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WVU team takes top honors at regional IEEE Conference; will host event in 2019

A photo of the t-shirt design from IEEE. Navy t-shirt with white bridge. IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers SAC18 Student Activities Conference

The T-shirt competition was won by WVU IEEE chapter president Syihan Muhammad.


Not only did representatives from West Virginia University’s student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers perform extremely well at the Region 2 Student Activities Conference, they earned the right to host it in 2019.

“Our chapter is one of the largest student chapters in IEEE,” said Will Howard, a junior electrical engineering major and WVU Honors College student from Morgantown and who also serves as Pittsburgh Section Student Representative. “Our members are actively involved in events hosted by the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources as well as in volunteer activities in the community. We were one of several schools to submit a proposal to host the event and I believe our experience in planning and hosting outreach events like this gave us an advantage over the other schools.”

The 2019 event is planned for April 5-7.

The 2018 Region 2 event, which was held April 6-7 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attracted more than 300 engineering students from universities in Southern New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington D.C. Students from WVU took top honors in the Women in Engineering outreach and the T-shirt design competitions and finished third in the ethics competition.

The WIE Outreach team – Emma Martin (sophomore, electrical engineering, Honors College, Bel Air, Maryland), Kelly Martin (senior, biometrics and computer science, Honors College, Springfield, Virginia), Umida Nurjanova (senior, computer science, Turkmenistan) and Yasmine Pourarian (junior, computer engineering, Morgantown) – were tasked with putting together an outreach plan that targeted middle school-aged girls and teaches them one aspect of electrical engineering, computer engineering or computer science. In a random drawing, the group got the topic Basics of Programming and were given 90 minutes to construct their outreach and teaching plans.

The team put their recent experience from running Code Name: SWE, which provided hands-on problem solving and coding experience to middle school girls.

“We pulled up Java Environment on screen and typed in front of them while providing easily understood explanations for what we were doing,” said Nurjanova. “To explain classes and objects, we created a class pet and then asked the judges what pet they wanted to create. After choosing a dog and a cat, they wrote functions and methods that printed out ‘woof’ or ‘meow’ when using an if-else statement. Our goal was to simplify the difficult concepts as much as possible while appealing to an eighth grader’s interests.”

Emma Martin noted that the different academic backgrounds of the team members allowed each of them to offer a different perspective to the project.

The T-shirt competition, won by WVU IEEE chapter president Syihan Muhammad, a senior computer science and computer engineering major and Honors College student from Morgantown, featured the official conference logo and the iconic Fort Pitt Bridge. The design was featured on shirts given to all event registrants.

“Since Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges, I decided to include the Fort Pitt Bridge as a complement to the Cathedral of Learning, which was part of the conference logo,” said Muhammad.

The ethics team of Catherine Hines (senior, computer engineering and computer science, Honors College, Short Gap), Sam Talkington (sophomore, electrical engineering, Honors College, Bridgeport) and Jacob Carr (senior, electrical engineering, Flatwoods) were asked to look at the infamous Bay Area Rapid Transit Case. In the late 1960s-early 1970s, three BART engineers who had issues with the high-tech rail systems subcontracted design and construction were concerned about the testing, oversight and documentation that was being provided by Westinghouse. After penning an anonymous internal memo to BART management, which was largely ignored, another memo was sent to the board of directors and was leaked to a local newspaper. An act of whistleblowing, all three were dismissed on grounds of insubordination. They sued BART for $875,000, but were forced to settle out of court for $25,000 each.

“There were multiple ethical situations involved with this scenario including protecting the health and safety of the public and the honesty of claims made by BART’s management,” said Hines. “The transit system did not have a fail-safe, which eventually led to a crash injuring five passengers. These types of ethical issues can be avoided in the future by keeping appropriate documentation, holding companies/individuals accountable for their actions and providing accommodations for whistleblowers.”



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