Featured Engineer

Interview with Dr. Otsebele Nare

Dr. Otsebele Nare

Interview with Dr. Otsebele Nare - Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Hampton University, VA

Can you give us a little background about yourself?

I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa. I completed all my pre-college education in Zimbabwe. I studied electrical engineering at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD where I earned all my degrees. Since 2007, I have been on the faculty of electrical engineering at Hampton University, Hampton, VA.

How did you get into Electrical Engineering and when did you start?

When I completed high school, I had interest to study mathematics and/or computer science. I did not have any computer science background or knowledge of using the computers; therefore, I consulted with my uncle who is an electrical engineer. Based on my interests in computer science and mathematics, he suggested that electrical engineering will offer me the platform to explore both fields. As a result, I matriculated in electrical engineering at his alma mater (Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD) on August 1994.

Can you tell us about your work at Hampton University Department of Engineering?

I am currently serving as an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering. The bulk of my work has focused on teaching. In 7 years, I have had the pleasure of teaching freshman through senior level classes. Among the classes that I have taught every year include introduction to Digital Electronics, Electric Circuits, Electromagnetics, and Energy Conversion. In addition to these courses, I have also taught Introduction to Engineering, Structured Programming, Semiconductor Electronics, and recently added Senior Design to the list. My other enjoyment has been working on engineering education pipeline issues and I am engaged on working with the high school students as well as with professional development of secondary education teachers. Every summer I collaborate with a colleague (Dr. Ziette Hayes) of the School of Business in directing a summer program for high school rising sophomores who are prospective engineering leaders of the future. The program aims to stimulate interest in engineering and business by demonstrating the interdependence of engineering and business in making real world choices. The program engages students in problem solving and team-building by incorporating participation in design contests, case studies, and educational field trips. This project activity has the support of the US Department of Energy and Battelle. The work with professional development of teachers was initiated through an NSF MSP-Start grant in 2011 and focuses on model solutions to address developing and teaching word problems in algebra beginning at the middle school and I collaborate on this work with a colleague in Chemical Engineering (Dr. Jale Akyurtlu).

Can you please tell us a little background about your research in “System Level Synthesis Design Methodologies”?

System Level Synthesis Design Methodologies research started when I was doing my dissertation work on exploring formal methods for deploying heterogeneous computing systems for general and specific purpose applications. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a paradigm shift in signal processing system design which favored the deployment of heterogeneous systems that were comprised of DSPs, FPGAs, FPAAs, and other processing elements. This led to an expanded interest in design exploration methodologies. Although there were many methods that could generate desirable design solutions, these methods were restrictive and at times informal in nature. The system level synthesis design methodologies sought formal solutions. This research has since evolved into two research thrusts in integrated electric energy systems and integrative STEM. It bridges the gap between conceptual thinking and practical implementations. The work with electric energy systems is concerned with developing control strategies for the integration of modern renewable energy systems which is similar with the deployment of heterogeneous computing systems. The Integrative STEM research focuses on the use of engineering/technological design based pedagogical approaches to enhance teaching content and educational practices. The premise of the work is that any problem can be analyzed and solved as a system, but there are different tools and strategies to do the analysis as in design space exploration that utilizes system level synthesis.

You have many publications, which among of these are your favorites?

To be honest, I feel like I have not yet published my favorite publication. If I had to choose, probably my favorite would be my first abstract publication with the National Technical Association when I was a junior undergraduate.

What are you currently working on?

One of the activities that I am currently working on is the HBCU Experiment Centric Pedagogy project. Our department is a part of 13 EE ABET accredited historically black colleges and universities(HBCU) that have established a network of electrical engineering faculty that are working on expanding the experiment-centric instructional pedagogy through developing and implementing modules based on hands-on mobile lab technology such as the Digilent Analog Discovery product. I am primarily working on implementing the approach in sophomore level digital electronics and electric circuits courses.

What are your favorite hardware tools that you use?

There are so many, but the few I can name are a wire (I consider a tool), a wire stripper, screwdriver, and a hammer.

What are your favorite software tools that you use?

My favorite software tools are Matlab and Simulink

Any sports you play during your free time?

I enjoy different sports both mental and physical. Chess, Soccer, and Tennis are my favorites. A couple of years ago I started going to a golf driving range to learn golfing as well.

What challenges do you foresee in our industry?

We live in a fast changing world where it feels like there is no patience for people to learn from past failures. Our future engineers have access to so much information and tools; however, it seems the majority is not given the instruction and space to learn how to synthesize the information to be innovative hence the fear to experiment and learn from failure. We have education systems that seem to over-emphasize test scores over learning and the challenge for our industry is how to cohesively get involved in the fundamentals and foundation of our education so as to train well-equipped engineers. In other words, the challenge is workforce development.

As a professor, what words of encouragement would you give to your students?

Graduation is not the end, but the beginning. You will continue to learn in everyday life, but remember, that everything you learn is a tool to be used at the right time for the appropriate situation. We are equipping you with tools and some tools you will never use, but you should always know what you have in your tool chest. Everything you are learning has a value and you are not all training the exact same job, you will have different roles. Identify what you do best, the hammer can be used to do many things, but it is not the best tool for every job.

Is there anything you’d like to say to young people to encourage them to pursue Engineering?

The fundamentals, details, and small things matter because they are the foundation to building greater things. I encourage young people to master the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics because this is how we interact as a people and the world is filled with word problems. If you can translate what the other person is saying or has written, then you will be equipped to use the tool and language of mathematics in pursuing engineering. Do not get tired of asking why things work the way they do. Stay curious.

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