IEEE: An Innovative Blend of Technology and Community
Tucked away in Engineering Hall 1112 is a lab buzzing with activity for most hours of the day. It’s not just any lab, however, it is run by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Student branch, the oldest student organization at UC Irvine.
Founded in 1967 under General Advisor Professor Roland Schinzinger, IEEE is a club focused on professional development and building a community of innovators. Today, there are about 80 members with numbers increasing every year. According to Cesar Flores, 31, a computer engineering major and the Chair of IEEE, anyone with an interest in electronics and technology is welcome to join, regardless of their major. Flores says that many of the members are not necessarily engineering students.
“We actively explore ways to enhance student’s education through the encouragement of taking on personal projects and participation in competitions, the goal being the application of theory to practice,” said Flores. “This also helps to shine the spotlight on UCI and shows how great UCI students are.”
Flores notes that just recently during the IEEEXtreme 24-Hour Programming Competition, UCI students were in the top 10 rankings in the United States and top 25 in the world out of over 1700 teams.
The roots of IEEE extend back to 1884, the founding of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers or AIEE. This was during the electricity boom, under the influence of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and others. Pronounced “Eye-triple-E,” the worldwide professional organization brings engineers and computer scientists together to advance technology for the benefit of humanity.
IEEE offers UCI students many opportunities. They put on electronics workshops, information sessions for different companies, tech talks and socials. Every spring they host a networking event called S-PAC (Student-Professional Awareness Conference) that helps students meet professors, engineers, computer scientists and recruiters. Additionally, they collaborate with other student organizations for events like Zotcade, a gaming festival/LAN party and HackUCI, a hackathon.
“Professionally, this organization has exposed me to different aspects of engineering and computer science through networking with students and industry leaders,” Flores stated. “I have made friends and colleagues from not only school but around the country that have the same passion for technology and science that I have. I have also been able to work on projects that further my understanding in engineering and sharpen my skills and reinforce the knowledge I have been obtaining throughout my undergraduate career.”
Senior Alex Koster, 22, served as the club’s Chair last year and has been familiar with IEEE since high school. He remembers going to UCI’s Welcome Week as a freshman and making an Ethernet cord at the IEEE booth, a dorm essential at the time. Koster found people he could connect with at the first meeting that year. He describes the club as an open, friendly environment.
Koster usually goes to the lab every day for a few hours between classes. He and the other members marvel at and tinker with the ancient technologies they find inside the electrical engineering and computer science trash cans.
One of the major individual projects at IEEE is Micromouse, a maze solving robot. Every year IEEE puts on a Micromouse competition to see which robot can solve a maze the quickest. There are also programming projects like the IEEE GameSIG showcase, where students create games and IEEEmadC (IEEE mobile applications development Contest) and projects for upcoming hackathons.
Skylar Payne, 22, is a workshop manager for the club. Last year, he and a team from IEEE created a glove controller that allows a person to control a computer with a single hand. He said it might be a good application for amputees.
As for club resources, they provide a workplace with equipment and parts to minimize the barriers that students may come across if they are interested in doing a project. They have computers, computer-aided design (CAD), soldering equipment, an engraver, two 3-D printers and more.
Student members also have access to a large network of students, graduates, alumni, professors and industry leaders.
“Our vision for the future is to grow; both with membership and with cooperation with the schools of engineering and computer science. This will enable us to provide more opportunities for students and provide a larger network that they can be part of,” Flores said.
General meetings are held in Engineering Hall 1112 every second Monday at 7 p.m.
The next major event for the club this year is the Student Professional Awareness Conference on April 2. To learn more visit ieee.eng.uci.edu.
“We have a long legacy of supporting students and the community here, and we hope to continue to preserve the tradition,” Koster said.