Engineering News Winter 2016
If You Feed Them, They Will Come
Offering food to college students is a sure way to draw a crowd, and it’s a strategy the student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) at SCU uses with great success. “We have a four-step plan to get students to come to our IEEE meetings: food, friends, technical events, and getting a job,” said the group’s advisor, Shoba Krishnan, associate professor of electrical engineering. “First they come for the pizza, then they make friends and enjoy socializing at events, next they become interested in presentations and field trips, and as they begin looking for an internship or full time job, they take advantage of the career workshops and networking opportunities the branch provides.”
Recently SCU won the Outstanding Small Student Branch Award for both the Santa Clara Valley Section and for Region 6 in recognition of the group’s innovative and creative programs. Quite an honor as this section of the world’s largest professional organization covers the entire Western United States, from Alaska to New Mexico and Montana to Hawaii. Krishnan credits their success to the hard work, professionalism, and organizational skills of the student branch leaders: electrical engineering graduate student Beeta Modarressi ’14, electrical engineering senior Nate Tucker, and computer engineering junior David Blake Tsuzaki.
Beyond the pizza, though, why bother? Tucker explained: “A lot of EE students tend to be somewhat introverted. This is a great place to meet people, to socialize, to find out which classes to take, and to network with others who are going through the same things.” Tsuzaki appreciates how their branch helps students better understand engineering in the real world. “We run a lot of technical events to develop professionally outside the classroom and to give our members exposure to how engineering is done at places like Nvidia, Facebook, and Tesla. It’s not just seeing the production line in operation that’s important—it’s seeing where you could be as an engineer 10 years down the line. It helps you get excited about the field. At Seagate we saw platter production, but even better, we got to see one of the engineers’ excitement as he shared how he got to spin discs until they exploded … and we got to wear bunny suits. But seeing up close on the inside what companies are up to and what engineering can be is important. It’s not memorizing, or staying up all night studying; it’s applying that knowledge in the field and seeing class work coming to fruition.”
For the past two years the branch has also held a very successful mock interview session, inviting members of the IEEE Young Professionals (YP) program to critique students’ résumés and conduct interviews. “YP brought a lot of mentors to the event,” said Modarressi. “We had a senior vice president from LinkedIn, a vice president from National Instruments, and representation from many other Silicon Valley companies. It was fantastic. A recruiter from Texas Instruments even scheduled an interview on the spot after doing the mock interview. The community here gives their time very generously, and IEEE is a big draw for them,” she added.
Aside from benefiting SCU students, the branch has hosted one of the qualifiers for FIRST LEGO League, an international competition for kids ages 9 to 14, for the past 10 years. Last year, they also hosted IEEE’s Region 6 Micromouse Competition, an event where West Coast university teams design, build, and operate an autonomous robotic “mouse,” racing through a maze for the fastest time.
IEEE’s goal is to inspire connection, collaboration, innovation, and engineering excellence. If it takes pizza to get students in the door to further that purpose, this crew is happy to oblige.
Photo: At a recent meeting, SCU's IEEE student chapter enjoyed pizza and planning a law career panel discussion, tutoring opportunities at a local elementary school, hosting a soldering workshop, and a field trip to Flex, a world leader in designing and building intelligent products. Front row: Kyle Takeuchi, Matthew Salmanpour, Nico Metais, Jun Chang; middle row: Dr. Shoba Krishnan, Blake Tsuzaki, Thomas Chung, Taylor Mau, Alicia Chan; back row: Martin Prado, Aram Garibyan, Kim Myers, Chan Lee, Nathan Tucker, Andrew Yu
Photo credit: Joanne Lee