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Passion, Ingenuity Bring Tutoring Center to Life

IEEE Learning Center

Electrical engineering senior Ryan Bauman (left), tutoring students at the center, teamed with Kenneth Livingston to expand the help to other engineering and computer science courses.

When several students in Ryan Bauman’s first class received poor grades and decided engineering wasn’t for them, he wondered if there was more to it than just the difficulty of the discipline.  

“I am a returning student and have seen how distressing it can be to not have a formal education or the ability to provide for your loved ones,” said Bauman, an electrical engineering senior who came to UT Dallas after serving in the Marines.

“It pained me to see young people forgoing engineering, not because of a true decision, but because life got in their way or because they could not handle the workload. I know engineering is tough, but it takes a village.”

Dr. Nathan Dodge

Dr. Nathan Dodge

When Bauman realized there was no formal help, he read ahead of the class schedule to answer the questions, and met with Dr. Nathan Dodge, senior lecturer in electrical engineering, to master the material. He also spent Fridays and Saturdays tutoring other students in class, sometimes with his girlfriend in tow.

With the resources and structure of UT Dallas’ student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), what started as a one-man tutoring session has become a fully functional learning center in the Alexander Clark Center, with volunteer student tutors, test review sessions and a place to hang out for like-minded people.

Bauman teamed with Kenneth Livingston, the outgoing president of the UT Dallas IEEE student chapter and an electrical engineering junior, to expand the tutoring to other engineering and computer science courses.

Kenneth Livingston

Kenneth Livingston

“Studying engineering can be a painful, miserable, lonely experience,” Livingston said. “We are going through this to get where we need to be, and now people do not have to suffer alone.”

In the early days of creating the center in the spring of 2013, Bauman, Livingston and Alec Burmania, an officer in IEEE, suffered alone. After obtaining support to start the center, they had to find a location and supplies.

They built the center’s first computer using surplus parts. They had other items such as tables, desks and a refrigerator donated to them. They even borrowed a minivan to help them move the furniture. Once they found the supplies, then storage became an issue — originally the supplies were held in a room without locks.

There were two weeks when the dry-erase boards were gone.

Studying engineering can be a painful, miserable lonely experience. We are going through this to get where we need to be, and now people do not have to suffer alone.

Kenneth Livingston,
outgoing president of UT Dallas' IEEE student chapter and an electrical engineering junior

“You cannot tutor a group of people over one sheet of paper,” Livingston said. “So we gave everyone the  week off.”

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science faculty and staff donated supplies, and Texas Instruments donated $5,000 to support the center.

Besides the physical needs, the students recruited volunteer tutors, which turned out to be easier than they thought, thanks to the excitement around the meeting place.

“Student tutors always understand better what is not understood than the professor does,” Dodge said. “Student teachers, in engineering and computer science, are absolutely essential.

When the center was closed because of the missing dry-erase boards, one tutor set up a table outside the center doors and helped students.

“We could not stop them,” Bauman said of the students. “They showed up because they knew a tutor was there.”

Burmania created software that has logged more than 3,000 tutoring hours; 325 students have been helped.

Electrical engineering junior Jacob Head is one of them.

“It’s a godsend,” he said. “Professors can help you, but they may not fully understand why you don’t understand little aspects here and there. It helps having someone who has taken the course the previous semester who understands where you might be getting tripped up.”

UT Dallas Chapter Wins Honors

Ryan Bauman brought the passion for what has become the IEEE Learning Center, while Kenneth Livingston brought the competence and structure through the UT Dallas student chapter of IEEE.

“It has become one of our biggest things that we do, period,” said Livingston, outgoing president of the organization. “Here at college, you have the time to sink your teeth into something that is truly altruistic.”

The chapter added the center to its other activities, such as hosting technical talks and completing projects to improve technical skills.

For its efforts, the chapter received  the 2013-14 Outstanding Student Organization award from the Jonsson School, and won the IEEE Region 5 Outstanding Large Student Branch Award for the second consecutive year.

Region 5 consists of student branches from schools in a 12-state region, and the Large Student Branch Award is granted to groups of more than 50 members.

“This group of self-motivated, energetic, and innovative students has been a source of continuous encouragement for their fellow students and faculty members,” said Dr. Babak Fahimi, professor of electrical engineering and chapter advisor.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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