College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Student group wins national award after more than doubling membership


Several of Clemson University’s top electrical and computer engineering students are celebrating an international award after reviving an honor society chapter that began to fade during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Membership in Clemson University’s chapter of IEEE-HKN has bounced back since students returned to campus after COVID-19 quarantine, and now they are celebrating an Outstanding Chapter Award.

IEEE-HKN honored its Clemson chapter, Zeta Iota, with an Outstanding Chapter Award, marking a sensational turnaround from just a couple years earlier. Membership in the Clemson chapter dropped to fewer than 20 during quarantine and is now up to 46 with as many as 14 more lined up for induction in April.

The return of in-person classes, an IEEE-HKN presence at a fall career fair and a tutoring room outfitted with a department-purchased LCD screen and white board all helped boost enrollment and keep members engaged, the chapter’s leaders said.

They said the chapter has become more active since quarantine ended, offering a host of get-togethers and service opportunities, including game night, bowling excursions, a canned food drive and chances to meet professors and brush up on job-interviewing skills. The chapter also helped the department offer tutoring and keep its students engaged.

Bry Lawlor, chapter president and senior computer engineering major, said the chapter’s proudest accomplishment was last year’s induction ceremony. Members set a goal of recruiting 10 new members and got 34, she said.

“The award makes me much more excited for our chapter and the activities we get to have,” Lawlor said. “This semester we’ve been focused on service opportunities, which are free. Next year, I think we’ll have more opportunities for social events, and it is really exciting to have our chapter in a position to be able to do that.”

IEEE-HKN is an international honor society for IEEE, a professional society rooted in electrical and computer sciences, engineering, and related disciplines. The IEEE-HKN website lists 271 chapters around the world, including the 21 that have won Outstanding Chapter Awards this year.

Membership in the Clemson chapter is allowed by invitation only and is restricted to the top third of seniors, quarter of juniors and fifth of sophomores as measured by grade-point average.

Faculty advisors for the Clemson chapter are Apoorva Kapadia, a visiting assistant professor, and Hassan Raza, a senior lecturer, both in the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“We congratulate the students of Clemson’s chapter of IEEE-HKN,” they said in a joint statement. “HKN has been instrumental in developing a culture of undergraduate excellence in the department by acting as role models. Several of them are recipients of college and department awards. The chapter’s members are actively involved in multiple research projects through Creative Inquiry courses and undergraduate research opportunities. This is a well-deserved award.”

Outstanding chapters are selected based on “their activities, community service and outreach, and the impact they have had on the department, the university, and the community.” This year’s winners were honored in a March 19 reception at the ECEDHA Annual Conference in New Mexico.

The award recognizes chapters’ work in 2021-22. Several of the students in the Clemson chapter now weren’t around for the lean times during quarantine but said they appreciate their predecessors’ efforts to keep the group going.

“It means a lot, knowing that they put in all that effort before us,” said chapter treasurer and sophomore computer engineering major Andrew O’Rourke. “It gives us something to work towards to make sure that we keep up what they were able to do.”

Emily Garceau, the chapter’s vice president and a senior computer engineering major, said that she is grateful to the chapter’s forebears and that she looks forward to seeing where future generations of students take it next.

“We offer some terrific opportunities for networking, making friends and brushing up on job skills,” Garceau said. “With this award, we are better positioned than ever to grow the chapter and reach even more people.”

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