The IEEE Region 8 Student Paper Contest (SPC) started in 1967, only four years after IEEE R8 was formed. The SPC was an initiative of the second R8 Director, Jean Lebel. The first SPC was held in Lausanne, Switzerland in conjunction with the IEEE R8 Committee Meeting. Since then, it has been held every year without exception, and it is one of the main technical activities in Region 8. By organizing the Student Paper Contest, the IEEE Region 8 Student Activities Committee recognizes the importance of student research and the dissemination of their results and findings.
The R8 SPC is an excellent occasion for personal leadership and involvement of student members in a prospective IEEE scientific/technical activity. It is aimed at encouraging and supporting undergraduate and master students to work on an engineering topic covered by the IEEE and produce a technical paper for publication. Early research activities at the undergraduate and master level allow students to develop professionally and personally in ways not possible through traditional lectures, and this experience can be extremely valuable for students and their future careers. In accordance with those goals, PhD students are not included in this contest, because conducting research and publishing scientific papers is normally the most important aspect of a PhD study, so the expected scientific contribution is not the same at different study levels. Therefore, the IEEE Region 8 Student Paper Contest is for IEEE R8 student members or graduate student members who have not yet started their PhD.
In addition to student benefits, there are also benefits for IEEE organizational units. The contest increases the visibility of student branches and allows for wider promotion of IEEE among students. It is also a nice possibility to involve more members of the academic community, like student counselors, supervisors, mentors, reviewers, etc., in a significant IEEE activity.
The best way to get high-quality papers for the regional contest is to organize local student paper contests by IEEE student branches or even at the level of a section. Each local Student Branch Contest winner may compete for the Region 8 SPC. A student branch (SB) may submit one paper to the SPC per every 100 SB members or part thereof, with a maximum of three papers per SB. In order to promote and support local student paper contests, from this year onwards, the IEEE Region 8 Student Activities Committee offers a new opportunity for student branches and sections through the Local Student Paper Contest Events Program. This program will provide funding to IEEE Region 8 Sections and Student Branches to establish local student paper contests, which will increase student contest awareness and participation.
Additionally, especially in small branches where the organization of a local contest is difficult, the IEEE section officers can encourage students to submit their work as a technical paper to the regional SPC. Also, all R8/Sections/Chapters IEEE Conferences, having student paper sessions included in their programs, could and should also be used to get additional proposals for the regional SPC, provided that the student paper has not already been published in the conference proceedings. As long as a SB is formally supporting and accepting any type of student paper contest activity, it is in line with the existing SPC rules. The success of the SPC relies primarily on the engagement and enthusiasm of the Student Branch Counselor and the Student Branch Chair, but also the contributions of other IEEE officers like Section Chairs, Chapter Chairs, Section SA officers, etc., could be extremely valuable.
The deadline to send full papers to IEEE Region 8 SPC is usually December 1 (sometimes it is extended for two weeks). Submitted papers are graded by an international jury composed of 4-5 experts who are, in most cases, university professors from different Region 8 countries. The review is double-blind, which means that the judges handle the papers without knowledge of the identity of the authors/institutions. Every jury member grades papers individually, usually with the assistance of other colleagues who are specialists in the corresponding fields. The results are then averaged, a ranking list is made, and the top 5 papers are selected. All five finalists (one author per paper) are invited to present their papers at one of IEEE R8 flagship conferences. Traditionally, the SPC Regional Oral Finals are held during the MELECON or EUROCON conferences. The presentations are graded by the same international jury as in the first part of the contest. On the basis of both the written and oral parts of the competition, the final ranking list and the decision about the winner are made. There are prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place of $800, $500, and $200, respectively. In addition, the student branch where the winner comes from gets an award of $250. This award is named the “Dick Poortvliet Award” to honour the 1995 Student Paper Contest coordinator who passed away during his term. As a special form of recognition, the papers of all 5 finalists are published in the Conference Proceedings and included in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.
The regional SPC Oral Finals provide an excellent opportunity for extraordinary students to get invaluable early experience of taking part in a prestigious IEEE conference and exchanging their ideas and results.