2019 North-Central Student Regional Conference Recap

The 2019 North-Central AIChE Regional Conference, hosted by the University of Toledo, took place on April 12th and April 13th at the University of Toledo College of Engineering in Toledo, Ohio. 

This is an annual gathering where students are given the opportunity to network with their ChemE peers throughout the region, participate in student competitions held by AIChE, learn from industry speakers, attend workshops, plus much more!

After the conference, we had a chance to interview Conference Chair Kayla Piezer and Chem-E-Car Competition Chair Dan Reichenbach about their experiences planning and attending the 2019 North-Central Regional Conference.

What was it like to be part of planning a regional meeting?

Kayla Piezer: Being involved in planning the regional conference was a great experience. I was able to practice many useful skills like networking, professionalism, teamwork, and leadership. Overall it was a lot of work, but it was very rewarding to see everyone's hard work culminate into such a successful event.

Dan Reichenbach: Planning a regional conference is probably the closest you can get to being a manager in a business while still being a full-time student. You are given full responsibility for planning your part of the conference. It may sound intimidating and it is a lot of work, but that responsibility means you can add your own personal touch and have ownership of your event. If your planning committee is big enough, you may also get the opportunity to manage people, which brings a whole new challenge that few people in their college career get to experience.

What advice would you give to students attending a regional conference?

KP: When attending a regional conference, I think it is important to make the most of all events and resources offered. Sometimes you might feel tired or overwhelmed with coursework for the weekend and become disengaged in some events (which I am guilty of myself). However, after being a part of conference planning, it really puts into perspective all the resources that are pulled together and presented for students to take advantage of. There are professional workshops, recruitment and networking events, and academic competitions all at your fingertips, so take advantage of that while you enjoy the weekend! 

DR: Go to as many of the conference events as you can, including the additional events held on Fridays. Many universities do not participate in the more social events the day before the workshops and competitions. However, I feel that most of the friendships and conference memories are made in those informal, social conference moments. Many of my own positive conference memories have stemmed from the social events at each conference.

Was there a special event that really captured your region/chapter at the meeting? 

KP: There were a few events in which we tried to showcase our school and city. We hosted the AIChE ChemE Car Competition®, recruitment event, and lunch in our basketball arena. The facility really helped with the flow of events and spectators during the competition while at the same time showing our Rocket pride! We were also able to involve many local professionals from various companies in hosting workshops and judging competitions which helped capture our strong industries in Toledo. We were even able to tie in a brewing workshop hosted by a local brewer from the Maumee Bay Brewing Company, where we later held the banquet. 

DR: Typically many universities do not stick around for the banquet, but this year we packed the hall with students talking about their memories from the conference and looking forward to next year's conference.

Did you connect with any fellow ChemE students, or get to network with any industry professionals?

KP: Absolutely! Planning the regional conference allowed me to connect with many professionals while contacting companies for sponsorship, local professionals for volunteering, and engaging our recent ChemE graduates. Additionally, our planning committee brought together a mix of different engineering students from all graduating classes and grew into an incredible team that worked very well together. Beyond that, the regional conference presented many opportunities to connect with fellow ChemE students from around the region.

DR: Being the Chem-E-Car chair, I got to connect with a lot of ChemE students who were competing in the Chem-E-Car competition. Listening to the work they put into their cars and hearing more about the solutions they created to solve the problems they encountered was an amazing experience. The student connections that I made at this conference will hopefully withstand the test of time, as many of us were already looking forward to the upcoming Annual Student Conference and the next regional conference.

What was your favorite part of the conference weekend? 

DR: My favorite part of the conference weekend was watching the Chem-E-Car competition and seeing all the teams compete. Being a former Chem-E-Car team captain myself, I organized the competition in a way in which I would have liked to compete. Watching all the teams being able to focus on their cars instead of having to ask multiple people questions throughout the competition and seeing how quickly the competition progressed throughout the day gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I did my best to organize the competition in a competitor-friendly way.

KP: Personally, the awards banquet was my favorite part of the conference for a couple reasons. When we finally got to the banquet location after all conference activities, it was the last step to sealing the deal on a successful conference. Once everything was in place and we got started, everyone on the conference committee could relax, enjoy the event, and reflect on the weekend. In a way, wrapping up the awards banquet was kind of an award in itself for the planning committee because it meant that our goal of hosting a successful conference was met!

The 2020 AIChE North Central Student Regional Conference will be hosted by the University of Akron.