Student Branch Spotlight: San Jose State University

A look at how the branch keeps busy

9 April 2012

Another in an occasional series of articles highlighting the activities of IEEE student branches

Months before I was elected last year as vice chair of the IEEE student branch at San Jose State University, in California, its president, Dylan Guldiken, and I came up with a plan of activities and priorities for 2012. We started work on it as soon as we came into office in June.

One of the first things we did was redesign our student branch clubroom. We’ve tried to focus on is improving the clubroom’s atmosphere for the electrical engineering students and all the IEEE members. We want it to have a warm and inviting feel.

The new layout divides the room into two sections: one for member activities, the other for guests and tech talks by invited speakers. We also have a full electronics lab with oscilloscopes, multimeters, and function generators. The office has been updated with a new computer and router, as well as a new executive-style table and chairs.

For the many new freshmen and transfer students to the school each semester, we make sure to have someone on hand to answer questions and offer advice.

To ensure no one goes hungry, we purchase in bulk from a large wholesaler. We sell the food, drinks, and snacks in our office at cost. We make little to no profit, as we are a club that tries to help the students in every way possible.

We started a used-book service on our website. Textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars at the bookstore, yet students are paid next to nothing when they sell them at the end of the year. We came up with a solution: We set up a service for classmates to buy and sell books from each other through our website. That way, both the buyer and seller save money, compared with bookstore transactions.

Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower—which provides residential, commercial, and power-plant solar systems—gives a tech talk for the student branch. Photo: Luat Nguyen

We also became more active in recruiting. In the fall, our branch officers visited each electrical engineering, physics, and math class to recruit new members. We ended up getting more than 50 students to join.

And, of course, we have special events. Following our kickoff meeting in the fall, we organized a technical seminar given by Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower, which provides residential, commercial, and power-plant solar systems. The two events drew more than 80 IEEE student members. We gave out Kindles to two student members, through a raffle, and SJSU/IEEE T-shirts and SJSU/IEEE executive-style pens to all the IEEE members, including staff.

SunPower’s tech talk led to a company tour that attracted about 20 students. Later in the semester we held tech talks by representatives from Analog Devices and Synopsis, and we lined up speakers from Juniper, Maxim, the Princeton Review, and Sand Force.

We arranged for our professors to give short talks from time to time about what it’s like to work as an engineer and how best to prepare for a job.

Other events have included poker and movie nights and a basketball game pitting faculty members against students. Those successful events allowed student members to kick back and have fun. We also held a workshop spread over four weeks on using the Texas Instruments LaunchPad, a development kit.

Did I mention we were the first school in the United States to win the IEEE shirt day competition? We were able to get about 35 of our student members to participate in the worldwide competition and show their IEEE spirit.

More events are in the planning stages, including a tour of Tesla Motors in Fremont, Calif., a students vs. engineering staff Jeopardy game, and an audio equalizer design project. We also want to help our community by working with high schools to teach their students electrical engineering fundamentals.

We have the coolest student branch website. It’s always up to date, listing our upcoming workshops, tutorials, social events, and technical seminars. Check it out!

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