The Georgia Tech cohort of attendees — including the Dean of the College of Engineering & Southern Company Chair, Raheem Beyah — at this year’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Annual Conference in Kansas City. ECE was able to provide travel grants for seven students to attend NSBE this year.
Students Mohit Pinninti and Micky Nnamdi are turning the world into their classroom. In January, the classroom was the city of Boston; in March, it was Kansas City.
Both are capitalizing on a new program in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) that helps students pursue travel, conferences, and other experiences to complement their studies. The Conference and Career Development Support Fund, launched in December 2022, has now taken eight ECE students to out-of-state conferences or allowed them to pursue personal and career experiences. Students can request up to $900.
Mohit Pinninti, a CmpE undergraduate, utilized a grant from ECE’s new Conference and Career Development Support Fund to attend the MIT Reality Hack conference this January in Cambridge, Mass.
Pinninti trying out VR technology at this year’s MIT Reality Hack. The conference gave him confidence to pursue virtual reality (VR) research projects at Georgia Tech.
The fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students and is part of ECE Cares, a health and wellbeing initiative started under School Chair Arijit Raychowdhury to provide student support at the school level.
“Having been a student at Georgia Tech myself, I see opportunities for students to have transformative and professional experiences,” said Lakshmi Raju, director of student engagement and well-being in ECE and coordinator of the travel fund. “Undergraduates especially don’t often get the chance to go to conferences or career development events, and unless you have someone willing to fund you, there aren’t many opportunities outside of the Institute.”
The Conference and Career Development Support Fund covers conference registration fees, airfare, and lodging. A unique aspect, according to Raju, is that the program will directly pay and book accommodations for students instead of issuing reimbursements, which she said is another way to reduce the burden on students.
For computer engineering undergraduate Mohit Pinninti, receiving support from the fund to attend the MIT Reality Hack conference this January gave him the confidence to pursue new projects in virtual reality (VR).
“[VR and augmented reality (AR)] are some of the more well-known wearable technologies,” he said. “I went to the hackathon because I wanted to get a feel for what hardware looks like on different devices. The majority of what we hear about in VR is app development, but the hardware and technology culture that go into it are relatively unnoticed.”
Pinninti added: “I think this opportunity has encouraged me to pursue things on my own. It’s easy to start with a club or group at Tech, but most people involved in VR and AR learn and create on an individual basis. The biggest thing I learned is that it’s very important to engage with things you find interesting outside of groups already available.”
For Ph.D. candidate Micky Nnamdi, the fund is helping him find community. In March, Nnamdi attended the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Annual Conference in Kansas City. ECE was able to provide travel grants for six other students to attend NSBE this year.
“I wouldn’t be going to the conference without the ECE fund,” he said. “This experience will help my research in a new way. Since the focus is a national event for Black engineers, I hope to expand my engineering knowledge and network with engineers and scientists in the industry.”
Raju said the School is excited for the program to grow and support more students in coming semesters.
"A lot of students get stuck in their bubble of staying on campus, but it’s important to leave that bubble and experience new things," she said. "I’m excited our students are taking advantage of this opportunity.
Interested in applying for a Conference and Career Development Support Fund grant? Learn more and fill out the form.
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