Yves Perriard

Prize in the Microengineering section

For Yves Perriard, teaching is like giving a performance. “Teaching is a passion, a purpose in life, and I think it shows. Whenever I teach, there’s something theatrical about it.” He has been a professor at EPFL since 1999 and, in order to captivate his students, he thinks back to professors who had an influence on him. “You have to know when you’re losing the class and need to change things up,” he said. He loves this challenge and plays with it constantly. “I like to look the students in the eye and not turn my back on them. That’s why I don’t teach at the chalkboard, I prefer to use devices like the graphics tablet,” he said.

When it comes to class materials and teaching resources, Perriard tends to mix things up. Demonstrations, for example, are an integral part of his introductory course on electrotechnics. “I try to use them in every class, such as when I show how a speaker works,” he said. “This requires a huge amount of preparatory work and the help of an assistant. I could obviously show the same thing on a video, but I’m convinced that students get much more out of it by seeing it live.” Over the years, Perriard’s teaching approach has been guided by the belief that students need to be motivated if they are to succeed in their studies. “I always try to link what we’re studying to real events, like the Solar Impulse project and the Fukushima disaster.” He also wrote the book – on the basics of electricity – that he uses in class.

Perriard helped develop the Electronics I&II MOOC, which is especially popular in Cameroon. He regularly goes there to meet the students, and this experience gave him the idea of remote lab sessions, both for MOOCs and EPFL students. He also teaches at Zhejiang University in China every year. For Perriard, “passing along knowledge is exhilarating,” whether it’s in Lausanne or Yaoundé. “I used to sing opera on stage, and teaching gives me the same adrenaline rush: will I successfully capture my audience’s attention?” Perriard won the 2015 teaching prize in the Microengineering section for his passion and the quality of his teaching.