On Tuesday, Oct. 7, 1884, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) held its first technical meeting at the International Electrical Exhibition in Philadelphia.
The organization’s founders included now-legendary names like Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Edward Weston; its eventual presidents included Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Steinmetz. In 1963, after decades of pioneering work in wired communications, electric power, lighting and early computing, AIEE merged with the Institute of Radio Engineers to form IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Since 2010, on the first Tuesday in October, IEEE has honored its predecessor and its current members with IEEE Day. This year, on October 2, IEEE members around the globe will gather at coordinated events to learn, celebrate and socialize with their engineering peers.
As technology progressed from wireless telegraphy and vacuum tubes to microscopic electronics and the internet of things, IEEE grew as well, and now often represents the cutting edge in fields well beyond electrical engineering. With more than 423,000 members in 160 countries, it is the world’s largest association of technical professionals. IEEE publishes more than 100 peer-reviewed journals, sponsors hundreds of annual conferences and develops and maintains standards crucial to telecommunications and other areas.
For all of the organization’s innovative technical work, IEEE Day began as a way to celebrate not only IEEE’s founding but also its members. The celebration hinges on hundreds of events designed to celebrate, above all else, the joy of being an engineer and using technology to improve humanity and the world. For example, IEEE Day 2017 saw nearly 1,000 events take place.
This year’s IEEE Day theme is “Leveraging Technology for a Better Tomorrow.” Closely aligned with IEEE’s motto of “Advancing Technology for Humanity,” this theme is well suited to inspire technical lectures and workshops about applying technology for the greater good. For example, recovering from flooding in their home state of Karnataka, IEEE members at the Canara College of Engineering in Puttur, India, will gather for a paper presentation about how to prevent future flooding. Halfway around the world, members at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland will hold a workshop on airborne electrical robots.
IEEE Day events need not be technical lectures or workshops to address this year’s theme, however. Several chapters in India will spend the day planting trees. Members at Universidade de Brasília, Brazil, are holding a hair donation to benefit cancer patients who have lost their own hair due to chemotherapy.
Many chapters will spend the day engaging with schools and communities with educational activities. Members at Boğaziçi University in Instanbul will conduct a team-based bioengineering competition. Teams will attempt to solve puzzles while learning the basics of C programming. Other events focus on simply having fun, learning and sharing IEEE’s mission with the community, whether touring a local factory or speaking to children about what it’s like to work as an engineer.
IEEE Day may be most valuable for the social interaction it fosters around the globe. In our hyperconnected and yet increasingly disconnected world, face-to-face interaction with like-minded peers is more beneficial than ever before. With this in mind, many chapters are combining technical lectures with food events to foster a healthy, non-digital social network. As internet pioneer and IEEE Fellow Dr. Vinton Cerf said, “It’s the interaction among people, the side conversations, and the chatting in front of a whiteboard that makes IEEE so valuable.” There is no better time for this interaction than on IEEE Day.
As part of the IEEE family, IEEE GlobalSpec wishes you a happy, fun and educational IEEE Day.