ECE students participate in Congressional Visits Day
Gabrielle Irvin, ECE ILLINOIS
- Four ECE students recently attended the Science, Engineering, and Technology Congressional Visits Day (SETCVD).
- The students met with representatives of their districts of residency to discuss the importance of funding research and education for science, engineering, and technical fields.
- This was the first year that the University of Illinois participated in SETCVD.
Four ECE students recently attended the Science, Engineering, and Technology Congressional Visits Day (SETCVD), an annual two-day event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington D.C. to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.
Gloria See, PhD student in electrical engineering and former industry professional, participated in SETCVD when she worked at BAE Systems, a multinational defense, security, and aerospace company.
“It was an opportunity that the professional IEEE section brought up, and it sounded like an interesting chance to see how technology and politics interact,” See said. “When I went, there were few students and young professionals. While I do think senior and retired engineers are a powerful demographic to speak on behalf of engineering and science, it’s important to have student engagement, especially if you’re talking about engineering education, because the people who are experiencing it firsthand are the students.”
The lack of student involvement encouraged her to collaborate with the Illinois student chapter of IEEE in order to provide students the opportunity to participate in SETCVD. See created a formal application and interview process, and ECE undergraduates Alex Hsu, Anthony Shvets, and James Su were selected to attend the event.
“College is a place for growth, and it’s a place to develop beyond what you’re accustomed to – I thought that this trip fit very well with that,” Su said. “It was an opportunity for me to go outside my comfort zone, because talking in that political climate, which I am not experienced with, is very intimidating.”
The students first participated in briefings with IEEE-USA members and industry attendees to prepare discussion points and topics that they needed to address with congressional representatives. They then separated to meet with representatives of their districts of residency to discuss the importance of funding research and education for science, engineering, and technical fields (See and Shvets met with Illinois representatives, Hsu met with California representatives, and Su met with Maryland representatives).
“A lack of funding cuts our futures away,” Hsu said. “It’s a loop – companies don’t want us because we don’t have experience, and we don’t have experience because we don’t have research opportunities due to a lack of funding. It’s from funding and research opportunities that we get technical experience. It’s funding and research that give us real world application – that was the main issue.”
Many congressional members and representatives do not have a scientific background, and it’s important for students to communicate the importance of engineering research and education to individuals outside the field.
“It’s important for the representatives on the Hill to know that young people are aware and interested in these issues, and that they are being actively impacted by them,” See said.
Qualcomm, IEEE-USA, and the IEEE student chapter helped fund the trip, however the students incurred some costs. This was the first year that the U of I participated in SETCVD, and See hopes to generate enough momentum to make Illinois students regular attendees at the event.
“Our presence there was sort of a stepping stone,” Su said. “I think that the more people we have there, the more it would create an even bigger impact. I think that the more people in general is great, and to diversify that with a student body? It can only help.”