My experience at IEEE GHTC 2012

I am presently doing my third year B-tech in Computer Science from College Of Engineering, Trivandrum. I recently got the opportunity to attend the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference held at Seattle, USA.

IEEE stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It is considered the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. The organization serves as a major publisher of scientific journals and organizer of conferences, workshops, and symposia. It is also a leading standards development organization for the development of industrial standards (having developed over 900 active industry technical standards) in a broad range of disciplines, including electric power and energy, information technology, telecommunications, consumer electronics, aerospace, and nanotechnology. The motto of the organization being “Advancing Technology for Humanity”, it organizes a Global Humanitarian Technology Conference every year. The key idea of the conference is to discuss humanitarian aspects of engineering, promote projects on social welfare, present and publish technical papers on humanitarian grounds and meet up with like minded engineers from around the world.

Most engineering colleges have IEEE student branches where student members meet up, conduct workshops, talks and other technical events. The IEEE Student Branch of my college had initiated a project – “Automated Online Bloodbank Database Management “with technical support from IEEE Kerala Section, last year. The idea was to make the process of finding a blood donor from nearby locality easier and faster. We created a system consisting of a real-time updated database of donors and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system wherein someone in urgent need of blood can call up a pre-determined number and enter his required blood group and pin code. Our system will find the most eligible donor based on these criteria and route the call to the prospective donor directly. Myself and 3 seniors of our college had written a technical paper on the project and submitted for GHTC 2012. It got selected among the top 5 papers globally for the Student Paper Contest.

I attended the conference which was held from Oct 20 to 24th on behalf of our team. The flight was via Dubai international airport and took a total of about 21 hours. I was accompanied by Kiran RajMohan, presently doing second year B-Tech in Electronics and Communication in our college and Jery Althaf, presently a fellow at Young India Fellowship program who is also our college alumni. Kiran’s poster on ‘Automobile Safety Using Smartphones’ was selected among top 5 for the student poster contest and Jery was presenting a paper on ‘Low Cost Rural Electrification Using Solar Energy’. The journey was pleasant. Our travel expenses were funded by IEEE. The conference was held at Hotel Renaissance, where our stay was also arranged by IEEE. The time zone at Seattle is 12.30 hours behind that of ours.

The conference was formally flagged off with a reception and dinner party on Oct 20th evening. From 21st onwards, there were 4 parallel tracks where more than 200 papers were presented on topics ranging from Energy, Disaster, Water & Agriculture, Connectivity and Communication etc. Each day began with a Plenary by personalities like Krista Bauer, Director for Global Programs for GE Foundation etc. This was followed by a panel discussion on crucial topics chaired by eminent personalities from UNESCO, UN Sustainable Energy 4 All (SE4ALL) etc. Attendees were given the opportunity to raise their questions at the end of each session. We were lucky to have Mr. Satish Babu, Chair of IEEE Kerala Section and Director for International Centre for Free & Open Source Software (ICFOSS) and Mr. Amarnath Raj, Chair IEEE SIGHT and CEO of InApp from Kerala at the conference. The three of us went out for local sight seeing with them on OCt 20th. Kiran had to put up his poster and explain it to interested attendees during each break. His contest also had a public voting component for final evaluation.The remaining two of us stayed back helping him with promotion at times and also went about attending interesting sessions and meeting new people.

On 23rd evening, both Kiran and myself presented our poster and paper resp. Afterwards, we headed out to attend the Hoover Medal Award Ceremony whose recipient this year was Shri. N.R. Narayana Murthy (co-founder of Infosys). The event was held at the topmost floor (76th) of Columbia Tower Club, the tallest building in pacific northwest North America. The view of Seattle from there was a sight to behold. We also got an opportunity to congratulate Mr. Murty and acquaint with many eminent personalities.
After the event, we met up with students of different countries including US, Japan, Jamaica, Indonasia etc and decided to hangout together. So later on, we all met up in my room where we discussed ideas, future plans, experiences etc and also watched a movie. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with like minded engineers from around the world.

On 24th morning Jery presented his paper. It was live-streamed through GHTC website. Afterwards we got out for local sight seeing. We bought Seattle city passes which entitled us to visit 6 of the city’s popular attractions which are the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Museum, EMP museum, The Museum Of Flight and the harbour. We managed to visit 3 of these on 24th before returning to the hotel to attend the closing plenary and award ceremony. I was able to secure second position for the student paper contest. The first position was bagged by Mr. Eobin George, who is also from India (IISc, Bangalore) for his paper on “Disaster Surveillance using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”. We managed to visit 2 more locations on 25th before heading to the airport and coming back.

The key take backs from my trip was the opportunity to get to know like minded engineers from different parts of the world. I hope to follow up and collaborate with at least some of them in the future. Also, there was lot to learn from a cultural perspective. Most importantly, everyone is very polite there. Standing in an elevator or queue, one will be baffled by the courtesy with which everyone greets each other and interacts. Cleanliness and hygiene also seem very important to them, quite evident from the way even the streets are maintained. I look forward to sharing this experience with my college mates and hopefully enable more of them to participate in such conferences in the future.

I am very grateful to my co-authors, IEEE kerala section, MobMe (a telecom company based in Kochi who provided technical assistance), my family and friends for supporting and motivating me throughout the whole period. Last but not the least, I am thankful to Navodaya (my school) for moulding me and inculcating the confidence and values required to take such tasks head-on.

More details about the conference can be found at:
http://www.ieeeghtc.org/
http://ieeeghtc.wordpress.com/

More photos taken during the visit can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.434548929928378.105674.100001198237798&type=1&l=a66cbcc937

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