What's up Lately at ACM India - Monsoon 2021 Edition

July 7, 2021

Dear friends @ ACM India,

First and foremost, hope you and your dear ones are safe and doing well. Although the second wave of the pandemic is receding, it has taken a big toll on all of us and we still cannot afford to drop our guard. Some of our initiatives did slow down, but thanks to the commitment of the volunteers, the action continues on all fronts despite the challenges. I am delayed writing to you, since there has been a gap of six months. There is a lot to cover, there will still be some misses, but hopefully you find this an interesting and easy read.

Relive the annual events

ACM India’s flagship conference Annual Event 2021, along with ACM-W India Workshop 2021 and ARCS Symposium 2021 took place on 10-13 February. All the three events saw massive participation from students, academicians and industry professionals. This time too, we had the good fortune of being joined by eminent speakers like ACM A.M. Turing Award 2020 laureate Edwin Catmull, researchers from India and aboard including many ACM awardees, and the leadership of ACM HQ. The event concluded with a glittering ACM India awards function. You can replay the videos of all the Annual Event sessions from the event’s website.

Welcome new institutional partners

Apart from the individual membership fees (which are very modest for the benefits you get), a significant source of funding is the generous support from our institutional partners. I am really proud to share with you that IBM India and Huawei Technologies will soon be coming on board at Gold tier and Facebook at Silver tier! Let’s thank and welcome these new illustrious industry sponsors along with our existing Platinum sponsors Google, Icertis, Persistent Systems and TCS, and Silver sponsor Cisco.

PhD student initiatives

Close on the heels of our immensely successful and growing PhD Clinic initiative, we have rolled out the Anveshan Setu Fellowship. While the PhD Clinic allows engagement between student researchers and external mentors electronically, the Anveshan Setu program enables the PhD students to visit their mentor(s) for an immersive research experience and first-hand guidance. The PhD Clinic is going strong with July slots announced recently and an exciting AMA session coming up with some ACM India Doctoral Dissertation Awardees. Keep an eye out for that announcement.

Chapter awards of ACM (India)

As usual, we invited nominations from ACM Student Chapters from India for the Student Chapter Award 2021. A total of 34 chapters applied, 14 were shortlisted and the following made it to the coveted list of Best Chapters:

  • Winner: PICT ACM Student Chapter
  • Runner up: PCCOE ACM Student Chapter
  • Honourable mention: Chitkara ACM Student Chapter

On a related note, our Student Chapters did really well on the ACM (global) Student Chapter Excellence award front as well. Congratulations to the Indian chapters who made it to the winners' list in the following categories:

And here is a reminder. You probably know that the parameters of the ACM India Best Student Chapter Award have changed from this year. Now there are separate awards for various categories such as emerging chapter, community service, and chapter activities. You can find all the information through the new chapter portal https://acmindia-studentchapters.in.

ACM India activity calendar is up (and running?!)

To have ready access to all our events, we have now released a calendar of ACM India events, publicly available from our events site. You can also directly access the calendar via https://event.india.acm.org/calendar.html. You may see it sparsely populated for the time being, which is less indicative of the lack of activities and more of the fact that we haven’t gotten used to entering them into the calendar yet. :-)

CSpathshala

ACM India started the CSpathshala initiative in 2016, to teach computing as a science in schools. The key objectives are to popularise Computational Thinking (CT) and influence education policy to enable its introduction into the curricula. CSpathshala's CT curriculum has been piloted by 4,00,000+ students in 1,200 schools across 11 states in four languages, and Tamil Nadu SCERT has adopted the unplugged computational thinking curriculum as part of its mathematics curriculum for 30,000 schools since 2018. CSpathshala advocacy efforts have paid off and the National Education Policy 2020 recommends that computational thinking be taught from foundational stages.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the complete closure of schools a year ago. While urban schools continued education virtually, students from rural government schools lacked the necessary infrastructure, resulting in very little learning and increasing the inequities. In light of the pandemic, CSpathshala pivoted its programs and trained 7,000+ teachers through 18 virtual webinars, awareness workshops and training programs. CSpathshala continues to focus its efforts with the government to mainstream CT, empower teachers and increase its reach in rural areas.

Global participation and visibility

It has always been our effort to have global visibility of our initiatives. I'm happy to inform you that the new prestigious ACM India awards we instituted for professionals working from India are now linked from the ACM global site. The rationale, nomination process of these awards, as well as the winners of the inaugural year 2020 are available from ACM's Regional Awards site.

Continuing on the global visibility front, we have stepped up our effort to go beyond national boundaries and contribute to ACM globally. Also helping to enhance the geo-diversity of ACM committees, our India-based members are now part of many ACM global committees which select worthy recipients for honours or determine computing strategies. To name a few, we now have representation on ACM Council, Special Interest Group (SIG) Governing Board, Computing Prize Committee, Education Advisory Committee, CS202x Committee, Global Technology Policy Council, Practitioner Board, and Distinguished Speaker Program Committee. We are featured quite regularly in the People of ACM series, and we expect to have talks by speakers from India in the ACM TechTalk series in the fall.

Given our strength in computing field, there is scope for much more involvement from our side, though. This also brings me to an important appeal to our Professional Members. If you are eligible for ACM Advanced Member Grade status, I strongly encourage you to try and achieve that distinction and get the recognition for your contribution to computing. The ACM Senior Member designation is through self-nomination and the deadline is 3 September. Please refer to the nomination process here. If you qualify for even higher member recognition such as Distinguished Member (nomination deadline 1 August) and ACM Fellow (nomination deadline 7 September), why not strive for those coveted honours proactively? Let me know if you need any support toward the nomination process. We just don’t have many members in these honours lists, and a major reason for it is the lack of nominations from our side in the first place.

Next round of award nominations to begin soon

The announcement of the 2021 edition of ACM India Awards is around the corner. Just like the previous inaugural year, we expect high-quality nominations for all the individual awards: Early Career Researcher, Outstanding Educator, Outstanding Woman Contributor and Best Doctoral Dissertation. See the aforementioned ACM Regional Awards site for information on how to nominate.

Webinar and live interaction sessions continue

Our ACM India Webinar series and the new Live Interaction series are progressing on schedule, averaging four sessions per quarter. We now have domestic as well as international technology leaders joining for these webinars and informal interaction followed by audience Q&A. All of the past sessions are available for replay through our Education and Industry Webinar pages. Of course, it's always preferable to register and join live for a more fulfilling experience. The talks are open to all, not just ACM members.

So does online summer schools program

"ACM India Summer Schools", our regular summer program for students, is currently in progress, obviously in virtual mode. Two schools have already concluded and three started this week. All of them are on active research areas, with state-of-the art content taught by experts from academia and industry, for students chosen from applicants across India. As has become the norm now, all schools are sponsored by industry partners who are themselves known for their expertise in their respective technology area. Take a look at the Summer Schools 2021 home page. The students who participate in the school benefit from the lectures and tutorials with live interaction. As usual, once the schools are over, we will publish the school recordings for the benefit of all, not just for those who attended the schools.

Bootcamps have started

We have often had queries and requests for a learning activity like our Summer School program, but specifically organized for professionals. Summer School is a nearly full-time two-week program. For professionals, that is impractical, so we kicked off a three-day bootcamp initiative for them. The main takeaways of a bootcamp are overview, insights and hands-on experience on a technology topic. The first bootcamp on 18-20 February, on Blockchain, was attended by 18 professionals from industry and academia and conducted by expert faculty from IBM Research, C-DAC, Wipro and IISc.

ACM India minigraphs are coming

As I mentioned in the previous edition, a minigraph is a 20-25 page technical document outlining major aspects of an area. It will be a high-quality publication, fairly self-contained, authored by an expert, and reviewed by a committee. We were hoping to launch the first batch of minigraphs by now, but understandably the process is delayed a bit. There are minigraphs in various stages of release process, on topics such as Privacy, Hybrid Cloud, HPC and Software Verification, and they should be released this quarter.

Upcoming conferences announced

ACM India has announced the 14th annual COMPUTE conference 2021. Since 2018, the COMPUTE theme is focused on improving the quality of computing education in the country. COMPUTE 2021 is being held under the aegis of the Special Interest Group on CS Education (iSIGCSE) of ACM India. Submission deadline was last week, so now all eyes are on the actual event, which will be held in hybrid mode 21-23 October. CSpathshala’s 3rd Conference on Computational Thinking in Schools (CTiS 2021, 28 September-2 October) has a submission deadline of 16 July. Similarly, calls for submissions are out for the 15th Innovations in Software Engineering Conference 2022 (ISEC 2022) and 5th Joint International Conference on Data Science & Management of Data 2022 (CODS-COMAD 2022).

Wrapping up

That was a not-so-brief overview of our achievements and plans. I will be back with the next edition in another quarter or so. In the meanwhile, feel free to write to me with your suggestions and feedback. Finally, a salute to the frontline warriors around the world who are relentlessly engaged in the fight against the pandemic, and our volunteers who are contributing despite the disruption to normal life.

Please take care and stay safe.

Regards,

Hemant

Hemant Pande
Executive Director, ACM India Council
hemant_pande@india.acm.org