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As the premier student event within IEEE Region 6, the Rising Stars conference brings together the most promising students and young professionals from within the region to network and be inspired, by each other and the top tech companies from around the world. The concept of Rising Stars is beyond the framework of a conference. It’s an event which brings great students, young professionals, industry representatives, academicians to one single place. Unlike other events where networking opportunities are restricted to exhibition areas, this conferences gives a family environment to mingle, brainstorm, listen to multidisciplinary outstanding speakers, all in the ambience of Vegas strip. What else can you ask for? It a perfect piece of cake for students and Young Professionals who are looking for job, internships and moreover volunteering positions in IEEE.

This three-day event was filled to the brim with energy, enthusiasm, celebrations and moreover intellectual discussions which lead to great friendships, companionships, and relations. What I have found over past three years from this conference is that we not only advance career professionally but you get to make friends for life. Those friends will not only act as your mentors when needed but will also be the future leaders in the engineering community. Seeing others growing, advancing professionals career, reaching new heights, what else can you ask for…!!

On 2nd January to 4th January 2017, the 2017 IEEE Rising Stars Conference was held in Las Vegas for creating awareness of current technical advances and overall professional development amongst young professionals. This year the Rising Stars conference introduced a special get-acquainted activity on wearables. The activity was led by Natalia Baklitskaya from Intel. The activity was planned before the conference welcome ceremony. Students were enthralled by the content, and the hands-on experience they received from this activity.

Through this conference, students had the opportunity to explore new horizons of technical innovations, understand their impact on present/future lifestyles and got the opportunity to network with many distinguished individuals of a myriad of fields, paving a path for a successful career. The conference began with a keynote address on “Smart Cities” by Mark Schneider (Global Technical Director of Utilities and Mapping at Bentley Systems).

Mark spoke about the latest software built for convenient infrastructure development. He demonstrated how the software utilized data from pictures, drones, and LIDAR to create intelligently modeling, and that the approach combines intellectual technology, engineering technology, and operational technology to advance infrastructure. This helped the students understand how this software will help accelerate project delivery and improve asset performance for the infrastructure that can sustain our economy and our environment in the upcoming future.

Hyperloop was another popular project amongst the young talents gathered here. Who would want to miss out on knowing about how one can travel at the speed of sound? Dr. James Dorris, the Director or Electromagnetic

Systems at Hyperloop talked about the new form of transportation that utilizes neodymium magnets for high-speed transportation and thus able to attain a speed that it is twice as fast as the Maglev. Very cool technology. This sowed the seed into the students as to how a small idea spurring from a backyard garage can also lead to a huge business with an effort to further technological advancement! Interestingly, the conference came up with a surprise of a tour to Hyperloop facility in Nevada. Visiting the Hyperloop test facility was very informative about advancements on the fifth mode of transport. Talks like those related to “Smart Cities”, “Memory of Cars: That suggests self-driving cars with a link to IoT (Intelligent Cars) “, talks by Wanda Reder regarding advantages of Smart Grid, a talk by Andrew Rush about Adventures in Producing Earthbound Products in Zero G Environments were truly inspirational.

A unique initiative within Rising Stars is the “Pitch Competition”. It brings out the innovative technical solutions to existing humanitarian challenges. This year witnessed one of the most rigorous pitch competition where the distinguished guests involving IEEE President-Elect Jim Jefferies, R6 Director Kathleen Kramer, and IEEE-USA President Karen Pederson had a tough time making selections from the “Best out of Best”. Amongst all the top 3 pitches were awarded cash prizes by the Risings Stars committee.

Looking at the power of technology was just one side of the coin! Yes, the other side was even better and most appreciated by the young crowd. The conference also highlighted the importance of personal and professional development! And what could be better than knowing it first hand from the “Jedi Masters” of the same industry? Charles Williams’ shared his awesome insights about “Power of Storytelling in Leadership “. Charles told us stories about his life and how we should learn to pitch ideas or communicate with other people. In the engineering world, there are three different stories that should be told in your work environment. The new business model story is when you are pitching an idea that no one has done before. This is where you need to understand the business perspective of the project and not just the engineering side. The Burning platform story is a sort of fight or flight story. This is when something bad is happening in your business and you need to take the initiative to inform your superiors that the idea is going up in flames and a change is needed as soon as possible. Lastly, the springboard story (the best for engineers) is a story that says that we are doing well with a product, but we can definitely do better. A takeaway from this talk is to definitely go against the grain sometimes, identify normal problems as big problems, be fearless, fail fast and often, and give back to the greater good.”, an entralled conference delegate explains.

On the last day, there was an awards ceremony and a panel with speakers from the previous day which provided good insight. The Young Professional’s panel gave the students some tips on what approach to take for a successful career. Erna Grasz educated them about how important it is to give back to society at the same time. The talk included the importance of spreading awareness of education and eradicating illiteracy in underdevelopment countries. This is one of the main focus of the SIGHT initiatives.

The conference sure did end! In the bargain, the initiative prepared the “young Padawans” for the path of becoming a “True Jedi”! MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Contributed by Tushar Sharma, Abdur Rehman and Netra Pillay