CUTC 2009 Recap

Posted on

Last week, along with about 20 other delegates from Carleton, I attended the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference in Toronto. It was my first year to attend, and I must say, it will probably be my last.

Due to the failing economy, the Conference seemed to have problems getting not only the number of attendees they have seen previously, but also had fewer companies willing to participate and present. Some of the companies that were there included Infusion, OpenText, Rypple and of course RIM, their biggest sponsor. Due to the lack of interest from both sides, they had to reduce the conference from 3 days to just 2. And instead of reducing it from Thurs-Fri-Sat to Fri-Sat, they reduced it to Thurs-Fri, which I felt was another large mistake, forcing the delegates to miss two work and/or school days rather than one.

From the start, it seemed the conference was slightly unorganized. We all had to pick our seminars before getting to the conference, yet there was little information on their website about what the seminars entailed. I chose “TechShop” with RIM and “Organic User Interface – Designing Computers in Any Way, Shape or Form” by Roel Vertegaal from Queen’s University.

The opening remarks included a video about the technological advances made by man, and ended with the badly worded phrase “Man’s imagination is limited only by the knowledge he knows.” This was followed by the first Keynote speech from Eugene Roman from OpenText.

It was actually a quite painful Keynote, at least for someone like me.  It was chock full of Buzzwords and condescending remarks.  “Participaction!” “Glocal!” Ick.  In fact, when he asked if anyone had heard the term Glocal before, he told them they’d be standing in the same place as him in 28 years.  I’m glad I didn’t raise my hand.

I came out of that Keynote having learned nothing new and feeling quite uninspired.

That afternoon was the TechShop with RIM.  As I read through the pamphlet, it stated that to go to this TechShop, RIM wanted you to go to their website and download some programs onto to your laptop before bringing it to the seminar.

It was great warning for those who firstly, didn’t want to pay $25 for wireless in their hotel room, or secondly, those in the same position as me: Not owning a laptop.  Thanks to the preparedness of the conference, I had no previous knowledge that I’d need a laptop for this seminar.  So I didn’t attend.

The second day started off much better.  The morning Keynote was by George Roter from Engineers without Borders.  It was an interesting speech about three main lessons in development, which he demonstrated through examples from his trips to villages in Africa.  The stories were enlightening, and there was a clear correlation to how our world of engineering is similarly effected.

Afterwards was the second seminar, on Organic User Interfaces.  While none of us really knew what it would be about, it sounded interesting, and I’m always interested in User Interface design.

We were not disappointed.  The seminar was describing new technologies and the direction of interfaces.  Not the type you see on a screen necessarily, but new methods of communicating with technology.  The elimination of the mouse from the equation.  The presentation included some video examples and the question/answer session at the end got into some issues that were quite educational.

All in all, the conference had a few interesting components, but I don’t think it was really worth me taking 3 entire days off from work.  I hope that in the future they get much more organized and have more details for the attendees before they show up to register!