Our Planning Continues


The Sussex Network committee continue to plan our programme of technical talks for the 2020/21 season, using a slightly different approach.

As members of the Sussex Network will be aware, the remaining technical talks of our 2019/20 season have been postponed, along with scheduled STEM events. At what transpired to be our last talk we had 90 people in the audience, so at least we went out on a high. For those who couldn’t take in all the information at the time, a pdf version of the slides used in the talk on ‘Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Architectures’ can be found in the files section of this Sussex Network site. Unfortunately all the video clips of tests and some confidential information could not be shared.

I said that our technical talks have been postponed rather than cancelled, since we are trying to fit them into our 2020/21 programme. Our events sub-committee is still going ahead with planning for the next season. We held our first meeting in February and our second just last week. The first was typical of such meetings. Six of us gathered at a member’s house at 6:30, spent half an hour chatting and eating sandwiches and various other savoury items, followed by cake, fruit and cheese and then, while drinking coffee, set up the projector and the spreadsheet that will evolve into a programme of talks. The 16 talks during the season are split between two venues, one in Crawley and the other at the University of Sussex campus at Falmer, so our spreadsheet is divided into the two venues. We then spent two hours taking it in turn to offer either specific talks or ideas and possibilities for talks, each with the action to try to pin them down by our next meeting. The firmer talks were provisionally entered into slots in the programme. We then left, each wondering why we had committed to arranging so many talks. In practice it’s usually only two or three each.

Now our second meeting was quite different. Eight of us were each sat in our own homes, one in a conservatory, several in studies and others on sofas or sat at dining room tables. Before each of us was a computer of some form running a video conferencing application. As a family we’re familiar with using video calls since both our children (and therefore our grandchildren) live overseas and so we have at least weekly FaceTime calls. We tried Skype and Google Hangouts, but FaceTime is, in our view, far superior in terms of video and audio quality and synchronisation between the two. Two of our Events Sub-committee members did a little experimentation before our meeting. Firstly we tried Microsoft Teams, initially thinking that it would be part of our IET Office 365 system. It worked, but the audio and video quality was disappointing, so we then reverted to FaceTime to demonstrate how much better it was. However, our Events Secretary uses Zoom at work, so we tried that. It was certainly a lot easier to set up and seemed to provide good quality audio and video. Since his installation was the full Zoom application, rather than the free version, he was able to schedule a meeting.

So at the appointed hour, eight of us joined the meeting and our Secretary shared his desktop so we could all view the spreadsheet. Small images of each attendee could be seen down the side. Without the desktop sharing taking up the bulk of the window, whoever speaks gets launched into the main area. As we had it, a yellow box appeared around the person who was speaking. We started half an hour later than before, since I guess we had all eaten (some were still drinking coffee) and we again took it in turns to update everyone on our progress. A second pass provisionally allocated ‘in progress’ possibilities for talks to dates and venues. Our Secretary filled in the spreadsheet and within an hour we were done!

We normally just have two meetings and then deal with the tidying up and rearrangements by email. However, the meeting was so successful that we decided to schedule another at the end of the month. Could changed ways of doing things, out of necessity, change the way we do things in the future?
Blog IET Sussex Network 07/04/2020 10:32am BST

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