Report on Student Branch and GOLD Congress 2002: "Tomorrow's Engineer" (1-5 May 2002, Cairo, Egypt)
- by Oleg Stukach and Dmitriy Baranov
1. General Organization
SBC GOLD 2002 has promoted tight interaction and understanding among active members of the Institute as an international professional organization.
The congress was organized relatively good. Organizers have demonstrated miracles of resourcefulness and do all the best, those Arabic conditions did not spoil the positive impression about congress. Egyptian labor of organizers deserves all respect. The Cairo University Student Branch has worked very hard to make this congress such success. They should be an inspiration to student branches around the world.
But if we compare the Cairo congress with the previous congress in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, May 15-20, 2000, that was organized perfectly, this comparison show that the Egypt congress does not have a high level. It is explained by many circumstances, main of which are following.
1.1. Unsufficient Information Preparation
Up to last week before congress we do not have any information about place and time of main events. Our travel was began without information where congress will be hold in. It is appeared that participants have received this information only before four days of beginning. Attempts to find out anything beforehand congress did not have any positive results, because of organizers themselves did not know anything. Besides, secretary of congress was some time without e-mail and did not answer three most hot days. Explanation was simple: "I'm v. sorry for my delay in replying all of you, my PC was down as my brother was formatting it!! Today I found 400 mails..."
1.2. Unresolved of Visa Problems
We did not receive any valid invitation for obtaining the Egyptian visa in the Egypt Embassy. We sent many requests to ship the invitation by fax, but finally we have received only the PDF-file by e-mail. This "file invitation" did not contain any signature of the chairperson. Obviously, such "invitation" does not accept no one embassy. Further attempts to obtain the fax-invitation did not have success. We are forced to fly via Hurghada as tourists, and rich Cairo on a tourist bus. Some humor: before our departure organizers put on web "the generator of invitations on congress". It is present there so far.
1.3. Financial Problems
Some of participants were referred as "visitor", because of they could not pay, but IEEE pays only one representative of IEEE unit. Participants were divided on "funded" and "not funded", which pay amount, approximately determined in e-mail list before beginning of congress. Nobody known how it was calculated.
This text I am writing in July. There is not any information on money back so far, though the report was sent in May timely. The e-mail list sbc2002 is overflowed by the messages of a kind "where are our money back?"
1.4. Reception and Accommodation
Meeting of participants was in hotel "Ramses", in which main events were take part and the participants lived. It was simply to reach up to hotel by itself. Certainly, if you know that all events will be just there. But we did not have such information, it has occurred only in a week up to the congress beginning. Before the congress finishing we have asked the organizers to find out information about our bus to Hurghada and having supplied them by all contact telephones. It has appeared the difficult problem for organizers. Yes, we got it!
It is translated from Arabic as "so has recorded", "so was received" and it is means an original explanation of disrespect to they own time and time of another people. "Why you has be late?" - Arab has asked. "Maktub" - he answers. It is shortly and clearly. However, it is not clearly.
Arabic time is a European time plus some error on delay, about a half of hour up to hour. One German participant was disturbed: "in Germany nine hours - it is nine hours exactly. Here it can be ten or eight". For example, event, appointed at nine o'clock, can begin later on uncertain time, within a hour. A message on this can appeared on the announcement board. But most often it is not present. Opening plenary session was appointed 9:00 in program. All people coming to 9:00 strongly, certainly, Arabs. You guess: it was "maktub". "Why we do not begin?" "Sorry, please wait some time".
2. Main events of congress
The congress consisted of two parts - Student and GOLD. The congress sessions were carried out on traditional for IEEE scheme: training, information for branch and chapter chair, discussion in small groups for the ideas exchange. Plenary sessions was not interesting for us because of all received information contains in the IEEE manuals. So it is necessary to read it. But discussion at round tables and buffets are very useful for participants. During these days we had the great experience. We heard some problems that Student Branches and GOLD have and solutions for these problems.
Agenda was not too packed (or too loosely planned?). Thus it give everybody the opportunity and time to get engaged in both technical and another discussions.
Attending this student congress was a really good experience for us and the other Russian participants. We could share experiences not only on control of IEEE Student Branches and GOLD Groups but in our careers and on what is being done in different places, ideas, culture, projects and the most important thing - friendship. We had the opportunity to "Networking the World" literally. Nevertheless, I found the most important factor was the human aspect in the entire undertaking.
3. GOLD Session
It was a main event for us, as the Russian GOLD Affinity Group was established a half year ago. We have not GOLD experience yet, so it was very interesting to hear about activities in another GOLD Group from different countries. There were fifteen chairs of GOLD groups and those, who wanted to organize them. Region 8 Director Levent Onural was participated and has a speech about GOLD problems.
The GOLD Chair Slavo Wesolkowski was a Session Chairman. His presentation was professionally delivered and contained very useful information. Another advantages of Slavo' presentation was following: clear style of interpretation, magnificent illumination all of GOLD benefits, GOLD control and structure, good orientation in the presented material and professional skills to answer arising questions comprehensively and completely.
In our opinion, GOLD session was overload by the well-known information about GOLD structure and organization, because of it contained on the web and manuals. It is necessary to share more clear interpretation of main problems concern attraction of IEEE members in the GOLD informal activity with algorithm of decision. For example, it is known that half of students annually leave IEEE. But increase of the membership dues is only one reason of that? Whether the personal contact only can keep the members?
In our opinion, it should avoid the blind duplication of advantages IEEE in GOLD, but ideas and financial means for that are very limited.
But in any case we are really enjoying our time here. Thank you for your efforts and your work. The most wonderful thing we had is meeting a lot of friends. That could give us an opportunity not only to collect experiences from others, but also to get a chance to show ideas and knowledge of Students from University I coming from.
Who is analyst in IEEE? Different questionnaires at all congresses and meetings filled in. Participants answer questions about successful and failure of sessions, and what is possible to offer. Who collects these questionnaires and where they kept? Who analyzes the received information and what decisions are accepted?
Ordinary IEEE members have not the possibilities to influence to process of control and decision, but chapter chairs should be known a contact person not only at Societies level, but IEEE as well. Good example can be a partner program, which is carried out in Electron Devices Society, but it is more formal, than was conceived initially.
There are many ideas how to improve the IEEE, but does IEEE agree whether to accept it or reasonable reject? Unfortunately, leaders often build their environment on their own sign and similarity. Especially brightly it is displayed in Russia.
5. Some ideas
5.1. The introduction lecture in a structure and organization of GOLD is necessary at the plenary session. It is possible replace the lecture about the IEEE awards. Indeed: tens get awards, but in GOLD participated thousands.
5.2. It is necessary finally to define the GOLD purpose, as well as to develop and adopt the GOLD mission.
5.3. IEEE offers two ways of membership in the Institute ? as employee (dues $112 or $56) and as student ($14). It is necessary to open the GOLD membership, so we ņan attract the more young scientists and businessmen, for which dues about $30 will be feasible. Up to now it is especially urgently, as main strategic aim of IEEE is increasing a membership base.
5.4. Russian post-graduates have less more money than students. With the GOLD assistance it is possible try to help them to decrease the membership due and societies. So if we shall allocate in IEEE one more layer - GOLD, the GOLD becomes independent with their own advantages, contests, awards etc.
5.5. One of training events can become training and exchange by the students between universities of different countries, or dispatch in foreign universities especially distinguished or useful for GOLD students. One-two post-graduate students from Section could visit any foreign university for training on GOLD. Because of financial means are very limited it is possible to make a contest in Regions. Winner of regional contest receives the right to travel somewhere. It is possible to looking for a means for the travel partially from universities and foundations co-operating with IEEE.
5.6. Already we offered for ComSoc proposal of the certification program. The proposal was considered, but we did not hear any response. In GOLD to make it is much more easy. We offer the program of GOLD-certification of the training manuals and rates. A stamp "approved by GOLD IEEE" will confirm a high quality of the certificated materials and correspondence to the IEEE standards. But as far as IEEE do not read the books and journals in national languages and can not evaluate materials, these rights GOLD transfer to the national GOLD committees. The financial questions of certification required an additional discussion.
5.7. A web site contest for GOLD site is expediently carry out. As far as the GOLD site is not entertaining, general concept and simplicity of navigation is more important than beautiful design.
5.8. We guess that we can organize constantly workshop in a kind of "Extra Skills for Young Engineers" by joint efforts. It can be held in odd years vs. SBC (even years). More reasonable to establish workshop without IEEE financing, because of biennial congresses is too expensive thing. The workshop should be more scientific than fun. Searching of sponsors will be successes only at SHARE financing (some organizations, firms and foundations are necessary). It is very important for an organization such as IEEE that their members get together and "Networking the World" in a personal way.
5.9. May be carry out next congress in Belgium because of Belgian SB and GOLD have some interesting experience and share it among participants.
5.10. The old idea about split of the Russian Section by reason of geographical haplessness of Russia and establishment of Siberia Section has found one more understanding at the congress. We especially thank GOLD, because of Russia requires in several GOLD Groups as big scale of country. But as far as one Section is only one GOLD Group on the IEEE rules, it is necessary to have several Sections.
6. The fun events of congress
"What do you eat there?" - it is first question, which usually discussed. Arabic food was not useful for participants. It was often impossible to disassemble, that is prepared from. Especially heavy the German participants felt. Some of them looks like two cents and do not visit pyramids.
But we, Russian, have a steel stomach and recook all food. We are really scientific tourists. You are welcome to Egyptian kitchen!
Egyptians supplied luxury cultural program. Certainly, it was visiting the Egyptian pyramids and sphinx, Cairo excurse, technical tour in Cairo cyber-center, visiting the mosques and fortress. We could visit such places, which are inaccessible to the ordinary tourists in principle. In our sight, it is main brilliant point of the IEEE congresses. In our opinion, the standard tourism does not have rights to existence, because of the ordinary tourists do not receive really interesting information and paid too expensive.
Certainly, if you are ordinary tourist, you will see pyramids, sphinx, Cairo mosques and Nile. May be you learning that in a center of Cairo there is cemetery consisting of 19 tombs, on which people lives (!!). You visit the museum of national history: in practice it is museum of necrophilia, where you will see different mummies, boxes for storage of their intrinsic organs, old rags, wooden stick for the slaves with the copper inlay etc. You will see "museum of perfumery", where for some hundred dollars you receive a perfume ("maslo" in Arabic), but such perfume you have able to acquire on any market (but you can not visit it). You will see "Institute of Papirus", where for some hundred dollars you buy papirus, but such papirus you have able to acquire on any market (but you can not visit it). Besides, you ņan try to produce papirus by your own hands.
But you will not able to visit the Cairo opera. By the way, there have two orchestras, symphonic and opera. You never learn what means the "Papirus Science". You will not become Ph.D. on the papirus science. You ņan not walk on ordinary, not on central Cairo streets, on its markets (this is on each step). You do not be able to eat the Arabic food without poison. You ņan not dance with colleagues on the Nile Cruise ship. It is available only for scientific IEEE tourists. And certainly, you ņan not meet the Ukraine pianist, whose travel agency was husband, working on contract in the national opera. "You are here a week and tired already. But I am here nine years!!"
Besides the information we could get at the SBC GOLD 2002, we were able to create a useful links between people from different IEEE Student Branches and GOLD Groups all over the world. I hope this links will remain stronger so we can work together to develop new activities that would assist us running our student branches in a better way.