. For this reason, Michael and Fabrizio contacted a number of highly qualified and experienced professionals to seek their support for this initiative by participating in the activities and providing a presentation on a topic close to their interests.

Professor Michael Devetsikiotis presenting at the University of Cape Town
Professor Michael Devetsikiotis presenting at the University of Cape Town

The Distinguished Speakers portion of the series took place on Wednesday, May 26, at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town. The event was hosted by the UCT IEEE Communications Society Student Branch Chapter, UCT IEEE Student Branch, UCT Center for Broadband Networks, IEEE Communications Society and Signal Processing Society Joint Chapter, IEEE South Africa Section, IEEE
Communications Society, South African Institute of Electrical Engineering (SAIEE), and the UCT IEEE Women in Engineering Student Affinity Group.

Professor Devetsikiotis' presentation was on the topic of Networked 3-D Virtual Collaboration in Science and Education: Towards 'Web 3.0' (A Modeling Perspective).  Additional speakers included Prof. Susana Sargento (Univ. of Aveiro - Portugal), Dr. Celia Desmond (Past President IEEE ComSoc), Prof. Azzedine Boukerch (Univ. of Ottawa, Canada), Victor Jesus (Univ. of Aveiro - Portugal), Josep Miquel Jornet (Georgia Tech - USA), and Prof. Vijay K. Bhargava (Univ. of British Columbia - Canada), who presented lectures on current research topics and trends in telecommunications. The day ended with a reception hosted by the sponsoring groups and allowing interactions between the visitors and the faculty and students at UCT.

Professor Devetsikiotis visits Oude Molen Technical High School
Professor Devetsikiotis visits Oude Molen Technical High School

On May 25, Fabrizio Granelli, Celia Desmond and Roberto Saracco visited Oaklands High School. On May 27, Michael Devetsikiotis and Fabrizio Granelli visited Oude Molen Technical High School. The visitors met with the school principals and science teachers, were given tours of the facilities, and met with the students. They talked about telecommunications, engineering and the possibilities arising from the progress in the telecommunications field. The students asked questions and participated in interactive activities involving demos of optical fibers, telephone devices, and smartphones.

"At the high school, my presentation emphasized asking the students questions about what they know about engineering, telecommunications, their impact on society, and future careers. We did a demo on optical fibers with a real piece of optical fiber and a laser pointer that the students could try for themselves," said Prof. Devetsikiotis.  "The students were very enthusiastic and participated actively with questions and answers, as well as on the stage as part of the optical fiber demo."

As a long term plan, Professors Devetsikiotis  and Granelli envision a series of repeating events following ComSoc flagship conferences and combining elements and strengths from the Distinguished Speaker programs with educational outreach to universities and local high schools.