"Pie a Professor" Day Helps Gain Student Branch Title of Year's Best

IEEE student branch at Virginia Tech has been busy this year

5 September 2008

Has the past year been busy for you? Well, the members of the IEEE student branch at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (better known as Virginia Tech), in Blacksburg, Va., have taken busy to a completely new level.

On top of tackling a heavy school load, members of that branch have volunteered nearly all their free time and more for good works. To boost branch membership and raise general student body awareness of the engineering profession, they’ve organized everything from dinners and tailgate parties to lectures on electronics, and they’ve formed a new chapter of Women in Engineering. They also raised more than US $2500 for the American Cancer Society, relying only on a whipped-cream pie, raffle tickets, and a video game.

For their efforts, the university’s Student Engineering Council (SEC)—a consortium of engineering students, societies, and the school’s college of engineering—named the IEEE student branch the school’s 2007 Society of the Year in April. The selection came with a $500 check and a certificate.

The students’ reactions ran from “humble” to “ecstatic,” says Christopher Tergino, the branch chair, who declares himself happy that his fellow branch members were honored. “Everyone put in a lot of hard work during their very limited free time,” he says. “Students have a difficult time just keeping up their grades with such a tough engineering curriculum, and our branch officers showed exceptional devotion. We’re looking forward to another successful year.”

BUSY, BUSY During the past year, the student branch introduced several new programs and events. Its HOPE (Hands on Practical Electronics) program is based on a similar one at the University of California, Berkeley, that offers classes on basic electronics to students of any major. The students got to practice what they learned by building simple electronics projects using hardware bought with funds from the SEC.

The student branch also welcomed its first Women in Engineering chapter and started a Big Sister–Little Sister mentoring program. The project matched nine junior and senior electrical and engineering students with freshman EE and computer science students.

In addition, the branch organized a series of meet-and-greet social events to bring together computer science and electrical engineering students. These included picnics, dinners at local restaurants, and tailgate parties at Virginia Tech football games.

And to keep everyone in physical shape, the student branch organized its own intramural sports teams, including football, volleyball, water polo, soccer, softball, and walleyball (a game that combines the four-wall bounces of racquetball with a volleyball net, played with an inflatable ball).

As for the American Cancer Society donation, more than a quarter of the money came from students’ willingness to pay to toss a pie in a professor’s face. Eleven faculty members of Virginia Tech’s electrical and computer engineering department volunteered for “Pie a Professor” day. The privilege of hitting a professor with a whipped-cream pie at close range was auctioned off to the highest bidder. The event earned a shade under $673.

In addition, the society organized a Halo 3 video-game tournament, teaming up with the school’s computer science programming lab to attract more than 130 enthusiasts. The tournament raised more than $150 for the American Cancer Society, while another raffle raised more than $600.

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