Rising Stars at Rising Stars


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Elsewhere in this issue, we’ve discussed the IEEE Rising Stars Conference, its origins, and the scheduled training and events. One key takeaway was the pace of the event: fast, high-energy, and whirling—just as you’d expect from young people somewhere in the transition from teenager to adult. If their individual excitement about attending was like a photon of light energy, then over the course of the weekend, those photons aligned and collimated just as they would inside a laser chamber, resulting in a unified power and energy in the conference as everyone fell into phase with each other.

That’s what ended up happening with an ad hoc panel interview I put together toward the end of the event. I had intended to sit down at a table in the main ballroom with seven students to hear their perspectives on Rising Stars, but that isn’t exactly how it played out.

Nolan Johnson: I’m here at the IEEE Rising Stars Conference, sitting around a table with a group of attendees to get some feedback on their experiences. First, could you each tell me where you go to school and what you’re studying, and if you’re not in school, what you’re doing?

Justus Engstrom: I go to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and I’m studying electrical engineering.

Joe Sandoval: I study electrical engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.

Anthony Salazar: I go to New Mexico Tech and am studying electrical engineering.

Eric Bressinger: I’m studying electrical engineering and music at Santa Clara University.

Stone Wilkes: I’m also at New Mexico Tech studying electrical engineering.

Simon Gebrai: I’m studying electrical engineering at Santa Clara University.

Gregorio Valdivia: I’m actually a young professional. I’m a technical specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is a public assistance division.

Nolan: How did you find out about Rising Stars, and what were your objectives when you came to this conference?

Justus: I heard about this through our local professional IEEE chapter when they recommended it to us. My goal is personal and professional development through networking workshops and other educational materials.

Anthony: I heard about this through our IEEE chapter too. Some seniors had gone to this conference, and I thought it would be a cool one to attend. I’m really hoping to get networking connections from people in the industry that I could talk to later in life.

Eric: I heard about this through my school’s IEEE chapter, and I came to learn about emerging technologies.

Stone: I learned about Rising Stars through my local IEEE Chapter, and I came here for networking, professional development, and staying up to date with new technologies.

Simon: I learned about it through the IEEE president at my local chapter.

Gregorio: My objective is to find a third speaker for a committee event…

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Unfortunately, this is as far as we got with the conversation before another activity was announced and the group politely scattered. Gregorio, the young professional now working for the U.S. government, was unable to finish his thought. While I had been hoping for more details on their individual experiences, it was very clear that each one of these students was fully immersed in the conference agenda. They all had other things to learn and master—no time for a reporter!

However, the group did come back together for a short while, and we talked as much as time allowed. As we regrouped, I had Anthony, Stone, Simon, and Gregorio in the conversation.

Nolan: Picking up where we left off, did you achieve your objective here this weekend? And what’s something that you’re going to take immediately back to implement at your school or workplace?

Anthony: I definitely achieved what I wanted to do. I was looking for networking contacts and people to talk to, and it was amazing to meet all of the people here. I talked to someone named Lorenzo, and he gave me his contact information. He said even if it wasn’t immediate, I could still contact him in two or three years when I’m ready to get into radar engineering, which is what I was looking for; I hope that will come to fruition in the future and help me out. I also want to bring back a lot of the knowledge I gained from the workshops. They had radar and 5G people to talk with, which is something that we don’t necessarily talk about at my school; I think that’s something I can translate to other students that weren’t able to make it to this conference.

Stone: I achieved my objective this weekend too. I learned a lot about new technologies that I can continue to research. In the future, I can explore these technologies when I look into various companies where I might want to work at or different research opportunities for academics.

Simon: I would say I achieved my goal, which was trying to learn from the workshops and find a few networking opportunities as well. I learned a lot from the resume workshop and learned some interview tips, which I think I’m going to use very soon.

Nolan: And what can you take back to campus right away?

Simon: We networked with one of the blockchain presenters. From that, we’re going to set up a blockchain night at our school and have a speaker from one of the panels come to the campus in Santa Clara to do a presentation with IEEE, so that’s what we’re going to take back.

Nolan: Awesome. How about you, Gregorio? You were interrupted last time.

Gregorio: My goal was to find a speaker. Our group is a local committee for metropolitan Los Angeles. We submitted a proposal for two speakers; I was trying to find a third speaker, and I did, so I was also able to make contacts. I’m also trying to grow my professional network.

To read the full article, which appeared in the April 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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