MEC.conf — the experience unfolded

How three months of planning lead to three memorable days.

It all began when Devdutt came out of the blue and said “We need to keep a conference!”

It had a lot of opposition but he held is ground and convinced us to take all risks to pull this off. Looking back, I am grateful that he did because it redefined the learning experience for students — especially the new entrants of our college.

We faced a lot of challenges — ranging from finances to coordination. There was a constant internal battle to come to consensus but it was all worth it in the end for we delivered a memorable experience for all.

Attached below is the report for the same.

Model Engineering College

MEC.conf was organized by the students of Govt. Model Engineering College, Ernakulam. The event began with the introduction of the Developer Community and the conference format on Friday morning, 9 AM at the Amphitheatre of the Integrated Startup Centre, KTIZ, Kalamassery. The inaugural ceremony was attended by Mrs.Vineetha KV, IEEE MEC SB Councillor, who gave her best wishes to the event coordinators as well as the community members. The conference began with the first sessions at 10 AM.

There were two workshops conducted in parallel — Introduction to recommendation engines by Mr. Shahul E S and Cyber Forensics by Mr. Abhiram Kumar, a CFP entrant from b10s at Amrita Institute, Kollam. The sessions were four hours long and covered the respective subjects extensively.

For Friday evening, two CFP entrants spoke in serial sessions. Mr. Subin Siby spoke about localization while Mr. Abraham Raji explained how Emacs are an efficient alternative to most text editors. The sessions on Friday concluded by 5 PM.

The conference talk sessions began on Saturday morning 9 AM at the adjacent Event Hall (Auditorium) KTIZ, Kalamassery. Mr. Sathish Babu, Chair of APRALO, ICANN spoke about Free Software in the 21st century and thus introduced the gathering to the importance of digital freedom and the potential of a free society promulgated by the open internet..

Following this talk, Ms. Keerthana, an alumnus of Govt. Model Engineering College spoke about her time in the institution, the notable realizations she had and thus, decisions she took which helped her improve her career prospects. Students were able to relate with her points and felt encouraged to follow their goals.

After a short break, Mr. Mahadev from Texas Instruments introduced the gathering to the world of open hardware and how to make use of the potential it holds. Following this session, Ejaz Mirzan, an engineer at Intel, gave a technical talk on the challenges faced in manufacturing chips of dimension below 7 nanometer and how it might be made possible.

After the lunch break, Mr. Balasankar from GitLab spoke about the Debian Project, how one can get involved and in general, the immense potential that open source projects have to offer to improve one’s programming skills and technical accountability. Students were highly inspired to dive deep into open source after his talk.

Following this, a panel discussion on the topic The Future of FOSS was moderated by Kurian Benoy, the chairman of FOSSMEC. The discussion covered a diverse range of topics ranging from implications of open source in today’s world to Digital privacy and rights. The audience learned a lot about issues related to safety on the web and how to be better equipped for the future.

Next was a dual speaker session by Ananthakrishnan and Sriram on bug bounties and how to get started. They explained the perks, risks and importance of their actions to improve the quality of application software.

After the snack break, Saloni Garg, the RedHat women in open source award recipient interacted with the students and explained her journey in the field of open source and how we students can get started.

Her energy was fulfilling for the students. She felicitated the school students who outperformed in our one day web development workshop.

Next we had an hour long ice-breaker session where students got to interact with others and complete tasks to improve their bonding. This helped the students to make new friends and thus improve their experience later in the evening for the Dev Sprint.

Abhishek Ashok from FOSSAISA interacted with the students by introducing them to the projects of the open source organization he represented and how he found his path through Google Code-In and other technical events.

The Dev Sprint kicked off immediately by the introduction of the following organization by their representatives:

  1. Zulip, by Aswin G
  2. DVC, by Kurian Benoy
  3. FOSSASIA, by Abhishek
  4. Emacs, by Abraham
  5. KDE, by Subin Siby
  6. P5.js, by Jithin K S

These participants sat in small circles and worked together through the night to make noticeable contributions to their projects. Refreshments were provided throughout the night and a small quiz was conducted by a community of FOSS and freedom activists by the name of BEARly. Other events also took place in order to engage the gathering.

Breakfast was served at 8 AM on Sunday (28/07/2019). The first talk session was by Mr. Santhosh Thottingal about Malayalam Computing and how can one contribute to the mission of making programming in Malayalam a possibility. He stayed back after the session to interact with other students who had several doubts to clear.

Our next talk session was by Mr. Manu from Qualcomm, who spoke about ‘the evolution of the smartphone’. From a layman’s point of view, he focussed further and further into the technical working of the device using SOC’s and he left us excited to explore technologies.

After a short break, Mr. Mishel from Ansys took the stage next to talk about Open Hardware Hacking and how to make use of the tools to derive meaning of information that was being radiated from the smart devices.

In the open space session, students were introduced to various tech communities in the city and how they can effectively take forward their learnings from this conference by being actively involved in the future meetups.

After lunch, a keynote session by Mr. Akshai from ICFOSS around the subject of RISC V chips and its increasing relevance in today’s world. Following this, in a panel discussion moderated by Devdutt Shenoi, the participants gained an in-depth understanding of open source hardware and how to contribute to the cause.

Sriram from Mar Athanasius College of Engineering presented a lightning talk during explaining his interest in technology and how it is helping him improve to teach others through his online handles.

Students got a chance to interact and network with one another during the breaks between sessions.

The team behind MEC.conf was introduced during the closing ceremony and the conference concluded at 4.20 PM.

I personally would like to thank college, peers and attendees for making this a notable experience for me. I hope this encourages everyone to set their eyes for greater growth scopes.

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