Third Hand Bike Co-Op

I takes me half an hour to walk to office. Myself, Sid and Aniruddha (living in our apartment, doing Ph.D in chemistry, aka Amit) decided to buy bikes (bicycles are called bikes here).

We went searching for bikes on Monday. Here people use Google Maps extensively to find their way around. The shop we were looking for closed by 6PM. We decided to go on again on Wednesday. We reached back by 4.45PM. We travel mostly in Sid’s car – an awesome Mustang. We went to a shop – ‘Once Ridden Bikes’ in search of refurbished bikes. Most bikes in good shapes costed above 150$ – too much for me to spend for 2 months use.Then we headed to one more shop – it too had considerably costly bikes (yea, even old ones). All bikes here have gears. There was mainly 2 classes – mountain bikes and road bikes. Road bikes have thinner tires and are usually costlier.

Finally we went to a place called Third Hand Bike Co-Op. This place had a lot of peculiarities. It opens only twice a week – wednesdays and thursdays. That too from 6PM to 9PM only. They sell bikes in all price range (starting from 10$) but obviously not all in good condition. The interesting part is that they have a repair workshop. Here biking enthusiasts interested in tweaking with their bike parts can come and work on their bikes. They have lots of stands to mound bikes and all kinds of equipment required to work on bikes – from spanners of all size to instruments for tire alignment. The best part – they have volunteers who come in and help amateurs fix their bike. They go around instructing people and telling people how to go about tweaking things. I was really surprised to see people offering their time and service to unknown people for free. A culture that needs to be appreciated.

I chose a nice bike with a price tag of $50. A very jovial, amicable and knowledgeable person by the name – Tom helped me fix it. I initially noticed only a wobbly seat – dissembled it and put in some washers and bolts to keep it in place. Later I noticed that the bike had apparently sustained a pretty bad accident and the front tire rim was badly mangled. We though of fixing it and later abandoned the plan considering it’s not worth the effort. I got another (used) rim for $10. I never knew the spokes of a bike had this much significance. I came to know that tuning the spokes is sort of an art in itself. We figured out the misaligned part by mounting the rim on the alignment instrument & rotating it. Then we identified spokes to be tightened and loosened – some needs to be turned half a turn whereas some a quarter. Then we changed the tube and tire from the old rim to the new one. Fixed it on the bike. Tightened the brakes. Oiled the chains.I didnt notice the time fly by – after around 3 hours of tweaking I had a sparkling new bike in front of me. I thanked Tom a lot before leaving. Amit also got one. We both got ourselves mountain bikes. Sid couldn’t find one – he wanted a road bike. He ordered one from Amazon the next day – a pretty good one.

Sid left in his car. Myself and Amit rode back home on our bikes. It was a nice ride. The sideways here are designed with bikers in mind. There are inclined places in between where we can board the sideway or get off from it. It doesn’t get dark even around 8.30 -9 here presently (~ like 4.30pm back in Kerala). ThirdHandBikes was quite an experience.

TEC Institute – First day

It’s Saturday morning here. I’ve completed(successfully) my first week of my internship. I intend to write my experiences over a series of short posts. I work with the TEC (Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization) Institute at FCOB (Fisher College of Business).
Day1: I was asked to head down to Mason Hall at 11.30AM on Monday (15th July). I had not yet familiarized myself with OSU campus and was advised to start by 10.30 itself tor each there on time. I was getting ready when the airport authorities called saying that they’ve found my missing luggage and they’ll come around 10.45 AM. I was worried since I didn’t want to be late on my first day. But one thing I came to know later on is that people here make no compromises on punctuality and credibility. Baggage reached on time, I made a run for it and somehow managed to reach room 256, Madison Hall by 11.27AM. #phew

Dr.Michel Camp, Executive Director, TEC Institute and Erica Waite, Program Director, TEC Institute were in the room. I went in (heart beats pumping). They were very friendly – we had a very interesting discussion. I figured that the people here have a hard time figuring out how to pronounce my first name (Rahul) and mostly give up on my second name even before trying (Raveendranath). We talked about my profile, academic background, interest in entrepreneurship, the general technology & entrepreneurial landscape of Kerala (which is of course being defined by Startup Village)  &  of India. They made me sign an agreement similar to an NDA and one which entitles TEC ownership of any ideas I may conceive during my tenure here. Then they explained the idea behind and functioning of TEC.

They are TEC Institute and TEC Academy. TEC Academy has various academic courses related to entrepreneurship – syllabus mostly designed by Dr.Camp himself. TEC Institute is where I work – it’s sort of a consulting service that provide expert analytic services (market survey, competitive analysis etc) for startups in various stages. Also, Dr. Camp is very resourceful and his networking assistance is also an added highlight. So TEC works on a lot of proprietary and confidential data which is why I had to sign the NDA. Erica also explained to me that I’ll be working on multiple projects over my internship. Since I had an IT background, they also asked me whether I’d me interested in working on a project on symantic web and ontologies – which I was very glad to do. I was handed me over a lot of resources to read through for my first assignment (an IT one) – to figure out usability improvements for a custom made project management solution for TEC.

One of the interesting questions Dr.Camp asked me was regarding my future plans in case I chose to pursue entrepreneurship – whether I’ll be interested in entrepreneurship opportunities in the US or back in India. I expressed my interest in exploring the opportunities back in India. I said that I feel there are large gaps in the socio-economic conditions of India (wrt western countries) – gaps which can be filled to an extend by leveraging  technology properly; and that I feel I have a personal obligation to give back to my country & community – contribute to its economic development as much as I can. The fact that my high school education(Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya) and college education(CET) was mostly funded by the government could be a reason I guess.

Afterwards, Erica showed me around the office and assigned a workspace & desktop for working. There were two other analysts working with TEC this summer – Karthik and Ajlouni, Burouj (from Jordan). I interacted with them. The rest of the first day was spend going through the documents I was given. I left the office at around 6PM. I’ve some photos of the office.


My experience with Startup Village

My experience with Startup Village

I’d missed sharing this in my blog. so here it goes.

Note: The link seems to be broken after Startup Village migrated their blog to a new website. I’m posting below a draft copy of the article I had with me.


 

Since its inception in April 2012, I’ve been to Startup Village many times. Each visit has been equally memorable and inspiring and probably has impacted my life more than anything else so far.

I got my first real taste of coding and hacker culture during my SV funded visit to Bangalore for 55444 hackathon in July 2012. The first time I visited SV was with 8 of my college friends for a week long android training workshop, during our onam vacations of 2012. The excellent training by Mr. Zacharias (our dear Zac) and helped us start off on our mobile app development trail. Our stay was provisioned at Kerala Institute for Entrepreneurship Development (KIED).

The week-long stint at SV was marked by another memorable incident. The initial pitch for my first college startup happened then. Our startup ‘Hedcet’ was at its infancy then. I remember entering Sijo’s room with my laptop to demo the initial prototype of our product ‘campusLAN’, a campus ERP solution. The few minutes of talk was thought provoking and insightful. Sijo immediately connected us with many of his contacts exploring the same domain as ours. An important lesson learned that day was that its not just the quality of the product that matters, but making our customers aware of the need for such a product was equally if not more important. We got virtually incubated at SV then.  Presently. our the team of 5 has expanded to 14, we launched campusLAN as ‘Beehive’ at Oracle-SV MoU signing event. HedCet got listed among the top 5 student startups in SV. We even got the opportunity to meet and discuss our project ideas with Kris Gopalakrishnan (Chief of Advisory Board), who mentors startups at SV. He has agreed to be the first customer for our next product ‘TinyMail’ which is under development.

Since the 55444 Hackathon, I’ve never missed a hackathon if possible. Even more importantly, I’ve never missed a chance to visit SV whenever I am at Ernakulam. We readied our next major product ‘Medicol’, an appointment scheduling system for doctors by pulling an all nighter at SV. Another project by myself and my classmates, ‘SMS based vehicle locating system’ got virtually incubated at SV. We were also able to start a commercial venture called DialBlood (http://dialblood.com/) around another project ‘Automated Bloodbank management system’ with the guidance from Sijo as well as technical support from Mobme (the inspirational student startup from CET).

One other key take away from my visits to SV is the chance to interact with the startups incubated there. It is easy for anyone to come up with startup ideas. But these people there have actually taken the bold decision to pursue their dreams and make their ideas a reality. Talks with founders of Wowmakers, Verbicio, Exam Voice, Mashinga, RHL Vision, DhaneW Research, Profoundis, MindTree etc not to mention Mobme has helped me realize how it actually feels to work in a startup environment. Conversations are filled with gems of advice that only first hand experience can give. This itself makes the trip to SV worthwhile.

As much as I realise that my journey has just begun and that there is a lot more to be seen, explored and experienced, I cannot even imagine how my life would have been if it were not for SV. I consider myself lucky that Startup Village came into being at the same time as my college tenure. SV has numerous programs for students interested in startups. The recent SVSquare program and Fisher Collge of Business Internship program etc are a few examples of the initiatives that are offered. The 20% attendance scheme for student entrepreneurs pioneered by SV is also a huge relief for many students in Kerala. A chance for them to pursue their dreams.

Looking forward to lots of further fruitful associations with SV.

The internship with Fisher College of Business

Things happened really quick. I’ll try to quickly setup the background.

I am presently in Columbus, Ohio, USA for a 2 month internship with Fisher College Of Business, Ohio State University. All thanks to Startup Village & Labx foundation. My internship here is a part of their novel initiative to give exposure to latest developments in business/research areas to students from Indian colleges (ones which are not as lucky as IITs/NITs in terms of exposure). I got this opportunity after going through a series of online interviews (google Hangouts) conducted by Lab-X and a final discussion with Dr. Michel Camp, the Executive Director at Centre for Entrepreneurship, Fisher COB. The support and guidance given by team Lab-X – Mr. Ketan Dande, Miss. Sampreeti, Chris Gary for my interview preparations was really great. They even found time to do two rounds of mock interviews for me before the final one with Dr.Camp. I really hope to make the most of this opportunity. I plan to take back a lot of experiences to share with my friends and hope to encourage more fellow students to step up and take initiatives.

Everything fell into place as destiny would have it. My internship with Amazon ended on July 5th. I had my 6th semester lab exams on 11th & 12th of July. I started for Columbus on 13th July morning 4 am. The journey was memorable. It took around 30 hours in total.  I met a lot of knowledgeable people during the flight and at the airports. It was a connecting flight from Etihad airlines via Abu Dhabi till New York. From there, I had to manually recheck my luggage and board an American Airlines flight to Columbus.

I reached Columbus by around 10PM on 13th July US time. Speaking of which, USA has 5 timezones. The one here lags the Indian time by around 9.30 hours. First surprise here – my luggage didn’t come through. Luckily, I had all my money and documents in my backpack. Not so luckily, I had none of my clothes or other essentials with me. I immediately registered a complaint with the Baggage Customer Service. They said it might probably be held up in Customs check @New York and that I can expect it in the next couple of days. Lesson learned – always carry your essentials and a pair of clothing on your backpack. Siddharth Mulay, a friend of Ketan and a PhD. student at OSU in Control Systems came to pick me up. He lives with another PhD. student and a software engineer. I too am presently living with them.

After reaching home, Siddharth took me out for dinner. Then we went straight down to Walmart – the biggest retailer chain here. Its open 24×7. I had to buy some basic clothing. We finished around 1.30 AM. I was asked to get a proper sleep so as to reset my biological clock. The next day was also mostly relaxing and getting acclimatized. Sid took me for a walk around the campus – or at-least a portion of it. The OSU campus is very big. It has a lot of world class amenities too – including the largest campus gym in the US and a very extensive library.

I’ll let some photos I took do the rest of the talking.

Amazon Internship – Takeaways

I finished my 2 month internship with Amazon on the 5th of July. I was able to complete the coding part of the project assigned to me but the testing & deployment phase took longer than anticipated. So I spend the last week doing knowledge transfer sessions to a new hire to take over the project. The fact that I couldn’t see my code reach production was slightly disappointing but hopefully it will be in use by this month end. 🙂

Let me straight away get down to how the experience at Amazon has impacted me.

  • Industry standard programming methods and paradigms

I was able to understand and see top class programming practices in action (related to Java & more general ones). These include coding conventions to use of interfaces, hibernate, factory patterns, logging mechanisms etc. I was also able to understand how important planning is to the timely completion of projects – sprint plannings, daily scrums etc. Each code goes through thorough peer review process after which it gets a ‘Ship It’. Amazon also had home made building and deployment tools as well as systems for version management, RESTful web services etc.

  • Effective use of data structures

Each design decision was carefully taken – the bigger ones were taking over series of meetings, consulting with UI designers, principal engineers, senior developers etc whereas even the smallest ones are made with much forward thinking – the efficiency of chosen data structure in terms of time & space complexities, relevance to the use case etc are considered. Hash Maps, Hash Sets, Array Lists etc were put to regular use.

  • Testing frameworks

I was totally new to software testing. At Amazon, I had to write test cases for each change that I made and thus got the opportunity to extensively use JUnit testing, DBUnit testing and the concepts of mocking classes using EasyMock, PowerMock etc.

  • Familiarisation with AWS – SQS, EC2 etc.

Our team was making the transition from other platforms to AWS for most purposes. Thus I got to see how the various services are put to use.

  • High level understanding of various interesting programming fields – distributed computing, machine learning etc

Our team used to have a weekly technical speaking session – anyone could take a session on upcoming technologies. I was able to know about Apache Hadoop for big data processing, R for machine learning etc. These sessions were really informative and interesting.

  • Lots of fun time and good memories 🙂

I was lucky to be part of an awesome team. Everyone was really good at what they do and were also really fun people to hang out with. There was a lot to get done in the last two weeks – I had to stay late at the office. Once I remember leaving office at 5am only to return by 9am again. But it was fun. There was also the Amazon Global Intern Hackathon which as a 24 hour hackathon for interns across the globe. We were given a real life challenge and asked to come up with efficient solutions. I had missed the registration for the event but I joined a team (interns had to form teams of 5 for the hack) simply to see them work on it – Team ThinkOutOfTheBox. It was an awesome experience – their team had got internship at Amazon after topping the Amazon Ninja Coding contest conducted all over India, so yea pretty much a mean team. 🙂

Our team (the actual project team) always had lunch together – with interesting discussions. Also, on Fridays we used to order lunch from outside – pizzas at times. 🙂  We had a team outing the day before I left – very memorable. We went out for bowling, dinner etc and partied hard that night. I ended up sleeping at a team mates place since we were really late.

To sum up, after the internship Amazon’s motto makes perfect sense to me:

Work Hard. Have fun. Make history

Entrepreneurship – Success and Passion

“When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it” – Paulo Coelho

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Couldn’t be more true.

Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity meet and interact with lot of people considered ‘successful’ by the society, mostly from the entrepreneurship domain. I have also done extensive research on the lives of many successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Brandson etc trying to understand what sets them apart from the rest. Most were pioneers in their fields. There were also cases of leaders disrupting existing domains. No matter how and where they succeed, a single thing that unifies these people is their passion for what they do.

Doing things for a reason works, but only to an extend. Some reasons that drive normal people – money, acknowledgement, fame, respect from peers, possibility of career upliftment etc. When your actions are driven by a reason, it puts an upper cap on the extend you are willing to push your limits.

A piece of inspirational talk by Steve Jobs puts things in perspective-

You need a lot of passion for what you’re doing because its so hard. Without passion, any rational person would give up. So if youre not having fun doing it, if you dont absolutely love it, youre going to give up.And thats what happens to most people, actually.If you look at the ones that ended up being successful in the eyes of society, often times its the ones who love what they do, so they could persevere when it got really tough.And the ones that didnt love it, quit. Because theyre sane, right? Who would put up with this stuff if you dont love it?So its a lot of hard work and its a lot of worrying constantly.If you dont love it, youre going to fail.

Amazon Internship – continuation (1st month)

All new SDE hires have to go through a series of SDE Bootcamp sessions to understand the development processes here. Basically, Amazon has custom systems for all phases of development including building and deploying. Startling statistics such that Amazon deploys a server every 11 seconds on average made it clear than safe deployment was one of the major concerns here. Two sessions – First Code Change and First Bug Fix were taken on day2. I got to meet a lot of other new joins from various teams.

I was unable to do hands on practice during the sessions because my desktop was new and the RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux) virtual machines that we required for training were under provisioning. The amazon internal wiki (w.amazon.com) has an awesome collection of documentation on all the systems and also detailed step-by-step instructions on completing the Bootcamp. In the later days, I completed all 4 sessions.

On Wednesday, I was given an intro on the project I’ll be working on my teammate Vijayakumar Dinesh.  Our office has lots of conference rooms – series named after Indian rivers (Ganga, Krishna, Kaveri etc), series named after our leaders (Chandragupta, Sivaji etc), series named after planets and so on. We can book them for various meetings. So after such a meeting with Dinesh for my briefing, we were both surprised to see our manager waiting with another person outside. Amith informed me that there were slight change of plans (#scop) and that I’ll be working with the Transit-time systems team from now on.

So I said goodbye to my first teammates and headed for the new location. I got a cubicle with the team itself: 2B3 – 373. TTS was a team of 8 members (including me) and had 2 other interns – Ankit from VIT and Giridar Pasumatri from BITS. They were 6 month interns and were already in their 4th month. I was taken for a tea time chat by Mahadev Vagvala – our lead developer (SDE level2).  I was given a high level overview of our system – basically we have a predication engine that calculates possible transit times for delivering packages to different zip codes in a country  for different ship methods etc. I was assigned a mentor –Miss Tanvi. She has been very helpful so far and guides me with directions on how to proceed.

Fast forward to May: I’ve been at Amazon for one month now. It’s been a wonderful rollercoaster ride. I was able to learn a lot from truly talented programmers. Got a chance to see and experience the high level OOP concepts that we learn at college in action. Hash maps, Hash sets, Interfaces, Caching, massive DB queries.. a lot of cool stuff are in daily use here. And also, ours is a very jovial team. We have something special every Friday – team outings, ordering lunches (pizzas) etc. At Amazon, employee progress is tracked using Scrum procedure. Our manager reviews our progress everyday, checks whether we are blocked by any problem, resolves it and keeps us on track. I have made good progress with my tasks so far. I’m hoping to deliver the project on time.

My first day at Amazon

Note: I joined Amazon as a SDE (Software Development Engg.) Intern on April 8th 2013. I wanted to jolt down my daily experience (atleast the imp. parts) in this blog. But due to certain circumstances, it didn’t happen. Right now I’m heading to office for my second week (in a cab, morning 8am). It takes 1 hour to reach there. So I guess it’s now or never.

I reached Hyderabad on the 7th of April. The journey itself was memorable. The transportation was arranged by the travel desk at Amazon. I was provided with a connecting flight from Trivandrum (domestic) to Hyderabad via Bombay. There was a cab waiting for me at the airport. We drove to Redfox, a splendid 3star hotel in Hitech city.

Day1: In the first day at Amazon, all new hires are taken through a process called NHO- New Hire Orientation. There were about ten new hires for the session out of which I was the only intern. There were engineers with 13, 14 years of experience working in companies like Dell, Microsoft etc.

The NHO consisted of a series of sessions, talks, videos etc. where we were made to understand the guiding philosophies of Amazon. It all stems out of a basic principle: Customer Obsession. We at Amazon are expected to start everything from the customer perspective and think backwards. There are a set of Leadership Principles that are to be infused in the blood of every Amazonian.

I was very much inspired by the commencement speech Jeff Bezoss delivered at Princeton College. It talks about the different choices and options that we have. The best I’ve heard after Steve Jobs’s Standford commencement.

We were also familiarized with how the various departments such as facilities, transportation etc. worked here. At the end of the day, various housekeeping procedures such as taking photo for id card (which is crucial for moving around here), opening salary bank account, signing of appointment letter etc. happened.

At the end, we were directed to our team managers where they are expected to formally (that term is used loosely at Amazon) introduce us to our teams. I was informed that my manager was Mr.Shivakumar and I’ll be working with the transportation and matrices team. I later came to know that Siva was at banglore on business and that he was sort of a senior manager and manages a lot of teams. I called him up and he made arrangements for Mr.Amith to come and pick me up.  Amith was to be my new manager.

Amith took me to the team- Network Intelligence (earlier known as Transportation Central). They didn’t have a cubicle for me near the team – so I was allotted one at a bit far off place. I was provided with a new Thinkpad T430 laptop and some cool goodies. I filed a ticket for getting a new workstation and within an hour a desktop with 24’ monitor, i5 processor, 8GB RAM etc was set up in my cubicle.

The office at Amazon requires a special mention. It is so expansive that I literally got lost a few times the first day. It had world class amenities including cafeteria, breakout room, food court etc.

I also met Smita chechi at the cafeteria. She was my senior at college and has been working at Amazon for the past one year. She told me a lot about the work culture here and what I could expect.

Redfox corridors were filled with hilarious fox art.
Redfox corridors were filled with hilarious fox art.
The IT team setting up my desktop.
The IT team setting up my desktop.
Breakout room
Breakout room

I had a dedicated cab for the first week. The driver was a very friendly person – I call him Khab Shab. (his name was Mr. smObscureWord khan). So I called him up and returned to my room by about 7pm. That was all for the first day.

P.S. Got dizzy typing. Ignore the typos. Tried to keep it brief but seems to have become a long rant. I’d try to post the remaining week as a shorter version sometime soon.

DialBlood

Now we are onto something.. something BIG, hopefully. Our bloodbank database management project has managed to attract some initial stage angel funding. We have launched our phase 1 beta version at DialBlood. We have been provided with SMS packs and a Asterisk pre-configured server to create our first working prototype. 

Presently working on configuring the same. We have been given access to the remote server via SSL. This offers some interesting yet initially difficult challenges. Learning to use the CLI (Command Line Interface) of the various tools involved. Learning call file generation and Asterisk Manager Interface coding using phpagi-agmanager library.

Hope to get the system in place within the next 2 weeks.

In the meanwhile, interested people can check out a softphone demonstration of our initial sytem (present one slightly modified) here:

 

 

My experience at IEEE GHTC 2012

I am presently doing my third year B-tech in Computer Science from College Of Engineering, Trivandrum. I recently got the opportunity to attend the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference held at Seattle, USA.

IEEE stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It is considered the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. The organization serves as a major publisher of scientific journals and organizer of conferences, workshops, and symposia. It is also a leading standards development organization for the development of industrial standards (having developed over 900 active industry technical standards) in a broad range of disciplines, including electric power and energy, information technology, telecommunications, consumer electronics, aerospace, and nanotechnology. The motto of the organization being “Advancing Technology for Humanity”, it organizes a Global Humanitarian Technology Conference every year. The key idea of the conference is to discuss humanitarian aspects of engineering, promote projects on social welfare, present and publish technical papers on humanitarian grounds and meet up with like minded engineers from around the world.

Most engineering colleges have IEEE student branches where student members meet up, conduct workshops, talks and other technical events. The IEEE Student Branch of my college had initiated a project – “Automated Online Bloodbank Database Management “with technical support from IEEE Kerala Section, last year. The idea was to make the process of finding a blood donor from nearby locality easier and faster. We created a system consisting of a real-time updated database of donors and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system wherein someone in urgent need of blood can call up a pre-determined number and enter his required blood group and pin code. Our system will find the most eligible donor based on these criteria and route the call to the prospective donor directly. Myself and 3 seniors of our college had written a technical paper on the project and submitted for GHTC 2012. It got selected among the top 5 papers globally for the Student Paper Contest.

I attended the conference which was held from Oct 20 to 24th on behalf of our team. The flight was via Dubai international airport and took a total of about 21 hours. I was accompanied by Kiran RajMohan, presently doing second year B-Tech in Electronics and Communication in our college and Jery Althaf, presently a fellow at Young India Fellowship program who is also our college alumni. Kiran’s poster on ‘Automobile Safety Using Smartphones’ was selected among top 5 for the student poster contest and Jery was presenting a paper on ‘Low Cost Rural Electrification Using Solar Energy’. The journey was pleasant. Our travel expenses were funded by IEEE. The conference was held at Hotel Renaissance, where our stay was also arranged by IEEE. The time zone at Seattle is 12.30 hours behind that of ours.

The conference was formally flagged off with a reception and dinner party on Oct 20th evening. From 21st onwards, there were 4 parallel tracks where more than 200 papers were presented on topics ranging from Energy, Disaster, Water & Agriculture, Connectivity and Communication etc. Each day began with a Plenary by personalities like Krista Bauer, Director for Global Programs for GE Foundation etc. This was followed by a panel discussion on crucial topics chaired by eminent personalities from UNESCO, UN Sustainable Energy 4 All (SE4ALL) etc. Attendees were given the opportunity to raise their questions at the end of each session. We were lucky to have Mr. Satish Babu, Chair of IEEE Kerala Section and Director for International Centre for Free & Open Source Software (ICFOSS) and Mr. Amarnath Raj, Chair IEEE SIGHT and CEO of InApp from Kerala at the conference. The three of us went out for local sight seeing with them on OCt 20th. Kiran had to put up his poster and explain it to interested attendees during each break. His contest also had a public voting component for final evaluation.The remaining two of us stayed back helping him with promotion at times and also went about attending interesting sessions and meeting new people.

On 23rd evening, both Kiran and myself presented our poster and paper resp. Afterwards, we headed out to attend the Hoover Medal Award Ceremony whose recipient this year was Shri. N.R. Narayana Murthy (co-founder of Infosys). The event was held at the topmost floor (76th) of Columbia Tower Club, the tallest building in pacific northwest North America. The view of Seattle from there was a sight to behold. We also got an opportunity to congratulate Mr. Murty and acquaint with many eminent personalities.
After the event, we met up with students of different countries including US, Japan, Jamaica, Indonasia etc and decided to hangout together. So later on, we all met up in my room where we discussed ideas, future plans, experiences etc and also watched a movie. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with like minded engineers from around the world.

On 24th morning Jery presented his paper. It was live-streamed through GHTC website. Afterwards we got out for local sight seeing. We bought Seattle city passes which entitled us to visit 6 of the city’s popular attractions which are the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Museum, EMP museum, The Museum Of Flight and the harbour. We managed to visit 3 of these on 24th before returning to the hotel to attend the closing plenary and award ceremony. I was able to secure second position for the student paper contest. The first position was bagged by Mr. Eobin George, who is also from India (IISc, Bangalore) for his paper on “Disaster Surveillance using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”. We managed to visit 2 more locations on 25th before heading to the airport and coming back.

The key take backs from my trip was the opportunity to get to know like minded engineers from different parts of the world. I hope to follow up and collaborate with at least some of them in the future. Also, there was lot to learn from a cultural perspective. Most importantly, everyone is very polite there. Standing in an elevator or queue, one will be baffled by the courtesy with which everyone greets each other and interacts. Cleanliness and hygiene also seem very important to them, quite evident from the way even the streets are maintained. I look forward to sharing this experience with my college mates and hopefully enable more of them to participate in such conferences in the future.

I am very grateful to my co-authors, IEEE kerala section, MobMe (a telecom company based in Kochi who provided technical assistance), my family and friends for supporting and motivating me throughout the whole period. Last but not the least, I am thankful to Navodaya (my school) for moulding me and inculcating the confidence and values required to take such tasks head-on.

More details about the conference can be found at:
http://www.ieeeghtc.org/
http://ieeeghtc.wordpress.com/

More photos taken during the visit can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.434548929928378.105674.100001198237798&type=1&l=a66cbcc937

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