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Industrial Engineering students "RIISE" to the challenge

- January 20, 2017

Dalhousie's 2017 IISE Conference planning committee, including co-chairs Kyle Gillan (front left) and Logan Baillie (front right). (Provided photo)
Dalhousie's 2017 IISE Conference planning committee, including co-chairs Kyle Gillan (front left) and Logan Baillie (front right). (Provided photo)

More than 400 Industrial Engineering (IE) students are set to showcase their talents this weekend at the 37th Canadian Student IISE (Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers) Conference in Halifax.

The three-day conference, hosted this year by Dalhousie from January 19-22, gives the brightest IE students from across Canada and the United States the opportunity to take part in a series of inspiring competitions and network with industry professionals.

While this year’s conference theme encourages delegates to “RIISE to the challenge,” a group of students from Dal’s IE program have already exceeded those expectations.

Learn more: Dal Department of Industrial Engineering

Kyle Gillan and Logan Baillie, both fifth-year Dal IE students, are co-chairing the committee planning this year’s IISE conference. The annual event is held in a different location each year, and the host committee typically has two years to plan and execute the elaborate event. But this year, a last-minute change saw Dal students rise to the challenge.

“Last year when we attended the conference, we found out that the school that was supposed to be hosting it this year had dropped out,” says Kyle. “So I along with five or six other Dal students came up with the idea that we would pull this off in a year.”

They certainly did, but Kyle says it wasn’t easy.

Taking the lead


From hotel bookings, to sponsorships, keynotes and more, there was a lot of work to do. The challenge proved even more difficult with many of the committee members, including Kyle, away on co-op for four months.

“Neither Kyle or I had organized a conference of this magnitude, and we couldn’t have done it without the great team that we had,” says Logan. “The committee was very dedicated. They gave up a lot of time and put in a lot of effort as volunteers who were also students.”  

Comprised of 21 IE students ranging from third year to fifth year, the team also had the full support from the Department of Industrial Engineering.  

“The head of our Department, Dr. Corrine MacDonald has been a great resource when it’s come to things like negotiating with hotels, working with finances and managing accounts,” says Kyle.

“A lot of our professors have also helped us find speakers for the conference, or are speaking themselves,” adds Logan “They’ve also helped write the theoretical exam [one of the components of the conference] and provided any sort of support that we needed.”

Both Kyle and Logan admit that planning the event in such a short amount of time was demanding, but the benefits of having taken on the role were more than they expected to gain.

“In co-ops you may work on a big project but you never have near as big of a role as something like this,” says Logan. “We got to practise communications plans, run meetings, learn how to manage volunteers, and negotiate contracts. That’s something I’ve never done. You probably can’t even touch on everything that we’ve learned.”

“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions over the past year,” adds Kyle. “When you take a step back and look at all the work that’s been completed it’s just incredible.”

Inspiring the next generation of IE professionals


Eleven universities from across Canada and the United States will send teams of up to 50 students to this year’s IISE Conference. Participants will compete in a Simulation Competition, a Technical Competition, a Theoretical Exam and a Case Study, but the conference offers more than just the opportunity to see how students match up against their peers.

Along with a lineup of motivating speakers are two big keynotes: Jeff MacLean, president of Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., and Dr. Stan Matwin, Dalhousie Computer Science professor and director of the Institute for Big Data Analytics.

Although there are plenty of reasons for students to attend the IISE conference, for Kyle, a key benefit is the opportunity for students to network with industry professionals in attendance.

After he graduates from Dalhousie this spring, he’ll be moving to Toronto to work for Deloitte Canada, but he says that may not have been possible had he not attended last year’s IISE Conference in Waterloo.

“The reason I learned about Deloitte last year was because of the contact I met at the conference,” says Kyle. I talked to him for about half an hour and he gave me his contact info. I reached out to him about six months ago and told him I was applying for a job at the company and he helped me through the entire interview process.”

For Logan, this will be his first time attending an IISE Conference, and although he’s not taking part in the competitions, he says having helped plan the event was an experience he can’t match.

“I’m very excited to see the students get excited about the conference. I want them to be just as excited as I am” he says. “We want to inspire everyone to be motivated and take on challenges they foresee in their upcoming careers.  We’re hoping that this conference excites them about industrial engineering and helps them prepare for their careers.”


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