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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. Ahmed Rubaai
May 2005

"Neural networks," "adaptation learning," and "fussy logic" may sound like the language of psychologists, but these words are part of the everyday language of Dr. Ahmed Rubaai, a respected engineering educator and researcher in the area of intelligent control systems. As an engineer, Dr. Rubaai has earned international recognition, and his software for computer-aided instruction in power transformer design has been acquired in such distant places as Indonesia and Bahrain. On this side of the Atlantic, Dr. Rubaai has published numerous papers in the prestigious journal IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications. He has also won awards such as IEEE's "Leadership and Service Award" (2004) and NASA's "Software Release Award" (2004).

However, being an expert does not necessarily translate into being an excellent educator; fortunately, in Dr. Rubaai's case it does. According to his chairperson, Dr. M.F. Chouikha, Dr. Rubaai has contributed significantly to undergraduate engineering education: "He has developed two new laboratories, taught three laboratory courses, introduced three hands-on and multidisciplinary design courses and provided leadership in sustaining the undergraduate program in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department." For instance, in his new Multipurpose and Multidisciplinary Control-System Laboratory, Dr. Rubaai provides students with valuable hands-on and "real-world" experiences. He gives students "realistic design problems in exercises, rather than a collection of calculations, equations, and rules." These are open-ended problems that encourage experimentation and teamwork. Through such experiences, he helps his classes recognize engineering as "a living art, rather than just numbers and hypothetical situations." He has also proved to be a successful advisor as well. One advisee produced five IEEE Transactions publications from his master's thesis--a rare accomplishment, especially in the field of control systems engineering.

Dr. A. Wade BoykinAnother one of Dr. Irving’s projects is “Increasing Underrepresented Minorities in Mathematics: An Informing, Encouraging and Reinforcing Three Tier (IER) Program” funded by General Electric. She also directs Advanced Placement programs designed to assist teachers who are teaching advanced placement biology, chemistry, and physics courses. The goal is to improve their teaching methods so that they can encourage more minority students to enroll in these courses and help those students perform well on advanced placement science tests.

With all of these commitments, Dr. Irving still devotes time to teaching. She teaches courses such as Integrated Methods II: Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Theories, and Principles of Curriculum Development, and Educational Psychology. An Educational Psychology student recalls, “The class served as a gateway to understanding the relationship between the teacher and the student.” For Dr. Irving, often that relationship persists long after the class has ended. The most rewarding aspect of teaching, she remarks, “is to hear from students pursuing successful careers in science.”

Attesting to Dr. Rubaai's teaching excellence are numerous awards--most recently, the Howard Faculty Senate's "Exemplary Teaching Award" (2005). Prior to winning this coveted award, Dr. Rubaai was named "Professor of the Year" in 1997 and 1998 by Howard's School of Engineering. In addition, he received the "Distinguished Educator Award" from the Middle-Atlantic Section of the American Society for Engineering Education in 2001.

Clearly, in the academic world of "neural networks," "adaptation learning," and "fussy logic," it is paramount to have an educator like Dr. Rubaii who can make sense of it all. Thanks to his "passion and clarity" in the classroom, hundreds of Howard undergraduate and graduate students have come to understand the language of control systems and have gone on to pursue successful careers in the engineering industry.


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