Introducing Tim Lee, SIGHT’s New Steering Committee Chair

ImageI have been an IEEE member for over thirty years but it was only during the last 15 years that I became an IEEE volunteer. When I moved to the Los Angeles area for my new job, after having grown up in the mid-Atlantic region of United States, I decided to join the 1999 IEEE International Microwave Symposium Steering Committee which was planning for IMS1999 to be held in Anaheim, California.

Through this step, I immediately saw the value of volunteerism: To benefit a greater technical community that crossed institutional borders which divide us. I experienced the joy of doing a job well done that most of the conference attendees did not even notice, but our team did. From the bonds that were started, I have developed close friends who share a common goal. This is the magic of the IEEE community – doing things together to benefit humanity.

This is the magic of the IEEE community – doing things together to benefit humanity.

From there, I became the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S) Los Angeles Chapter Chair, mentored by Charlie Jackson to see how volunteers could make a difference. By 2008, I became a voting member of MTT-S Administrative Committee, and chaired the Electronics Information Communications Committee to establish our Web presence for the Society and later for our flagship IMS.

I ran for MTT-S President-Elect in 2013 by highlighting that recent focus on humanitarian activities at the IEEE board level and that MTT-S has no activities in this area. I lost the election and got the feedback that “we don’t do these things; we are a hardware-oriented society.”

Not giving up, I re-dedicated myself to run again in 2014 for MTT-S President-Elect. I spent the year preparing the same message: “What is MTT-S doing that directly advances technology for humanity?” But this time, I told many of my colleagues that technical excellence in research is only one facet of our lives. We exist as members of the human race, we care about our own families; why not do something about suffering and loss of lives due to disaster and chronic poverty, lack of clean water, hunger and education?

Technical excellence in research is only one facet of our lives. Why not do something about suffering and loss of lives due to disaster and chronic poverty, lack of clean water, hunger and education?

So in 2014, I was elected to be MTT-S President. All along, I was mentored by former IEEE President Peter Staecker. I helped run the IEEE President’s Humanitarian Challenge competition for two years.

Seeing that many SIGHT groups were already formed in Region 9, particularly in India, I decided that we would leverage our many MTT-S chapters in India to launch our MTT-S SIGHT program. With Peter’s Staecker’s help, we met with our MTT-S chapter chairs and invited SIGHT project leaders in Region 9 at the 2014 IEEE International Microwave and RF Conference (IMARC) held in Bangalore, India.

When I took office as the 2015 IEEE MTT-S President, my first action was getting MTT-S as one of the first TAB Operating Units (OU) to be a SIGHT. In 2015, we planned a full SIGHT program for IMARC 2015 which was held in Hyderabad, India. We showcased the use of amateur radio to demonstrate how wireless technology can be used for disaster-relief communications, and connected with many expert HAM operators and microwave engineering students who saw the link between what they learned in class an how it can help save lives.

In 2016, I was nominated and accepted a role on IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee (HAC). I chaired the Partnerships Committee and fostered interaction between IEEE HAC with internal groups like IEEE Smart Village and external organizations including Engineering For Change.

SIGHT’s guiding principle was not to impose a Western high-tech solution but to act with cultural sensitivity to take local ideas and to help people to transform them into solutions that will not be abandoned after we leave.

What I have been impressed with at SIGHT, led by SIGHT Chair Kartik Kulkarni, is the focus on the needs identified by local people that demanded a technological solution that was appropriate and leveraged sustainable technology. SIGHT’s guiding principle was not to impose a Western high-tech solution but to act with cultural sensitivity to take local ideas and to help people to transform them into solutions that will not be abandoned after we leave.

SIGHT has grown extensively in the last several years to well over 100 countries. In 2017, our challenge will be to sustain the existing SIGHT groups. We will encourage them to keep moving and not be satisfied with last year’s results, and at the same time to grow in awareness and create new groups and activities in all IEEE regions.

I would like to grow SIGHT particularly in Region 8 and 9. In Region 8, there are great needs in North Africa and the Middle East. In R9, Latin America, there are compelling needs as well. In 2016, MTT-S launched a SIGHT conference event at the first ever IEEE Latin American Microwave Conference in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  It was a great success.  We look forward to supporting SIGHT groups in Peru, Brazil and Argentina in 2017.

Tim Lee - Kartik Kulkarni

Former and current SIGHT Chairs: In 2015, Tim Lee was President of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society and recognized Kartik Kulkarni for his role as SIGHT Chair and his leadership in the formation of R9 SIGHT groups and projects.