Five Ways to Engage Student Members

Networking with industry professionals and scholarship opportunities among the most popular

21 August 2017

With the school year about to start at many universities, leaders of IEEE student branches and chapters of IEEE’s honor society, IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN), will be looking to recruit new members and get current ones more involved. Here are ideas on how to accomplish those goals, as well as IEEE resources that can help.


    A number of groups organize career-development and networking opportunities. They include visits to companies where students tour the facilities and meet the engineers. Groups also bring in industry leaders to speak at their school.

    The IEEE-HKN Gamma Theta chapter at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, in Rolla, for example, holds an annual dinner with industry leaders.

    Some branches and chapters hold career fairs, both in-person and virtual, to give students access to internships and entry-level jobs. The IEEE-HKN Iota Gamma chapter at the University of California, Los Angeles, held a recruitment fair last year featuring more than a dozen startup companies; about 300 students attended.

    Students also have an opportunity to meet industry leaders at the annual IEEE Rising Stars Conference. The event brings together students and young professionals to learn from executives of high-tech companies. The next one is scheduled for 6 to 8 June in Las Vegas.

    Some student branches have organized startup competitions in which students develop a business plan for their technical project. Professionals often serve as judges and provide feedback to students.


    Many students aren’t aware that IEEE offers grants, fellowships, and scholarships. As a branch or chapter leader, you can hold in-person events and webinars to explain the programs and help members apply.

    The Richard E. Merwin scholarship program from the IEEE Computer Society, for example, offers a total of $40,000 to a dozen or more students each year. The program rewards volunteer leaders in student branches or chapters who show strong academic standing. The next application deadline is 30 September.

    The Masters Student Fellowship from the IEEE Electron Devices Society is awarded to promote, recognize, and support students pursuing a master’s degree within the society’s field of interest. Three fellowships worth $2,000 each are awarded every year.


    Humanitarian technology activities are great ways to get student members together to collaborate and help their community solve problems through technology. Funding can be requested from the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology, which provides grants.

    IEEE-HKN requires its student members to volunteer their time. In 2015 and 2016 IEEE-HKN chapters contributed a combined 91,079 hours of community service. The Epsilon Omicron chapter at the University of Delaware, in Newark, holds weekly tutoring sessions to help undergraduate students in calculus, physics, and other subjects. The Mu chapter at the University of California, Berkeley, set up a Rube Goldberg machine at a science museum to spark children’s interest in engineering. The chapter also helped low-income families by painting their homes.

    “IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu encourages its members to give back to society and assist people in need however they can,” says Nancy Ostin, director of IEEE-HKN.


    Hackathons allow students to apply lessons they learn in the classroom to real-world applications. Students transform existing technologies for new purposes. Hackathons also encourage participants to design a product or service in a short amount of time by collaborating with others across disciplines.

    The IEEE student branch at Rowan University, in Glassboro, N.J., held its second annual hackathon this year. Students built projects from scratch within 24 hours. More than 250 students attended participated.

    During a hackathon organized by the IEEE-HKN Nu chapter at Iowa State University, in Ames, female student members coached preuniversity girls who had little or no programing experience. About 50 students participated.


    IEEE-HKN encourages the concept of “work hard, play hard,” according to Ostin. “The engineering discipline is among the most challenging,” she says, “and that why it’s important for students to de-stress.” To help them unwind, HKN chapters organize social events such as video game competitions, movie nights, picnics, and sporting events.

    The Beta chapter at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., for example, holds Thank Goodness It’s Friday gatherings in which students go to restaurants, bowl, or play paintball. The Beta Alpha chapter at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, hosts an annual faculty roast one week before graduation so students can say farewell to their professors by sharing funny stories, photos, and videos from their classes.

    The IEEE student branch at Howard University, in Washington, D.C., took a field trip to see the movie Hidden Figures and then discussed the critical role engineers play in everyday life.

    Many student branches participate in IEEE Day with ice cream socials, games, and contests. The day commemorates the 1884 meeting when members of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, one of IEEE’s predecessor societies, gathered in Philadelphia for the first time to share technical ideas. This year’s IEEE Day is 3 October.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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