Three New England Sections Collaborate on Industry Day

Volunteers are working on boosting IEEE's relationship with industry

5 November 2010

Strengthening IEEE’s relationship with industry is a priority for IEEE Member and Geographic Activities, along with boosting industrial membership. Volunteers have been working hard to bolster that connection, especially in Region 1

The New Hampshire, Maine, and Boston sections sponsored the IEEE Region 1 Northeast Industry Day on 24 September. More than 100 people went to the Portsmouth Harbor Events and Conference Center in New Hampshire to learn about a range of projects being undertaken by industrial and government organizations. They heard plenary talks by industry leaders and could attend any of four technical tracks and two workshops on key technologies likely to shape the future of engineering.

To make breakfast a bit more interesting and constructive, attendees started their day at the World Café, where they discussed topics such as future innovations in broadband communications, improving preuniversity education, and challenges the smart grid faces.

IEEE Member Norbert Doerry kicked off the event with a keynote address discussing the U.S. Navy’s electric ships program. Doerry is technical director of the Naval Sea Systems Command’s South East Asia Technology Office.

A second keynote speaker, David Day from Mitre Corp., discussed his company’s efforts to build a health information network for patients’ clinical data. Day, a senior principal scientist, is associate head of Mitre’s human language technology department.

Industry Day’s four technical tracks were on broadband communications, energy, the human-computer interface, and systems engineering.

Presentations in the broadband track covered the challenges facing the next-generation Internet and zeroed in on wireless connectivity in rural areas, including roadblocks to offering connectivity there, design concepts for ubiquitous coverage, and how wireless broadband could be applied. Speakers included IEEE Fellow Henning Schulzrinne, a professor of computer science at Columbia University; Member Kerry Cozad, senior vice president of SPX Dielectric Communication Technology, a Raymond, Maine, manufacturer of waveguide products; and Susan Corbett, CEO of Axiom Technologies, a Machias, Maine, company that brings broadband services to rural areas.

Innovations in interfaces and cloud computing were the focuses of the talks in the human-computer interface track. “Cloud computing” refers to Internet-based, instead of on-your-desktop, computing that relies on servers and distributed computer centers. Covering those topics were Member Matt Jonson, chief technologist for architectures and verticals at Cisco Systems’ U.S. and Canada Partner Organization; Senior Member Bhumip Khasnabish, a Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE Communications Society; and Member Michael Davies, chairman and founding partner of management consultant Endeavour Partners, in Boston.

In the energy track, speakers covered next-generation power and energy applications, developments in marine-renewable energy, and IEEE standards being created for integrated shipboard power systems. Speakers included Member Lynn Petersen, head of the energy technology division in the Naval Sea Systems Command’s Chief Technology Office; Gerry Chasse, president of Bangor Hydro Electric, in Maine; and Bill Staby, CEO and founder of Resolute Marine Energy, in Boston.

Speakers on the systems track talked about ways to deal with tensions that can build up in systems engineering programs involving project management, how to measure systems engineering productivity, and the design of ships. Covering the topics were William Stoy, a former National Security Agency worker; Lori Saleski, principal systems engineer with the U.S. arm of BAE, the defense, security, and aerospace company; and Moni Islam, coordinating chair for IEEE Std. 45 and IEEE-P45.1, which covers shipboard power system design.

The workshops explored strategies for getting venture capital and making technology more personal. Luncheon speakers discussed ways to help the public understand science and technology, tips for bringing innovative products to market in a down economy, and IEEE Communications Society programs involving industry.

The event ended with an evening reception sponsored by IEEE Women in Engineering. Fellow Karen Panetta explained ways to inspire, engage, and empower female engineers.

“Our first IEEE Northeast Industry Day had good participation and a nice format, with four tracks that addressed current hot topics,” says IEEE Fellow Shri Goyal, director of membership development for the IEEE Communications Society. “It was a unique forum that brought representatives from academia, government, and industry together to explore technologies and their applications now and for the future. A day well spent!”

On feedback forms distributed at the meeting, attendees offered suggestions for improvement. “Great idea. Let’s make it sustainable and add students to the mix,” one wrote. “Outstanding event. Valuable and interactive! This could be an annual event,” were some other comments.

It was the second industry day organized by Region 1. The first event, in February 2009 at Telcordia Technologies in Piscataway, N.J., drew 300 people. That day-long conference focused on how communications and green technologies are changing the way companies do business. [See “First IEEE Industry Day a Big Success,” May 2009].

“Such events improve IEEE's connections to industry,” says IEEE 2009 president John Vig. “This is important because more than half of IEEE members work in industry.” Vig was one of the plenary speakers at the Region 1 meeting.

The idea is about to go global. Planning is under way for an IEEE India Industry Day, to be held in Bangalore in March. Other sections in IEEE Region 1 are busy planning an industry day. One is scheduled for October.

If you are interested in holding such an event, contact Ashutosh Dutta, who can offer helpful suggestions.

Ashutosh Dutta is IEEE industry relations chair for Member and Geographic Activities. Ali Abedi was the conference chair for the Region 1 event. Both are IEEE senior members.

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