This article is part I in a two-part series on last year’s Region 10 Student/WIE/GOLD Congress.
Young volunteers from Hyderabad, India teamed up to organize Asia Pacific’s largest gathering of leaders, the Region 10 Student/WIE/GOLD Congress from July 11th, 2013 – July 14th, 2013. The goal of this volunteer team was to create a platform for conversations and partnerships through a curated set of sessions, designed around the theme “Empowering Women and Youth to create a better tomorrow.” It took eight months of meticulous planning and effort to realise the final result.
The core objective of the Congress was to gather IEEE volunteer leaders from the Asia Pacific region to network, share best practices, and learn about what’s new in IEEE. A diversified mix of 250 delegates attended the Congress. Notably, the event was distinguished by the presence of 4 IEEE Presidents, a first for any regional Congress: 2013 IEEE President & CEO, Peter Staecker; 2014 IEEE President, Roberto De Marca; 2011 IEEE President, Moshe Kam; and 2006 IEEE President, Michael Lightner.
The first day brought the Congress to order and created a networking-friendly environment for the delegates, featuring a team activity to acquaint attendees with each other. Day Two started with the Congress co-chairs (Prashant Venkatasubban and T L Prasanna Venkatesan) addressing the audience on the what and why of the conference, including a brief overview of the schedule for the next 3 days. Then the formal sessions began with Peter Staecker (2013 IEEE President & CEO) presenting the opportunities & impact created by being a volunteer and explaining the four priorities for IEEE discussed by the Board of Directors. Michael Lightner (2006 IEEE President & 2013 VP EAB) followed with a lively session that included a survey to understand the current educational system and live questions from the audience on the subject of educational activities taken up by the IEEE. John Day (IEEE Staff Director of Member Engagement) gave an overview of the IEEE Member and Geographic Activities (MGA) from a member engagement perspective. There were parallel sessions by various student, GOLD, and WIE (SGW) groups highlighting their plans and talks from leaders of the individual tracks.
Later that evening, the delegates dressed in their best for the Awards Ceremony and Gala Night dinner, which commenced with a welcome message by the Congress Chair Prashant Venkatasubban and Co-Chair Prasanna Venkatesan followed by a scintillating talk by Moshe Kam (2011 IEEE President) on “the top seven reasons to be proud you’re an IEEE Member.” A topnotch performance in the Kuchipudi art form by the Pallavi Academy of Fine Arts took the audience’s breath away with a beautiful showcase of local culture. The evening ended with the awards ceremony and requisite photo sessions.
The second day began with a keynote session by Professor D. B. Phatak of IIT Mumbai, leader of the Aakash Tablet project. Later, along with Michael Lightner, Dr. Pathak announced an app development competition for Aakash tablets, followed by another exciting announcement: the Aakash Tablet project presented a tablet to every student delegate participating in the Congress to help them participate in the competition and test the apps they develop. Following Dr. Pathak’s talk, Dr. Moshe Kam delivered a keynote session on humanitarian activities and challenges. A technical poster competition was organized in parallel, sponsored by the Lab X Foundation and judged by the IEEE presidents. The top five winners shared a cash prize of US $1000.
The Congress also emphasized active participation from societies by providing a platform for collaborative discussions between experts. The societies represented were the Computer Society (by Aditya Rao), EMBS (by Subhamoy Mundal), PES (by Mini Thomas), and HKN (by Douglas Graham). These sessions included a focus on Educational Activities. Additionally, a TISP workshop was hosted by Douglas Graham and a WIE workshop by Sandhya Kode. For the WIE track, Nita Patel (IEEE WIE Chair) outlined the challenges and opportunities for Women in Engineering in IEEE.
On the third day, the Congress was inspired by the warm personality of IEEE Region 10 Director Toshi Fukuda, an author of more than 200 technical papers and books. His talk on Multi Scale Robotic Systems included a few lively anecdotes about Japanese anime, manga magazines, and his pet dog. That evening, the delegates arranged a spectacular display of native traditions and cultures during the Multicultural Night. All the delegates dressed in their ethnic attire and organized stalls with local artefacts and food items to reflect their country’s heritage.
The last day began with a keynote by Roberto De Marca (2014 IEEE President) on IEEE Technical Activities, followed by a second keynote session by Raju Pandeya, Senior Project Executive of the Gujarat Energy Development Agency. After this came the highlight of the day: the presidential forum moderated by T.L.Prasanna Venkatesan, where the four IEEE presidents took to the stage to provide their insights on IEEE and address questions from the audience.
As the day drew to a close, the stage was set for the closing ceremony with final remarks by the 2013 IEEE R10 Director Elect, Ramakrishna Kappagantu. The awards for all the competitions hosted during the Congress were presented during this ceremony. A remarkable and emotional expression of thanks was presented by the Congress Chair, Prashant Venkatasubban. The crowd broke into huge applause for the entire Congress team as they congregated onto the dais.