With the motto ‘Advancing Technology for Humanity’, IEEE is one of the most reputed groups on our campus. The NITC Student’s Branch of the internationally recognized organization is constantly conducting events and workshops, and the pandemic has been no deterrent to their spirit. We interview Neha Malcom, the Technical Secretary for the year 2020-21, and a third-year EEE student. Here she talks about the club from a member’s as well as a student’s perspective.

To start off, would you tell us about the structure of your group and the different societies under the IEEE NITC Students’ Branch?

Our group consists of an executive committee and four different societies. The EC includes the Secretary, Joint Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-Chair, Project Head, Technical Coordinator, Link Representative and Public Relations, Coordinator.

There are four different societies: WIE (Women in Engineering), IAS (Industry Application Society), EDS (Electron Devices Society) and Computer Society. Each of these societies stays true to their name and have the freedom to run independently. They all come up with ideas and implement them. The heads of each society are also a part of the executive committee.

How is the general environment within the club? Especially considering the fact that you have a lot of members.

I am not a very technical person, so when I first joined the group, I came across many people who had learnt multiple programming languages, worked on lots of projects, and I felt sort of out of place in the beginning. But all of them were so friendly, everyone has this nature of helping the other person out, not only for technical projects but also in a general way. So I would say the environment of our group is very comfortable for all of us and promotes learning.

There are a lot of IEEE branches in other colleges as well. How is your relationship with them?

There is a network of all the IEEE chapters from colleges and organizations in the Malabar region. We update each other frequently on what is happening in each of our chapters. We promote their events and they do the same if we host one. So it’s a pretty solid relationship among us, where we help each other out and collaborate as well.

(ML workshop conducted in collaboration with IEEE VIT, 2019)

What are the advantages of being in a group like IEEE?

Being in IEEE comes with a lot of responsibilities as well as benefits. For example, you get access to a lot of journals and publications. The most attractive feature is probably the provision for fundings for patents. So if you have a project or a really good idea, any patent that you think would go with the motto of our group, will receive funding if it gets approved. Having IEEE in your resume is a big plus point. Almost all the interviewers know that you will not waste the opportunity. Being in a technical group also shows the interviewers that you are someone who can apply the theoretical education given in class and build something out of it.

So for all those interested to join, would you talk us through your induction process?

Well, IEEE is an open group, so anyone is free to join. Unlike the other technical groups, we don’t hold a test to induct members, but as we are an international organization, there is a registration fee. The selection process happens when you want to get into the executive committee, which consists of thirty people.

And how can one join a specific society?

When you initially join, you have the freedom to work for a society that interests you or be a general member. But once you do a good amount of work and when a senior executive thinks that you are good to take up a responsible position, then they assign you a society, and you will have to conduct events under that wing.

Speaking of which, IEEE is very active in conducting events. Would you tell us about some of your past activities?

The motto of our group is “Advancing technology for humanity”, signifying that our progress to the future goes hand in hand with technology and innovation. Under this banner, we host various workshops, seminars, webinars, projects, and so on. As IEEE, we focus on providing a platform to people who are passionate about technical skills and innovation.

One of our focal events is the free workshops conducted for 11th and 12th graders. We once held one on basic circuitry and its techniques. I remember visiting a couple of schools in Calicut, similarly, other members went to different schools across districts. We got a really great turnout in each school because the teachers were familiar with the name IEEE, so encouraged the students to participate. Our focus was to teach them basic skills, so we kept it free of charge and also gave them the materials to use for future learning.

That’s really nice! Would you also tell us about the events conducted by the main IEEE organization?

The main organization frequently conducts summits across different parts of the world. Last year, I went to a seminar conducted by them along with one of my seniors. It was a three-day woman in engineering seminar in Bangalore. And it was all free of cost too. They had many panelists who were not completely technical but were still passionate about technology; I felt that I could relate to them more. It was really informative and we got a lot of ideas for events to conduct in our college as well.

IEEE from a national point of view is famous for publishing research journals and conducting conferences. How does the NITC branch contribute to this?

We find people interested in doing projects through our different events, and ensure that they make use of our resources. Anyone who approaches the group will be given all assistance. This is the nature I feel should change in our campus - people must take the initiative and approach the technical groups to learn more.

So what was your inspiration behind choosing IEEE?

I chose IEEE mainly because of the pre-Tathva workshop that I attended in my first year. We had to build a Bluetooth-controlled speaker. Ours was the only team that actually finished the project at the end of the day, with some help from the seniors. Then I went to the other technical group’s workshops and saw that many of the teams did not finish their projects as they had their difficulties. As I mentioned, I am not a very technically-oriented person, so this set a great impression of IEEE in my mind and sparked an interest which led me to join the group.

Can you say there were significant changes in your technical understanding after you joined IEEE?

Yes, there has been a huge change in the way I see technical knowledge. In school, I used to be more involved in the technical area but when I entered college I shifted my interest to management. But once I joined IEEE and started conducting events, I understood fully how people perceive technology, it’s more about the passion and the drive to come up with creative solutions. Also, IEEE publishes papers, and there is a huge process that goes behind each of these publications. As we are the mode of contact for all of them, being part of all this made me realize the importance of technology and I grew to respect it more.

How were your college academics benefited by being a part of the club?

Since I am a EEE student we have two main focuses: the electrical part and the electronics part. The latter has benefited a lot after joining IEEE, I have gained great hands-on experience. We had a workshop on Proteus and on LTSpice which later came to be useful for my college academics. But when it comes to electrical, as we are dealing with electricity on a larger scale, it is not possible to get that same experience. But we do conduct seminars in every area, so that has helped me learn more.

The IEEE pre-Tathva workshop sees a huge turnout every year. Would you tell us about what goes on behind-the-scenes?

Every year there is a project coordinator who decides which project to do. We make sure that whatever we decide to implement is known by at least 70% of the group members. Last year we had to be especially skilled at python, so we came to campus a week early and the seniors taught us about the project so that we could teach the workshop attendees. It’s this way of conducting an event that I like about our group the most. We try to include everyone interested and also get to learn along the way.

Before the pandemic, how would a day before an event look like while in college?

When it comes to conducting workshops or competitions, we start preparing three weeks before the event. Since we are a technical group, we usually have a lot of procurements to get like breadboards, wires, batteries etc. So all these devices need to be in stock beforehand itself, and that is one of our major concerns. Apart from that, like every other club, we have to get permissions and approvals.

Has the pandemic affected the number of events you conduct?

Not at all! Currently, we have almost 3 times the number of events we used to hold while we were on campus. This is because holding an event on campus and holding it online is very different. On-campus, we had to take permissions, get approvals, fix a venue and time, make sure it doesn’t clash with anything else, and so on. On the other hand, online events are easier to conduct, all you need is a poster and a meeting link. In the past 4-5 months itself, we have had twenty seminars.

How do you keep each other motivated during this time?

Our motivation mainly comes from teachers. For every mail we send regarding our events, we get replies from faculties encouraging our motives. Our Chair is a part of a WhatsApp group consisting of all the Chairs from other IEEE chapters. That group is pretty active and we come to know about the work done by the others, which acts as great motivation for us to do better. Also, each chapter has to put up a performance index, so everyone is always in a healthy competition with the rest.

I personally thought that it would be difficult to work as a team online, especially because the EC members weren’t too familiar with each other when the committee was formed. We didn’t have much interaction prior to this except during events. So when we were put together, we thought it would be very awkward but now all of us are comfortable with each other. We have frequent meetings where we discuss and plan for events. In that way, the pandemic helped in bringing us closer to each other.

Where do you see the group in 5 years?

I feel that in our college, technical groups aren’t given much preference compared to non-technical groups. I think technical advancement in general for all technical groups is not given much attention. All of them provide numerous platforms for the student community but these aren’t utilised enough, which I find very disheartening. So five years from now, I hope that this changes. I want fellow students to use the opportunities technical groups put forth and make something out of it.

Apart from the advantages and benefits of being a part of IEEE, it’s the experience and journey that sets them apart. With dreams of developing and changing the world, IEEE is no doubt fostering an environment of growth, both technically and personally.

Certainly, the real world is not just about books and theory, it’s about the skills and expertise we pick up as part of different clubs. Our series Tech Matrix concludes here, and we hope we left you with a better understanding of NITC’s technical groups and the opportunities provided.

Interview by Shreya Manoj