R6 Central Area Meeting: Focusing on Students – Berkeley on April 19
My big challenge was getting to this meeting after unexpected construction impeded getting through LAX the night before pushing me into a Saturday arrival at UC Berkeley for the Central Area meeting. This meeting had by far the most students of any of the meetings so far. The host student branch, UC Berkeley can boast 50 officers and an effective division of efforts into different types of activities. The meeting also included a design competition — the only area meeting I have attended so far that did — and I was able to participate as a judge. Kudos to Mostafa Mortezaie for his leadership in organizing the meeting and his work to ensure a fair competition that recognized and encouraged the design achievements of the students.
Ramesh and I were happy to be present together for the candidate presentations. I was expecting the students to be at the soon-to-be-held micro mouse competition, but I would say that the students were often the focus of the session. One question was from a smaller student branch that lacks the wealth of surrounding industry, asking about how they could get more industry interaction. Another student asked about leadership training and how to help student branches avoid the struggles they had experienced due to having to start fresh with a full slate of new officers. These questions dovetailed well with the discussion earlier in the day when the student branches each gave their reports. It was interesting also that earlier in the day students were asked whether it would be bette for them to meet on the web, avoiding the travel, and not one student present expressed agreement with this idea, seeing the web as an option only for follow up. The area meetings are intended to and do help students with issues like leadership training, but the lessons to be learned from the successful programs of individual branches often are not gathered in a form that would best help showcase them and motivate imitations that would spread the IEEE success.