The Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) in IEEE program will commemorate its 15th Anniversary in 2024 and will celebrate the impact the program has had on communities and students around the world. 

History of EPICS in IEEE

EPICS is an acronym for  Engineering Projects in Community Service.  The program was originally founded in 1995 at Purdue University, to address a two-fold challenge: providing community organizations with the technology they need to improve and deliver services and providing undergraduate students with educational experiences to broaden their skills through engagement with their communities. 

EPICS in IEEE continues to partner with EPICS Purdue and participates in the University Consortium, a network of institutions that strives to share ideas and support development for service-learning programs. Leah Jamieson, co-founder of EPICS at Purdue and 2007 IEEE President, says, “For the past 15 years, EPICS in IEEE has played a key role in expanding the global reach of projects in which engineering students bring their learning and skills to bear in addressing challenges faced by their local communities.  By tackling community needs in the areas of access and abilities, education and outreach, human services, and the environment, students participating in EPICS in IEEE are gaining first-hand experience in marrying engineering and community. Project by project, they are contributing to IEEE’s goal of ‘advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.’”

Given the mission of EPICS, in 2009 the program was brought to IEEE through 2005-2007 Vice-President of Educational Activities, Moshe Kam, Ph. D. and volunteers Kapil Dandekar, Ph. D. and Saurabh Sinha, Ph. D. Together, they co-founded the EPICS in IEEE program by applying for a seed grant through the IEEE New Initiatives Committee (NIC).  “When we created the EPICS in IEEE program, we were very eager to align the perspective of service learning from the EPICS program at Purdue with IEEE’s mission to foster technological innovation for the benefit of humanity.  I am particularly proud of the continuing stakeholder engagement by engineers with humanitarian organizations in shaping projects.  I firmly believe that this leads to a better learning experience for the engineering students and a more useful outcome for the humanitarian partner organization,” said Kapil Dandekar, co-founder of the EPICS in IEEE program.  

This program differs from other humanitarian efforts within IEEE due to its focus on engineering student learning outcomes as well as the benefits to the local communities. “Engineering Projects in Community Service in IEEE (EPICS in IEEE) is a perfect way to converge engineering education and engagement. Further, it provides a segue for universities to focus their education paradigm to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As a co-founder, I’ve had the privilege of seeing EPICS in IEEE in multiple countries and enjoyed the ‘globalizing’ benefit that the program brought to all parties involved,” said Saurabh Sinha.

After being added as an IEEE Educational Activities, University program, EPICS in IEEE has now spread to universities worldwide. Since 2009, EPICS in IEEE has facilitated more than 219 projects in 34 countries supporting over 11,000 students in service learning projects. In addition in 2023, 47% of the students involved in the projects identified as female.

Continued Growth

“Over the past 15 years, the term service learning has been evolving and is often now referred to as community-engaged learning. This updated terminology better reflects the significant role the community has in the learning process,” says Stephanie Gillespie, 2023-2024 EPICS in IEEE Chair. “EPICS in IEEE requires significant community-partner engagement alongside the IEEE and student involvement because this partnership with a community organization is more likely to lead to long-term project support and maintenance once deployed into a community. As the field of service learning and community-engaged learning evolves, so does EPICS in IEEE. We are excited to celebrate how far EPICS in IEEE has come in 15 years, and explore the future of our program and the pedagogy as a whole.”

In the last two years, the committee has seen significant growth in the program streamlining its processes and providing resources to help the success of the projects. In addition, EPICS volunteers have strengthened partnerships with IEEE affinity groups, technical societies, and Regions and sections to bring this exciting and engaging program to student and professional IEEE members. 

The EPICS in IEEE committee is passionate about the continued growth of the program and invites you to participate in the celebration of 15 years in 2024. The celebration will kick off at the 2024 IEEE Rising Stars conference in Las Vegas where EPICS in IEEE volunteers and staff will give presentations and student teams will showcase their prototypes. Additionally, there will be virtual events throughout the year as well as stories of past and current projects and their impact on the community.

We look forward to celebrating the Past, Present, and Future of the EPICS In IEEE program with you. Check out our website for more information about activities and other ways to help us celebrate.