Undergraduate conference lets students see IT up close

Canadian high tech industry leaders were brought together with their future employees at a student run Toronto technology conferece Thursday.

Originally conceived as a co-op project by University of Waterloo students, the fourth annual Canadian

Undergraduate Technology Conference continues Friday and Saturday in Toronto. The CUTC brings together hundreds of undergraduate university students with nearly 70 high-tech industry leaders.

 Speakers, including IBM vice-president of technology Helene Armitage and Bell Mobility president Michael Newman, are there to familiarize students with new technologies and how they affect our lives. CUTC spokesperson Solomon Folts says they will be addressing a fairly varied audience.

“”Our event is open to all kinds of delegates,”” he says. “”Anyone from graphic designers, to writers, to business students who are interested in the technology field.””

The CUTC is a unique opportunity for the students to see first-hand innovative solutions from companies such as Microsoft, RIM, Cognos and CMA during the conference’s TechExpo, Folts says. The students will be able to see American Technologies’ chairman and CEO Woody Norris show off the company’s sound directional sound technology. They will also be treated to biometrics, computer vision and speech processing demonstrations.

The goal of the conference, Folts says, is to spread technological awareness across Canada.

“”Basically we’re trying to educate undergraduate students about what is out there, as well as give them an opportunity to share their thoughts with Canada’s technology leaders,”” he says.

Exposing the students to the high tech working environment and the innovation that goes on in it is also a key component of the conference, Folts says. Students will be able to tour company campuses to get a first hand look at the inner workings of the Canadian technology sector.

The conference will certainly give the students the kind of access to heads of technology companies many of their own employees can’t get. One of the key events of the conference, the ThinkTank, will have small groups of students considering and offering opinions and criticisms of hot button technology issues.

The brainstorming process of each small group will be guided by an expert from organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, Idee Inc., The Information & Privacy Commission of Ontario and Apotex. Generated ideas will be then discussed with Sun Microsystems vice-president Jim Mitchell, AOL Time Warner vice-president of technology Jim Tobin, Bell Globemedia Interactive CTO Huw Morgan and University of Toronto Department of Biochemistry assistant professor Christopher Hogue.

Such wide spread interest from the tech sector has been very encouraging, Folts says, as has been the sponsorship that many of the companies have extended to make the CUTC possible.

“”Thankfully those companies are interested in investing in Canadian students,”” he says. “”They’re willing to spend the time and the money to see them grow. “”

The conference is very much a labour of love for the young people who work on organizing it year after year.

“”Basically all the students here are in school,”” he says. “”So we’re doing school and when we get off school we’re working on the CUTC.””

Using the success the conference has enjoyed so far as a launching pad, Folts says the organizers hope to widen its reach. They’d like to see a truly cross-Canada student presence at future events.

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