If you’re in the technology field, you have probably heard of IEEE before. It is the largest professional organization in the world, with over 400.000 members in more than 160 countries. IEEE is associated to over 1000 scientific conferences annually, and publishes over 100 peer-reviewed journals. However, IEEE can do much more for students than providing scientific knowledge. This post is aimed at students, both graduate and undergraduate, and tries to explain how IEEE can have a major contribution to your personal and professional development.
Student Branches (SB)
The easiest way to get started in IEEE is to join the local Student Branch in your university. The SB is the way that students can get support from IEEE and participate in all the activities. Many universities already have an IEEE SB, but if yours doesn’t, try to contact someone from a nearby university and they should be able to help you start one.
One you have signed up for a membership, and associated yourself with a Student Branch, it’s time to get busy. In a Student Branch, you’ll probably find like-minded people. From my experience, it is the best way to find pro-active people with similar interests in an academic environment. Each SB must have a small management team (chair, vice-chair, and a few other people), but this is just a small part of the Student Branch’s activities Most of the SB’s members’ energy will go towards creating cool activities and disseminating knowledge. Our SB at ISCTE-IUL has only been created around one year ago, but we have been fairly active. Here are some examples of activities you can participate in and organize.
Workshops are the easiest events to organize. You probably have lots of talented people in your SB. Is anyone a master in Python? Maybe someone is a web design expert, or has lots of experience with node.js. Open a “call for workshops”, and let your members submit ideas. It’s a win-win situation: the speaker gains some presentation skills, and the audience learns about a new subject. Two key issues when organizing a workshop are marketing and logistics. It’s important that you announce the workshop in advance using both physical (posters, flyers) and virtual channels (facebook, twitter, e-mail). In terms of logistics, don’t forget basic things such as making sure you have a big enough room, having a place to sit for every participant, and power and internet connection if you’re hosting a technical workshops.
An interesting idea is to borrow a workshop from a different SB. In our case, we invited members from the University of Porto’s IEEE SB to host a Python workshop at our university, and it was a total success. We are also taking one of our members to Greece for a big bootcamp on web development at the IEEE University of Central Greece SB.
Societies and Chapters
Societies are special-interest groups, such as Robotics and Automation, Power and Energy, or Computer Society, and there are dozens of different Societies in IEEE. A Chapter is the embodiment of a Society in a local community, such as a Student Branch. A few of your members can join up and start a Chapter within your SB and have access to finantial support for activities, expert knowledge, competitions, grants, and special events.
Student Branch Congresses
One of the most rewarding things about being an IEEE volunteer is to be able to meet like-minded individuals and work together towards ambitious goals. One of the ways of fostering networking are Student Branch Congresses. There are national and regional Congresses, and usually some members of each SB receive financial support for travel expenses. Our SB has been present at several congresses, such as the Iberian Student Branch Congress in Oporto, the Portuguese Student Branch Congress in Guimarães, and the Region 8 Student Branch Congress in Madrid.
Grants and Competitions
IEEE strives to support its members through the awarding of grants and scholarships, or by fostering competitions. There are many grants up for grabs, and some are not even listed on the main page. Sometimes it is necessary to browse the website of each Society to find some grant opportunities. In terms of competitions, there are also plenty available. There are challenges for everyone, from the Student Paper Contest, to the Best Student Branch Website, and the famous IEEE Xtreme Programming (a 24h programming marathon).
If you’re not an IEEE volunteer, you’re missing out on an amazing way of getting the tools that will help you achieve your goals. At the end of the day, being an IEEE volunteer is all about improving your soft and hard skills, getting involved in cool projects, meeting awesome people, and making stuff happen. Check if your university has an active Student Branch and join up. Otherwise, just get a bunch of friends and start your own SB! It’ll be one of the most important decisions in your academic life. I’ll leave you with a video from our friends at the IST Student Branch.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you live in Portugal, love technology and haven’t signed up for Google DevFest, my question for you is: what the hell are you waiting for? Google DevFest will take place in ISCTE-IUL on the 1st and 2nd of March. We will have a 24h hour hackathon, lots of workshops related to Google technologies (Maps, Earth, Android, etc), food to keep you going and prizes for the best hacks.
Keep in mind that the signups end soon and that we are limited to 200 participants. Make sure you put an effort on your personal pitch, because that’s the only way we can pick people out of the crowd. You can learn more at our official blog. Hope to see you there!
The year 2012 was pretty big for me. I felt like I should summarize what I’ve been through for the last months, so here it is.
Starting with the academic part of my life, I spent a lot of time working on my Master thesis. It was, undoubtedly, the most stressful and challenging thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t expecting the experience to have so many moments of desperation, or being as difficult as it was. I think that most negative feelings during that time came from the fact that I am a perfectionist and I cannot stand being stuck on a problem. For me, challenges are meant to be solved, and scientific research might very likely throw you into a period of stagnation that I just wasn’t used to. It got so bad that it had an impact on my health, although that has been overcome.
Thankfully, I had lots of support. In my research, my supervisors were amazing and helped me far beyond my expectations. My girlfriend was essential and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done it without her everyday support, as well as helping me put things into perspective. My family helped me in any way they could, allowing me to focus on my work and not having to worry about other things, and my friends also had a very important role by allowing me to sometimes forget about work and just enjoy the moment.
It ended up well, though. I was really proud of the thesis, the defense went extremely well, and I achieved a perfect score which stunned me (and still does). Now I have 3 more years to finish my PhD, which will be a continuation of theme of my MSc thesis, Evolutionary Robotics.
One of the nice things about research is that you get to travel. This year I went to 2 international conferences: one in Montpellier, France, and one in San Diego, USA. These are awesome ways not only to meet interesting people in your line of research, get to see what the current state of the art is, but also to do some sightseeing if you are into traveling. I also had the opportunity to take my girlfriend along to the USA trip and visit New York, which was amazing
One of last year’s “new year’s resolutions” was that I would start going to the gym, and I kept that promise. Starting in January, I signed up for a local gym and have been working out an average of 1 session per week. I would like to be able to go more often, but there are some weeks where I can’t allocate a full morning to go. I was in a really bad shape before, but this year I’ve already participated in 2 mini-marathons of 5 km and 8 km. Not a bad start for someone who has always been terrible at sports. Maybe next year I’ll be fit enough to try a half-marathon!
I also started reading (much) more. I have never dedicated much time to reading, partly because I didn’t have much free time, but I’ve found that you can turn that awful commute into a pleasant experience by getting some audiobooks. I managed to read/listen a whopping 27 books this year, just by turning useless time into reading time. If you’ve never tried it, you should. Some of the guys that read these books are brilliant at it, and the story comes alive inside your head. I read mostly Sci-Fi, but I also went through a couple of biographies, technology, and even philosophy books.
I also took up geocaching with my girlfriend on our free time, which proved to be an awesome way to know nice places. If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a global treasure hunt. There are almost 2 million small containers, or “geocaches” hidden in (usually) cool locations worldwide. The owner of the cache lists its GPS coordinates and some information/hints online, and then other people can try to find them. Once you find one, you sign a physical logbook and log it online afterwards. Some bigger caches allow you to trade some small items with fellow geocachers. We’ve already found around 60 caches, hidden 3, and are planning on hiding a couple more.
Moving over to the more geeky side, I messed around with floppy disk drives and took my first steps in emulation. We ended up extending the floppy drive project on this year’s Codebits, which earned us the 4th place on the audience’s choice category! I gave a talk there entitled Evolution and Robots – How to create artificial brains for machines, give it a watch if you want to know WTF is my research about.
For 2013, my new year’s resolution will be to play guitar at least 30 minutes everyday. I’ve had my guitars for some years now, but I never had much time to practice until now. I also want to keep up the good habit of reading, so I’ve set the goal to an average of 2 books a month. Oh, and I can’t forget about the gym… I’ll try to improve my attendance rate.
That’s it, have a great year!read more
Another year, another Codebits! For those that don’t know what Codebits is, it’s basically the gathering of 800 geeks/technologists during 3 days for talks, challenges, free food, networking, general mucking about, hacking (the good kind) and a 48-hour programming competition. It’s one of the biggest tech event in Portugal, and, I would risk saying, the most awesome event… *cue Jeremy Clarkson* in the world.
This year I stepped my game up and decided to present a talk about Evolutionary Robotics. Unfortunately, things went sour and I couldn’t show up in time for my own talk! I was really feeling awful about this, but the Sapo team was amazing and rescheduled for the next day. I am really grateful for their second chance. You can watch the talk online online if you want to:
As usual, I also participated in the 48-hour programming contest. Although this is only my third year attending Codebits, I’m starting to see a pattern in the theme of projects I choose: music. Earlier this year, I messed around with floppy drive music, and that seemed like an awesomely geeky thing to extend into a Codebits project. The idea was to use the floppy drives as a guitar “amplifier”. By using a computer to figure out the note that a real guitar is currently playing, we could then use Moppy to play that note with the floppy drives. Since the whole hardware configuration was a mess (we used 4 floppy drives, a power supply, an arduino, a breadboard, and lots of wires) we decided to make a box for it, which ended up being a Codebits bot (the mascot of the event). Artica helped us out alot by lending us some tools, so thanks a lot guys!
Before we presented our project, we also had a really valuable help from the Codebits sound guys. Not only did they recommended us to isolate the box with foam or Polystyrene (which we did), they also spent a lot of time tweaking our microphone setup for the 90-second project presentation. When the time came, we pitched the idea, showed some “awesome” guitar playing skills, and the audience seemed to really like the project! We were the 4th project with the most votes, out of a total of roughly 90 projects. A big thanks to David Jardim and Pedro Dias for working hard on the it and seeing the potential of the idea! Here’s the 90-second presentation:
I thought the organization couldn’t improve upon last year’s edition, but they really brought the whole event to another level. I can’t pinpoint any flaw. I hope that next year is even more awesome!read more