May 14, 2010

Hebel earns national ‘Technical Teacher Award’

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Martin A. Hebel’s innovative teaching and contributions to education, business and industry have earned him national recognition.

Hebel, an associate professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the 2010 recipient of the American Technical Education Association (ATEA) Outstanding Technical Teacher Award.

“I was very honored to receive the award. There are so many excellent educators that belong to ATEA that strive to ensure our country has a strong, technologically competent workforce. To have been singled out after many years of involvement with ATEA means a lot to me,” Hebel said.

“I truly enjoy working with our students in Electronic Systems Technologies while they learn electronics and seeing them become skilled technologists. Other EST faculty, students and myself have been very involved in the community as well through summer camps, assisting local high schools and organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Family Advocacy Services. These endeavors help to expose younger students to technology to allow them to explore areas they may not be able to otherwise. It was rewarding to have years of involvement in technology education recognized,” Hebel added.

Hebel arrived at SIUC in August 1996 as a teaching assistant in Information Management Systems and within two years was a visiting lecturer. He became an assistant instructor in 2002 and has held his current rank since 2007.

“Martin Hebel has dedicated 100 percent of his teaching, research and service efforts to improving technical education in electronics technology. He is a true teacher -- whether it’s teaching his undergraduate students in EST, conducting workshops for educators and industry professionals or delivering engaging robotics camps for grade schoolers. This award recognizes his excellence in the classroom, his numerous electronics education textbooks and software applications and nearly 15 years of sharing his expertise with the ATEA, his students and colleagues,” said Will Devenport, acting associate dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at SIUC.

Young people from all over the region have gotten the opportunity to work with Hebel as he coordinates the University’s popular summer robotics camps. The camp participants learn basic electronics and make their very own “Boe-bots” that compete in public exhibitions as the camp finale. He’s also been adviser for the Robot Rivals Team that competed on television, and he mentors school robotics clubs around Southern Illinois.

SIUC is home to the famous DawgZooka, a remote-controlled air-cannon that shoots T-shirts during home Saluki men’s basketball games, thanks to Hebel. DawgZooka was a class project in fall 2004 for students in his microcontroller programming and embedded control class. Subsequent classes continue to work to enhance the machine.

Students are quick to sing Hebel’s praises.

“His student evaluations are always positive. In the past couple of years, he has averaged an evaluation of 4.3 on a 5.0 scale, which represents high-quality teaching in the classroom,” wrote Terry A. Owens, interim dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts in a letter endorsing Hebel for the ATEA award.

“Mr. Hebel is actively engaged in our community, working with our University students as well as elementary and high school students on technology-related projects. He is working hard to make a difference in our region,” Owens added.

Current and former students as well as teaching assistants also praised Hebel’s teaching skills and techniques in letters supporting his nomination for the award. Among them was Derek Taylor, a former student and undergraduate assistant, who wrote, “Mr. Hebel’s strongest attribute is his commitment to the students.”

“College students with varying backgrounds and electronic experience have benefitted from Mr. Hebel demonstrating, teaching and explaining technical skills and concepts to them. Through Martin’s effective teaching methods students have been able to grasp and utilize their acquired technical skills,” Taylor wrote.

Hebel also served in the United States Navy for more than a decade as a nuclear submarine propulsion technician. He earned Naval Sea Systems Command certification in thermal imaging, vibration monitoring and ACB circuit breakers.

Hebel is a three-degree alumnus of SIUC. He completed his master’s in education in 1998, his bachelor’s in electronics management in 1996 and his associate of applied arts in electronics technology in 1995.

Hebel’s work is widely published in professional journals and books and he has created copyrighted software. He makes numerous presentations at regional and national ATEA meetings and other forums as well.

The ATEA presents the Outstanding Technical Teacher Award annually, recognizing a full-time postsecondary technical instructor “whose performance and contributions are exceptional” and who utilizes innovative teaching strategies, is involved with business and industry and has a “positive impact on students,” according to the ATEA website. Hebel’s award came during the organization’s 47th annual meeting in Indianapolis in April. The ATEA presented Hebel with a plaque.