This conference was both more work and more fun than I expected. In late 2017 John Hargrave and Yi-Ling Tam from the LA chapter attended a meeting of the San Diego chapter and pitched the idea of putting on a regional conference in early 2018. Our San Diego chapter just restarted in 2017 – we have a small membership and only held a few meetings up to that time. “We can do this together!” John said. “It’ll be fun!” Yi-Ling said. “Ok, I’m in!” I said.
A little cheerleading and arm-twisting later, John and I are co-chairing weekly meetings of an enthusiastic conference committee. I’d never done anything like this before, so when I say “co-chairing” I mean I’m riding in John’s wake. In less than 8 weeks, our conference went off with barely a hiccup. I learned a lot and I’d probably do it again. In a few years.
The conference, hosted by the LA, San Diego and Mojave chapters was held March 8-10 at the Temecula Creek Inn in Temecula, California. The location was perfect – a small resort hotel in a beautiful area close to LA and San Diego. The food was great, the facilities and staff were excellent and the weather was lovely – other than raining on my golf game.
We had roughly 50 attendees split between the technical session and training class on Friday, and about two dozen people at training on Saturday. Most came from the local region, but some flew in from as far away as Europe. John tells me that is an excellent turnout for a regional.
The technical session chaired by John Nakai included seven technical presentations, four exhibitor presentations, and a panel discussion. I thought the panel discussion on cross-industry Standards and Practices hosted by Andy Shuster was informative and a welcome break from a day of lectures. Bill Boze and Clint Stephenson gave a tantalizing outbrief of their mass properties survey and they enlisted the whole audience in data mining. (You all took the survey, didn’t you? https://www.sawe.org/survey/) I thought the audience participation was a great way to drive interest and engagement with the topic. In a brief and touching speech, Megan Derrig put out a request for artifacts in remembrance of Jim Valentine, who had recently passed (firstname.lastname@example.org). Finally, Errol Oguzhan invited us all to the 2018 international conference in Dallas – less than two months away!
Dan Rowley organized a generous training program. A class on the Automated Weight and Balance System (AWBS) was held by Harold Smoot on Friday. Two new classes were on Saturday: “Designing the Aircraft of the Future” with Andy Walker and Jerry Pierson, and “Materials and Mass Properties” with Victor Hillyard. Also on Saturday, a ShipWeight user’s session was held by Bruce Hays.
I’d like to thank our exhibitors Intercomp (who was also a sponsor), ShipWeight, Ensinger and i.e. Solutions, and our break sponsors Morf3D and Space Electronics for their generous support.
Many thanks to our hard-working conference committee, particularly to John Hargrave for keeping a steady hand on the tiller and to Ron Fox for being a great mentor.
Thanks also to the presenters and attendees. If you were an attendee I hope you were inspired to create and present a paper of your own next time. It may take some work, but it’s tremendously rewarding.
For those planning or considering a SAWE Regional Conference, here are some lessons learned from the conference committee:
The planning committee was in place and weekly teleconferences were held starting two months ahead of the conference date. That felt about the minimum amount of time to get everything done – but only because we stayed focused on the actions. Each meeting had an agenda and minutes with actions were taken. Webex or other live image sharing could have helped, but was not critical. Some committee members had difficulty communicating and sharing documents via email, possibly due to workplace firewalls. This could have been avoided with better use of Group-Office on the SAWE website.
We had good engagement from committee members and all had clear responsibilities. Committee members should be empowered to make decisions and recruit help from outside the committee as needed. Having two co-chairs to spread the load and Ron as mentor was a big help.
Ensure that all needed computers, projectors, screens, power cables, extension cords, data cables and data cable adapters (e.g. HDMI to VGA as needed) for all training, technical sessions and registration have been sourced and will work together. Consider making this the responsibility of an audio-video focal on the planning committee. We didn’t and had to scramble to recover.
The hotel facility in Temecula was the right location, the right size, had the right facilities and had good food and a great setting. Hotel staff was courteous and willing to work with us to make last-minute adjustments. An on-site visit to the facility during planning is a must.
Schedule training to start after the conference opening remarks. All attendees should have the opportunity to attend the opening.
Training instructors and the technical session host should arrive early for their class/ session to get the audio visual checked out, hooked up, and ready to go. Assume some adjustments will be required.
Use one computer to show all technical presentations. All presentations should be pre-loaded. Alternately, the computer should have a connection to SAWE Group-Office and all presentations uploaded to Group-Office (ensure that the hotel has an internet connection in the conference room). It couldn’t hurt to have all presentations both on the technical session host’s computer and in Group-Office, just to be sure. What if the host forgets his laptop?
Make sure that the scheduled times in Regonline, on the SAWE website announcement and in the program are accurate.
The committee discussed placing a tip jar in the hospitality suite to raise money for the scholarship fund. Nobody took the action and it was not done, but I think it’s a good idea for a future conference.
Apparently Regonline has a badge feature. We never noticed until after the conference. It may help future planners.
Use Regonline’s “aborted registration attempt” feature to identify people who tried to register but stopped before completion. They may need some help to sign up.
Getting exhibitors and sponsors takes a long time and is a group effort. Have a draft program to show potential exhibitors and sponsors so they can clearly understand what they are paying for.
Reach out to the International officers for advice and help.
Thank your exhibitors and sponsors, the host facility, conference committee and attendees!