IEEE Student Branch, Government Engineering College, Barton Hill, Thiruvananthapuram has made exceptional contributions to the community and has continuously strived to uphold the values of IEEE at every turn ever since its genesis in the year 2006. The Student Branch has exhibited outstanding dedication in conducting events, especially in a year lulled by the lethargy of a global pandemic.

One of the most notable accomplishments was that more than 22 collaborative events were successfully conducted throughout the year with various organizations whilst maintaining a healthy rapport with them. This year, staying true to their impressive track record, IEEE SB GECBH collaborated with IEEE LINK, IEEE Kerala Section and Section Chapters of various societies, IEEE Young Professionals, Computer Society of India, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Development Cell, Indian Society for Technical Education, GADS LLP (start-up) and the Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador community.

Thus, in a remarkable display of fortitude, IEEE SB GEC Barton Hill, Thiruvananthapuram was able to organize 52 contests, 31 Webinars, 9 workshops, 7 initiatives and 7 DLPs. To top it off, the Student Branch also produced a massive member retention rate of 62.60%. Due credit must be given to the entire IEEE Executive Committee of 2021 who worked relentlessly to bring all these events to life, as they strived for the welfare of the Student Members.

Q1) Can you discuss the key initiatives or programs that your student branch implemented that you think were instrumental in winning the award?

All the initiatives of IEEE SB GECBH was focussed mainly on improving the value of IEEE membership among students through member engagement, technical upskilling and providing a platform for the members to express themselves. We also have long standing monthly digital initiatives like newsletter, tech information bytes, coding tips etc which keeps us visible among the IEEE community regularly. The perfectly balanced mix of technical, non-technical, humanitarian, STEM and administrative activities along with flagship events and whatsapp group activities played an instrumental role in bagging the award.

Q2) How did you involve and engage your student branch members in the planning and execution of various activities and events?

One of the core ideas behind the activities of IEEE SB GECBH is to involve the members in each and every stage. At the start of the year we collected feedback from all the members on what they expect from IEEE in the coming year and jott our annual plan with those insights. We also established subcommittees to introduce interested students, especially the first years into the work done behind events. We also used to select event heads from the members for all the events and they work together with an execom member to execute events. We assigned PoCs for each member to regularly collect feedback and improve our activities. Finally we had monthly whatsapp group activities like quizzes, crosswords etc to engage members on a regular basis.

Q3) What were the major challenges that your student branch faced during the award application process, and how did you overcome them?

The major challenge we faced during the application process was collecting relevant information from over a year of activities that would be most suitable for the application. Having conducted a good number of events over the year, it was important that we chose activities that created the most impact among our members. To tackle this problem and to avoid any kind of confusion, the team planned the document layout much prior to the final documentation process. It is important to communicate with your team and let them know what we need to convey through each answer. We ensured that this process happened for all questions which helped us all stay on the same page while drafting the application.

Q4) What advice would you give to other student branches who are planning to apply for this award?

This is not just an award that we can achieve by refining our activities at the time of the award application, but here, we have to align all our year-long activities inline with a vision and mission to bag this award easily. So, you have to do all the annual planning with a mission on what you are planning to accomplish this year, how you can improve IEEE as a community and make the members feel beneficial. Plan and execute the activities in the grass root level and involve as many members into the planning and execution of the event which creates a feel of belonging for the members. Also, plan the activities in balance with industry, academy, and research.

Q5) How important is it for student branches to have a clear and well-defined vision, mission, and strategic plan when applying for this award?

Vision and mission are vital in this award application, since vision and mission are the core of the Student Branch and its activities. So, the award documentation should clearly project out your vision and mission. Your award application strategic plan should emphasize the unique initiatives and activities taken by the SB, major achievements of the SB and its members, recurring events and MD Activities. Make great use of statistics and numbers rather than relying on words since quantitative data gives an edge over qualitative data. Acquire endorsement from the one who's more involved in your SB than from someone who's in a higher volunteering position.

Q6) What role does collaboration and networking with other student branches and IEEE groups play in the success of a student branch's award application?

Collaboration is an inevitable part of professionalism. What we are demonstrating through a collaboration is our versatility, how well we cooperate with other groups and more importantly, we'll be amalgamating knowledge from both ends while planning and executing events. Each SB and IEEE group will have a unique vision so combining it with ours would create a great impact, positively affecting multiple stakeholders. Altogether, collaboration makes your job easier, brings in novelty and increases the impact exponentially. This plays a major part for the award since this portrays how well you maintain a relationship with people in and out of IEEE.

Q7) How can student branches align their activities with the broader goals and objectives of IEEE and its various societies and councils?

Aligning activities to the goal and objectives of IEEE and its various societies and councils is a long continuous process. This is not something that we can achieve with one or two events, we should begin with making the annual plan aligned to what we want to achieve. Evaluate the impact from the previous activities of IEEE and its various societies and councils, Understand what they aim to achieve this year and inculcate these insights into your annual plan. This would make it easier for you to collaborate with these OUs at the same time improve the standards and impact of your activities and initiatives along with making your award application strong.

Q8) Can you suggest any tips or best practices that student branches should keep in mind when preparing their award application and presenting it to the judges?

All the unique activities and initiatives taken should be clearly portrayed in the documentation. Try to do different and unique things every year rather than following the same path again. Set a new goal every year like starting a new student branch, or anything that helps you stand out. SB participation in R10 level events, contests and ambassador programs should be highlighted. Don't beat around the bush, be precise and clear with what you are defining, use statistics and numbers for better understanding. Recurring events and initiatives should be prioritized. Get the endorsement from someone who is more involved in your SB than from someone who has a mere idea about the SB but has a higher hierarchy volunteering position.