IEEE Volunteers Make a Mark on Their Communities

Members get involved in Maker Faires and hackathons

22 June 2016

More than 100,000 people attended this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, which was held from 20 to 22 May in San Mateo, Calif. The event featured demonstrations of 3-D printers, drones, electronic and computer kits, steam engines, solar-powered cars, and other attractions.

IEEE Region 6, the IEEE Santa Clara Valley Section, and the IEEE Consultants’ Network of Silicon Valley had an entrepreneurship exhibit in the Maker to Market building at the event.

IEEE volunteers handed out magazines and literature published by IEEE societies and affinity groups, like Women in Engineering and Young Professionals, as well as IEEE merchandise. The volunteers—both higher-grade and student members—who managed the booth demonstrated the technologies on display and spoke with about 1,000 visitors of all ages.

More than 200 people subscribed to the IEEE San Francisco Bay Area eGRID newsletter, which announces upcoming activities, and more than 40 signed up to get information on joining IEEE. It was a successful event, and the volunteers were really jazzed about the experience.

The volunteer activities were part of an IEEE Region 6 initiative to increase membership by 1 percent this year. That translates to 545 more members by the end of December.


There are many ways that IEEE members can be more involved in their communities, such as volunteering at a Maker Faire or a Future City or FIRST Robotics competition, or a hackathon. They’re all opportunities to work with preuniversity students, the general public, and fellow IEEE members. If you are interested in taking part in such efforts in Region 6, contact the region’s STEM and preuniversity chair, Bill DeHope. If you do volunteer, please let your region chair and others in IEEE know about your efforts.

Volunteers also can get involved at trade shows and other local industry events, as a way of letting attendees know about IEEE, its mission, and how being a member makes one part of a community of people who help each other. Organizers of technology trade shows—such as the Flash Memory Summit and the DesignCon in the Santa Clara Valley area—have offered free IEEE exhibit space at their events in exchange for publicizing the events in the section’s newsletters, at chapter meetings, and on its websites. It’s a great opportunity to let more people know about IEEE and to recruit members.

The IEEE Public Visibility initiative is responsible for increasing the appreciation of the engineering profession and awareness of IEEE’s role. As chair of its committee, I have helped create an IEEE publicity community in IEEE Collabratec where IEEE volunteers from all over the world can share their experiences. Any member can join the community, but first you must create an IEEE Collabratec account.

I hope you have an opportunity to participate in a Maker Faire and similar activities in your area. If you need funding to help get things off the ground, contact your IEEE section chair. You can find a list of Region 6 section chairs and their email addresses here. Volunteers in the United States can apply for grants from IEEE-USA’s PACE network, a grassroots community of volunteers and committees organized at the section and chapter level that fund outreach activities.

Tom Coughlin is director of IEEE Region 6 and chair of the IEEE Public Visibility Committee.

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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