Professor’s commitment to K-12 outreach earns national public service award

Posted: April 29, 2022
Betty Lise Anderson portrait

In recognition of her extraordinary efforts inspiring children to pursue a STEM education, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Betty Lise Anderson will receive the National Science Board’s (NSB) 2022 Public Service Award.

The award honors exemplary service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering. The NSB establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and serves as an independent advisory body to both the President and Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in these fields.

Since 2008, Anderson has led a program that has reached 35,000 students at over 100 different schools, libraries, after-school programs and scout troop events. Staffed by undergraduate and graduate student volunteers, the free program delivers hands-on engineering activities to K-12 students throughout central Ohio and beyond. Fun projects include building electric motors, CD spectrometers, heart monitors and paper audio speakers. Electrical and Computer Engineering alumni also contribute as volunteers and helped launch a virtual offering during the pandemic.

“Dr. Anderson exemplifies what this award is all about,” said Maureen Condic, chair of NSB’s Subcommittee on Honorary Awards. “Not only is she helping shape the next great minds of our STEM enterprise at the university level, she also enlists those minds to help cultivate and motivate young minds at a fundamental level. Her work exemplifies the priorities put forward in NSB’s Vision 2030 to expand STEM opportunities to all Americans. She’s invaluable.”

Betty Lise Anderson helping children with engineering project
Anderson and graduate student volunteers help children with engineering projects at 2019 community event.

On campus, Anderson trains student volunteers in outreach delivery through several courses. One is called Capstone Design in which teams of engineering seniors develop new projects for K-12 students.

“I am just so thrilled to be chosen for this award,” said Anderson. “There are so many good people out there doing good things that this is a really big honor. Plus I got to talk to Dr. Ellen Ochoa!” Chair of NSB, Ochoa is the first Hispanic female astronaut and former director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Anderson began her career teaching for two years at an experimental elementary school. She then worked in industry for nine years at Tektronix, Inc., C.S. Draper Labs, and GTE Laboratories. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at Syracuse University and a Master of Science from the University of Vermont, where she also earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering. Her technical area is photonics, or the physical science of light waves.

Anderson is a Fellow of the Society for Photo-Instrumentation Engineers and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Optical Society of America. She is also co-author of “Fundamentals of Semiconductor Devices.”

NSB will present Anderson with its Public Service Award on May 5 at an awards ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. She will also participate in a discussion panel with other awardees during the NSB meeting.

The NSB Board established the annual Public Service Award in 1996. Past individual recipients of the Public Service Award include Jane Goodall, Stephen Jay Gould, Craig Barrett, and Alan Alda.