The field of electrical engineering as an occupation gained traction in the latter half of the 19th century. Since then, many international (pre-)professional organizations have emerged to foster the discipline by organizing activities such as promoting best practices, providing education, and facilitating collaboration. Even among students, such organizations have emerged. One of these is EESTEC, an organization founded in 1986 by the Dutch study associations ETV (Delft), Thor (Eindhoven), and Scintilla (Enschede). This article will delve into the history of EESTEC and its current state.
Already in the late 1950s, there had been an attempt to create an international student body in the field of electrical engineering. Students from France and West Germany organized events in Paris and Munich to discuss possibilities. They came to the objective of fostering student internationalization by creating a formal non-profit organization. Therefore, in 1964 they founded an organization called EURIELEC together with Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. Membership in EURIELEC was available to student groups from European institutions that offered an electrical engineering degree. In subsequent years, annual congresses were organized in the form of professional events, local excursions, and social gatherings.
Because EURIELEC was terminated in 1972 due to the European political climate and lack of events, the boards of three Dutch student organizations from Delft, Eindhoven, and Enschede decided to attempt to rekindle the interest of other European student associations in reviving international student activities in 1984. They formed a committee called Commissie Internationale Contacten (CIC) and engaged with professional organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the European League for Electrical Engineering Education (EUREL), and the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). In January 1985, they sent a letter to all former member universities of EURIELEC inviting them to participate in a new annual conference for electrical engineering students, which they eventually named the Electrical Engineering Students' International Conference (EESTIC).
In the years that followed, the organization grew rapidly to a total of 25 countries. Because most of the countries involved were European, the delegates agreed upon renaming the organization from EESTIC to EESTEC (Electrical Engineering Students European Conference). However, later on, with the rise of new programs and initiatives all year round, they decided to change ‘Conference’ to ‘Association’, but held the acronym the same.
Since then, many cities and countries have joined the network. Currently, EESTEC has over 40 active Local Committees (LCs) located at universities across Europe. The organization is run by an international board consisting of members from participating LCs. It keeps track of activities, statutory affairs, and supports local branches with, for example, organizing international events.
The participating LCs host various events and activities that aim to provide opportunities for students to develop their technical and collaboration skills, as well as to connect with peers from other countries. The most common events are workshops. Students join another branch for around five days to learn about a specific topic. It can be technical in nature, like an Arduino course, or more soft-skill oriented, such as presentation practice or learning to lead in various team settings.
For students who want to experience the culture of a specific country, LCs can also organize short exchange programs. These exchanges are low-key opportunities to get to know a foreign city, taste a new culture, and engage in leisure activities with students from other universities.
Additionally, to discuss the future of EESTEC, two congresses are held each year in which local committees from Europe come together. Here they discuss their practices, the organization's future, and exchange ideas and experiences. These congresses are also an opportunity for students to network with professionals in the field and to learn about current developments in electrical engineering.
EESTEC has established partnerships with companies in and outside the engineering industry, providing opportunities for students to gain practical experience and make connections with potential employers. The organization also collaborates with other student organizations and professional societies to promote engineering and to provide a platform for international collaboration.
In recent years, for many, and also for EESTEC, the pandemic of 2020 has had a major impact on the possibility for traveling. The planned and recurring activities of EESTEC had to continue online, and for many universities their international dimension came to a halt. In Delft, EESTEC’s activities were fully committed to ETV’s international activities. Consequently, in times of the pandemic, activities ceased to exist while many people graduated and the influx of new committed members decreased.
For that reason, in 2022, when international physical activities were possible again, a group of students decided to kickstart the local committee of Delft for a wider audience. Whereas in the past, LC Delft has focused mainly on electrical engineering students from the ETV, it now wants to engage all master students, computer science and mathematics students, and work together with more faculty associations to let students experience the global perspective of university.
In summary, LC Delft aims to help EEMCS students experience international events. In doing so, it strives to let students enjoy week-long international workshops all over Europe at low cost, meet and network with students from other excellent technical universities, gain soft and hard skills, and enrich their CV with unique and inspiring experiences. It wants to be a place where people become friends before associates, and where students can break away from the local perspective of university.