Zoe Berg, Photography Editor

The Yale Student Branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers — known as Y-IEEE — made history last spring by appointing its first female co-chairs in 109 years. They are starting their tenure this fall.

The student group, which is currently 64 members strong, elected Tamar Geller ’23 and Taylor Chapman ’22 as the new heads of the organization. Comprising both engineering and non-engineering majors, Y-IEEE serves as an umbrella organization for six project teams. Each team works on an electrical engineering-based project — from creating interactive LED displays to installing a radio station for communicating with the International Space Station. The group also conducts professional and technical workshops for its members and hosts events with guest faculty speakers.

“I think it’s very exciting and it’s definitely such a great step in the right direction,” Chapman said. “It’s wonderful to see more representation in engineering at Yale and, specifically, the electrical engineering department.”

Geller added that chairing has been a “humbling experience” and that working with the members of the group is “inspiring.”

Y-IEEE was founded in 1911 by Charles F. Scott, a former Yale professor and president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineering — a predecessor organization to IEEE. Although the group dissolved and remained largely inactive over the last two decades, William Sussman ’21 revived the IEEE chapter as a first year in 2018. Sussman stepped back as chair of the organization this semester and now serves as founding branch chair.

Still, for Sussman, transferring leadership of the club was not an entirely easy decision, considering the group’s discontinuous history.

“For a long time I was nervous about passing the baton,” Sussman wrote in an email to the News. “Fortunately Taylor and Tamar, two extraordinary women engineers, were elected to lead the organization. … They have already proven themselves more than capable, reimagining what it means to build cool things with cool people, remotely. The club’s next century is off to a great start with Taylor and Tamar at the helm.”

Mark Reed, professor of electrical engineering and applied physics and faculty advisor to Y-IEEE, echoed the approval for the pair. He stated that Geller and Chapman are both “tremendously motivated.”

According to Reed, the organization’s dormant period stemmed from issues of leadership succession. Still, he noted that the members of the club are cognizant of these prior difficulties and, as such, have created a “well-defined” plan for continuing and growing the chapter in the future.

Despite COVID-19 social distancing requirements, Y-IEEE is still continuing its work. All six of its teams — now dubbed “quaranteams” — are staying active in an online format. However, adapting to virtual operation has not come without setbacks.

According to Chapman, building the hardware for the projects in a largely virtual setting was the biggest challenge for many of the teams. Prior to the pandemic, much of this physical construction was completed collaboratively in the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design.

“The hardware portion is definitely the hardest part about it,” Chapman said. “Teams who do have members on campus and have access to the CEID, they’re still able to work on that, of course observing social distancing. But for teams that maybe don’t have that option, there’s definitely been a shift to what kind of work can be done remotely.”

Due to this change, some students must work independently on the hardware from their homes. Still, Geller noted that all of the teams are working on other aspects that can be completed remotely and are hoping to have the software side of their projects done by the end of this year.

Increasing diversity and maintaining a social fabric in the club are also chief concerns, especially considering the remote nature of the year.

“One thing I really want to do is foster the sense of community within the club,” Geller said. “It was always really strong before, but that is definitely a priority for this year, especially given that many of us are remote and the whole situation… It’s hard to keep an organization active and lively.”

Y-IEEE’s official motto is “Flux et Veritas.”

Maya Geradi | maya.geradi@yale.edu

Maya Geradi currently serves as a copy editor. She also covers technology and entrepreneurship as a staff reporter with the Science and Technology Desk. Originally from New Haven, Maya is a junior in Grace Hopper College majoring in chemical engineering.