Every year, hundreds of technology enthusiasts gather in Toronto for the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference. Started in 2000 by a group of UW students, the conference now attracts some of the brightest undergraduates from across the country. This year, CUTC was held at the Regal Constellation Hotel in Toronto from January 16 to January 18.
CUTC provides an excellent opportunity for students to meet with influential leaders in the technology industry, and preview some new products and technologies. Networking opportunities are also abundant, and many students come armed with résumés in hopes of landing a job or a co-op placement. Some of the more notable events and speakers of this year’s conference include:
Helen Armitage – VP Technology, IBM.
Ms. Armitage opened the conference by discussing the future of computing. She sees biology playing a great role in IT, and discussed how the behaviour of small organisms is being applied to computing. Eventually, she foresees the Internet becoming a utility just like hydro or water, and the processing power matching that of the human brain by 2015. Her company’s support for Linux and open source software resonated well with the audience; however, some students questioned the ethics and potential problems in building machines with such immense processing power.
Intellectual Property TechPanel.
Four panellists, including a patent agent, a jazz musician, lawyer, and an open-source advocate, discussed varying aspects of Intellectual Property, from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to peer-to-peer file sharing. Several cases were discussed, such as the recent Disney trial in which copyright protection was extended. As a result of this decision, it was pointed out that it is now illegal to sing “Happy Birthday” in public in the US, since copyright on this song extends until 2016. Some of the more heated debate centred around file sharing, with many panellists severely criticizing the Recording Industry for failing to embrace this new technology, and others arguing for the rights of artists to receive compensation for their work.
Don Tapscott – Co-Founder, Digital 4Sight.
Author of the well know books Paradigm Shift and The Digital Economy, Mr. Tapscott’s speech was aimed at inciting the audience to get involved and make a difference in our society. Arguing that the generation of today’s youth, raised in the internet age, is fundamentally different from that of our parents, he challenged delegates to change the direction of our country, and discover new ways to think about education, business and government. He proposed that the next step in the evolution of the internet will be know as the “hypernet”, in which more and more devices – everything from cell phones to refrigerators to automobiles – become connected, and society undergoes a profound change.
Many exhibitors were on hand to show off some of the latest high-tech gadgets. A HyperSonic Sound (HSS) device was showcased by American Technology Corporation. This is a entirely new type of speaker, which creates directional sound waves, such that sound can be focused like the beam of a flashlight. Other exhibitions included Microsoft with the new tablet PC, Nortel Networks’ voice over IP phones, and Queen’s University’s Human-Computer Interaction lab with video communication and eye tracker systems. Besides the cool demos, there were also plenty of recruiters on hand to discuss employment opportunities.
Michael Neuman – President, Bell Mobility.
Mr Neumann explored the future of wireless communications, discussing Bell’s next-generation network, providing high-speed packet-based data transfer for cell phones, PDAs and other wireless devices. He went on to demonstrate how businesses today are using wireless to improve the delivery of products and services.
The conference wound down with the Think Tank, where small groups met to discuss topics related to seminars held throughout the conference. Industry and academic leaders, including Jim Tobin, VP of Technology, AOL Time Warner, and Dr. Jim Mitchell, Director of Sun Labs, Sun Microsystems, were present to lead the discussion. The topics greatly varied among groups, with some considering whether it would eventually be possible to live without a body, where one’s brain is directly connected to a computer which provides all the necessary stimulation. Other groups explored the meaning of entrepreneurship or discussed nanotechnology or organic LEDs.
Aside from all the serious events, there was also plenty of opportunity for entertainment. On Thursday night, a “Human Foosball” tournament took place, followed by Yuk Yuk’s comedy and a Counterstrike tournament in the computer lab. Friday brought a trip to downtown Toronto, where delegates took in the nightlife. Finally, the conference closed with a banquet and formal dinner.
Attracting 500 students, CUTC continues to be a great success year after year. If you missed the opportunity to go this year, be sure to stay tuned for information about CUTC 2004! And if you’d like to help organize next year’s conference, check out the web site http://www.cutc.ca for more information.