IEEE ComSoc Toronto Chapter: Winner of the 2018 Chapter Achievement Award

By Eman Hammad - Toronto Chapter Chair, Canada

Toronto is one of the largest and busiest cities in North America that continues to grow. The city is home to some of the best universities in Canada and world-class researchers in many fields, including the godfather of machine learning and neural networks: Geoffrey Hinton. Toronto is increasingly featured as a target for technology investments and technical talent recruitment. The technical skills and industrial diversity in Toronto challenges us every year at the chapter to design and present programs that bring value to the general membership. The University of Toronto is one of the main hubs for the Communication Society Chapter activities due to its strategic location, its active membership and the support of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and faculty. The Chapter continues to work closely with Ryerson University and our amazing supporter Prof. Xavier Fernando (previous Chapter Chair).

The Toronto Communication Society Chapter vision is focused on establishing venues for its membership’s continuous development and on promoting connections between academic and industrial professionals. To help realize this vision we collaborated with other chapters and committees including the Toronto Industrial Relations committee led by Hugo Sanchez- Reategui at the time (2017-2018) and the Ryerson University Student branch. Further, the chapter had strong support from the IEEE Toronto leadership team and collaborated with neighboring Communication Society Chapters in the region.

The chapter’s activities can be grouped into four categories: technical seminars and distinguished lectures, hands-on workshops and tutorials, socials, and industrial facility tours. To help cover the expenses of the different activities, the chapter applied to and received the Communication Society membership development grant. This is in addition to the chapter base funding received from the Communication Society, the distinguished lecture program and local IEEE Toronto Section support.

The diverse collection of activities proved to be attractive to our professional membership as well as our academic membership. Activities brought into view innovation and practical aspects and provided a positive environment for learning and development. The best testament I heard was from a member during the technical/social event who said: “I have been a ComSoc member for years, but this is the first event I attended and I really enjoyed it. Thank you!”. The technical/social event embodied our vision and set the stage for the year under the title “Innovations in Communications.” The event featured three short technical talks from an industrial research company, a wireless service provider, and an applied researcher from the University of Toronto, Prof. Albert Leon-Garcia. A networking dinner followed the talks.

Hands-on workshops were well attended and received. The events attracted individuals from across many industries and academics interacting among each other and with the facilitator(s). The IBM IoT Watson platform workshop walked participants through the platform and supported them by building a complete simulation scenario. IBM generously provided participants with six-month trial licenses. The two-day Cybersecurity of the Digital Substation workshop in partnership with Schweitzer and University of Toronto Electrical and Computer Engineering Department was another successful event that mostly attracted professionals from Toronto’s power sector. Schweitzer facilitators provided a balance of theoretical and practical content, and worked with the participants using the Schweitzer lab equipment. We continued our technical seminars and distinguished lectures that were distributed between the main to universities in downtown Toronto. The chapter also organized industrial site tours in collaboration with the industrial relations committee.

The highlight of the IEEE Toronto Communication Society Chapter achievements is “collaboration,” and this is why we would like to dedicate the 2018 Chapter Achievement Award to chapter membership, connections and supporters. We also would like to express our gratitude to the IEEE Communication Society, which provided us with support, tools and expertise to develop and improve our local membership experience. For the coming years, our objectives are to continue to invest in industrial partnerships and to establish collaborations with Student branches and Women in engineering chapters. We will be launching our activities at York University, and we are looking forward to engage with the Communication Society for more membership development focused programs. We are committed to the IEEE Communication Society’s mission: to advance communications and networking technology for the betterment of humanity.