IRVINE, CA- The lobby of the student center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) campus was bursting with high decibels of energy as students with badges and men in suits rushed to get things going. This was a precursor to the 29th National Convention of The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI)
Hari Bindal, who was seen walking through the convention with great pride, founded ASEI in 1983. Five visionaries, Paul Sikand, Darsh Aggarwal, Jay Patel, Ravi Kahandel and Sham Hariram founded the SoCal chapter in 2004. The SoCal Chapter completed 10 years at this convention and Sikand received the award in recognition of his efforts.
“We are committed to facilitate the growth of the next generation of engineers and scientists in this country by using the STEM initiative launched by President Obama” said Subba Gopavarupu, ASEI Chairman. True to his words, the convention was divided into four tracks: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM); Bio-Medical Devices and Life Sciences; Disruptive Technologies and Emerging Trends in Engineering. Kupp Sridhar, Chairman of the convention said the STEM theme arose with the intent to bring back science and technology to the US and revive the faith in manufacturing which currently resides in other countries.
There was an impressive list of seven keynote speakers and about 50 other speakers in all the tracks. What stood out was the diversity in ethnic backgrounds of the experts that added value to the ethnic gathering.
Dr. Greg Hyslop, Vice President and General Manager of Boeing Research & Technology seemed impressed with the inspiring stories of the young talent displayed and the sacrifices that their families made to help them get there.
Eugene Chi, GM, Microsoft weighed in on the value that ASEI adds to the industry. “People here bond over not just the professional accomplishments but also commonality in cultural nuances which helps glue them together,” he said.
Vivian Shimoyama of Goldman Sachs was excited at the prospect of assisting small businesses that a convention of this size would bring. Sridhar also pointed out to the blended nature of engineering and technology and how today it is no more just a technical field as it used to be. Various fields have integrated and given rise to a vast expanse of opportunities.
Through Mentor Connect, ASEI offers sharing of talents and leadership development with fellow members- Venu Sarakki, a mentor with ASEI has won several awards in the efforts to enhance border security between the US and Mexico and also represented small businesses to the White House in July to present to President Obama.
Another highlight of the event was the emergence of women in the engineering and science fields. There was Richa Nand of Cytori Therapeutics;Deeksha Sheth and Kerry Hamilton of Drexel University;Tamika Lang of Boeing and Poorima Vijayashanker an engineer turned entrepreneur. The banquet was even more packed with the spouses and families coming together to celebrate. A comic touch to the banquet was well presented by Rave Mehta, an engineer, artist, musician and best selling author of the non-fiction graphic novel ‘Tesla’. The presentation once again left the audience in awe of the presenter and his story of Nikola Tesla.
A philanthropic initiative called ‘Project Udaan’ left some in the audience in tears. Piyush Malik of IBM was talking of this path breaking effort to create a safe haven for children of Indian sex workers and bringing them back to the mainstream of society. The pilot project will begin in Sonagachi – the address of the prostitutes of Kolkata.
Chairman Subba emphasized the importance of giving back to the community. “ASEI is not just about engineering, it is also about rewarding those that have excelled, encouraging those that have the initiative and talent and most important lending our resources for philanthropic initiatives too.”
The award ceremony continued with cheers for the winners and entertainment by the Diamond Bar Bhangra group performing their magical moves. Nine-year-old Vardaan played the violin and mesmerized the audience as they enjoyed a sumptuous dinner.