What's up Lately at ACM India

May 19, 2020

What's Up Lately at ACM India

Dear friends @ ACM India,

As usual I am writing to you with an update on “what's up lately at ACM India”. Normally when I write this email, it is with a sense of excitement about the myriad activities that take place under the ACM India umbrella. While these are hardly exciting times as we face the COVID-19 crisis, we have indeed achieved a lot in the last few months. We are also determined to make the best of the circumstances and looking forward to the (new) normalcy that will be established in near future.

What’s happened recently

1. The highlight of the past quarter was the flagship ACM India Annual Event along with the co-located conferences IRISS and ACM-W Women in Computer Science and Research at IIT Gandhinagar in February. The participants were treated to an opportunity to listen to and even interact in person with some of the greatest minds in Computing today. ACM India has been organizing these annual events to discuss trends in science and technology, and to celebrate ACM's spirit and India's accomplishments in Computing.

2. Talking about celebrating achievements, please join me in congratulating Arati Dixit who won the Outstanding Service to ACM Award for contributing to the growth and diversity of ACM programs in India, especially ACM-W India!

3. Each year, ACM India acknowledges excellence in student chapters through the Best Student Chapter award. The chapters are evaluated on parameters such as participation in ACM initiatives, community service, recruitment programs to grow membership, and building awareness of their work via the website and social media. From this year we have a cash prize associated with it, which is sponsored by Icertis. Congratulations to PICT ACM Student Chapter for coming out on top, PCCOE ACM Student Chapter as the runner-up, and the ACM Student chapter at GMR Institute of Technology for Honourable Mention. Also, kudos to PCCOE ACM Student Chapter for winning the Outstanding Community Service category in the ACM Student Chapter Excellence Award at ACM global level.

4. In the current phase of primarily using online means for professional development, we are doing our bit by increasing the frequency of the ACM India Industry Webinars to every other week instead of every other month. We have also initiated a new Student Webinar mini-series, where we take up topics most relevant to students studying from home. Hope you are making full use of these initiatives by keeping an eye on the News and Updates announcements as well as the emails and posts on ACM India social media channels, and of course by joining the webinars. Those who cannot join live can always access the replay by registering at any time using the webinar registration form.

5. Online avatar of Eminent Speaker Program (ESP): You must have noticed that we are also bringing in speakers from our ACM India Eminent Speaker Program to conduct these online webinars. Recently Suparna Bhattacharya did the Industry Webinar and only yesterday Navin Kabra did the Student Webinar. I am sure many institutes are conducting their classes and many other initiatives online. Of course organizing an in-person ESP talk is unthinkable in current circumstances, but if an ACM India Chapter would like to organize a talk by the ESP speaker for your institute using the institute’s online session infrastructure, let us know and we can facilitate it.

6. ACM India Summer Schools 2020 : The six summer schools that we planned to organise in June and July got tremendous response from the students across India. These are one semester equivalent full-time courses, offered over two weeks on advanced technology topics. Towards the end of April, it became clear that it would not be safe to have anyone travel and attend a course with 40 students in a classroom, so we took the decision to cancel the Summer Schools 2020 program. Conditions permitting, we hope to be able to organize winter schools in December / January.

7. Another casualty of COVID-19 crisis was the ACM India Industry Boot Camp program. The first boot camp on Blockchain was supposed to take place in Pune in late March. We will revive the plans when it is safe to do so.

8. CSpathshala: ACM India's key education initiative which focuses on inculcating Computational Thinking (CT) among primary/secondary school children is scaling significantly thanks to the efforts by the volunteers and support from the schools, teachers and students. At 178,239 students from 647 schools across 15 states, the 2019 Bebras India Challenge saw a growth of 30% in student participation. Total number of girls at 68%, outnumbered the boys. 82% of the students who bagged national ranks were from government schools. CSpathshala team in partnership with Sakal NIE and IISER Pune trained 144 teachers from 106 schools in CT. We received 300+ abstracts for the second conference on Computational Thinking in Schools (CTiS2020), although the conference itself now stands postponed due to the current circumstances. Regional rounds were conducted in February 2020 by Meghe Group of Schools in Nagpur and Andhra Pradesh Social and Tribal Welfare Schools in each of the 13 districts in the state. We thank Dassault Systémes Foundation India for their generous funding to CSpathshala, providing the impetus to the program especially in rural areas and their contributions to tool based aids for computational thinking.

9. Talking about funding, we thank our institutional partners Google, Icertis, Persistent Systems and TCS for continuing their support to ACM India with Platinum tier sponsorship, despite the difficult business environment. This sponsorship goes a long way in supporting our multiple initiatives. Thanks also to Microsoft Research India for joining in with Gold sponsorship of Annual Event and IRISS, and organizing Academic Research Summit on the theme of Security in January where ACM India is a partner.

What to expect soon

1. In order to recognize individuals who have made fundamental, innovative, and impactful contributions to the computing field while primarily working in India, ACM India Council is introducing some prestigious awards this year. In addition to acknowledging such contributions, we also believe that the awards will provide international visibility to research from India, and nurture the candidates for future international recognition. Expect the announcement including the specific categories of awards, selection criteria and submission timelines by the end of this month.

2. Although there is some time to go for CODS-COMAD 2021 (2-4 January 2021 in Bangalore), the Call for Papers is already out with submission deadline of 10 August 2020. Also look out for the Call for Papers for our education focused conference Compute 2020 (10-12 December 2020 at VNIT Nagpur).

3. Attention Professional Members of ACM: ACM India Council elections and ACM Council elections are around the corner. We have an impressive slate of candidates who are seeking an opportunity to join the mission of ACM in the role of Council Members at the national as well global level. You must have received emails from “ACM” with subject: “2020 ACM India Council Election” and subject: “2020 ACM General Election” (to help you search in inbox!), informing you how to cast your electronic ballot. Votes for the ACM India Council elections are due by 8 June while the ACM global elections are due 22 May (this Friday). I encourage you to take a few minutes to cast your vote in both elections. Every vote counts!

As usual, this is a representative list of recent and imminent activities. Hope it inspires you to participate and contribute further. I look forward to your suggestions and feedback.

Please take care and stay safe.



Hemant Pande, PhD
Executive Director, ACM India Council