Why should you become an IEEE volunteer?

IEEE logo

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

IEEE ISCTE-IUL python workshop

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

IEEE Student Branch Congress Porto 2013

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).

Improving Yourself

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.

A quick analysis of the e-puck’s infrared proximity and light sensors

Recently I have begun developing for the e-puck robot as part of my thesis. The e-puck is a small (75 mm in diameter) differential drive robot that has several sensors and actuators, such as 8 infrared proximity sensors, a VGA camera, a 3D accelerometer, 3 microphones, a speaker and two wheels. For my research, I needed to model the way the infrared proximity sensors reacted to close objects and to light.

Proximity sensors

The e-puck can sense obstacles around itself via the use of 8 infrared proximity sensors, which are positioned around its perimeter. The measurements were taken with the wheels of the e-puck moving, but the robot itself was fixed in place. They were taken for 10 seconds with a sampling rate of 10 samples per second (for a total of 100 samples) and repeated at increments of 0.5 cm from 0 cm to 2 cm and at increments of 1 cm from 2 cm to 12 cm. The measured sensor was perpendicular to the wooden wall. The following data is the average values for 4 of the 8 sensors (sensors number 0, 2, 5 and 7) in two different e-pucks:

You can download the data as a CSV file. Included in the file is also the standard deviation: epuck_proximity_sensors.csv

Light sensors

The proximity sensors also can be used as light sensors. Following the same method as above, the e-puck was placed next to an LED lamp and measurements were taken for 2 of the 8 sensors (sensor 2 and sensor 5). The following data was gathered:

You can download the data as a CSV file. Included in the file is also the standard deviation and the reference value for the ambient light: epuck_light_sensors.csv

Lego Neo vs Smith (projecto de Animação por Computador)

Uma das cadeiras deste semestre consistia em criar uma pequena animação 3D. Optámos por recriar uma das famosas cenas do Matrix em que o Neo se desvia das balas do Agent Smith, mas com um pequeno twist. O projecto foi desenvolvido no Blender 2.5 e 2.6 e deu-nos conhecimentos em diversas componentes da animação em 3D. Desde modelação, passando por efeitos de partículas e simulação de tecidos, até à animação propriamente dita, ultrapassámos vários desafios para conseguirmos ter uma animação com cerca de 1 minuto. Pode parecer pouco, mas é um processo extremamente trabalhoso. Ganhei um novo respeito pela malta da Pixar e da Dreamworks! Aqui fica o vídeo (aconselho a visualização em 720p):

Um ano já está! Woohoo!

Borat - Great SuccessE assim chega ao fim o primeiro ano do Mestrado. Foi uma verdadeira maratona, muito sofrida mas com um especial sabor a vitória. Muitas coisas interessantes aconteceram durante este ano. Primeiro, um overview das cadeiras do 2º semestre:

 

  • Auditoria e Qualidade: A primeira parte do semestre foi focada nos principais pensadores sobre a qualidade nas organizações, como Deming, Ishikawa e Juran. A segunda parte foi dedicada à Auditoria, com docentes convidados da KPMG com know-how em primeira mão sobre o assunto. Este tipo de matéria não é propriamente o meu forte… Quando as coisas começam a aproximar-se da gestão fico demasiado fora da minha confort zone, sou um informático de gema. Next!
  • Gestão de Projectos de Tecnologias e Sistemas de Informação: Já tinha algumas luzes sobre algumas técnicas de gestão de projectos, quer de cadeiras anteriores, quer da excelente podcast Software Engineering Radio. No entanto, esta cadeira aprofundou todos os aspectos inerentes a esta tarefa, que não é nada fácil! Para além disso, tivemos que encarnar um gestor de projecto no trabalho da cadeira. Espero em breve poder revelar algumas coisas sobre este projecto, que foi mesmo implementado e foi muito especial para o grupo.
  • Introduction to Autonomous Robotics: Desde o início do Mestrado que queria ter a cadeira de robótica. Construímos um robot que constrói um mapa de um ambiente fechado com a ajuda de um sensor de ultrasons rotativo. A plataforma de hardware foi o Lego Mindstorms NXT e utilizámos o firmware leJOS para programar em Java. Antes de finalizar o projecto, ainda fizemos uma brincadeira com um Segway. Deixo 2 vídeos dos robots que fizemos: Segway e AMBer – Autonomous Map Builder.
  • Sistemas de Informação Estratégicos e Gestão do Desempenho: A continuação da cadeira de Business Intelligence, desta vez virada mais para a gestão organizacional. O projecto desta cadeira passou por desenvolver um Balanced Scorecard para a empresa produtora de vinhos que tínhamos inventado num projecto do primeiro semestre. Foi bastante mais complicado do que pensávamos inicialmente, principalmente a parte de pensarmos como um gestor. Criar uma estratégia coerente para uma organização é difícil, mas no final foi recompensador e ficámos muito satisfeitos com o nosso trabalho.
  • Tecnologias para Sistemas de Informação Operacionais: Esta cadeira pretende introduzir-nos aos sistemas de informação que são utilizados nas organizações de maneira a gerir todos os processos informaticamente. Desde sistemas de suporte, ERPs, CRMs, sistemas de facturação, gestão de projectos, etc. No meu caso, não foram grande novidade porque lido diariamente com uma grande parte deste tipo de sistemas, devido ao meu trabalho numa empresa totalmente relacionada com a tecnologia.

Para além das cadeiras e do trabalho na PTWS, continuei a trabalhar no projecto onde me tinha envolvido durante a cadeira de Aprendizagem Automática no primeiro semestre. Eu, o Professor Anders Christensen e o Professor Sancho Oliveira produzimos um paper que foi aceite na Conferência Portuguesa de Inteligência Artificial (EPIA) que será apresentado em Lisboa no mês de Outubro, bem como publicado através da Springer no Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence (LNAI/LNCS). Esta é a minha primeira publicação, pelo que fiquei bastante satisfeito! A minha tese de Mestrado estará relacionada com o tema do paper, Robótica Evolucionária.

Agora vem o verão, que será dedicado ao trabalho, e em Setembro prossegue uma nova etapa desta maratona: a tese. Até lá, ISCTE 🙂