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VLSI Egypt: The past, the present and the future

Summary:  

We have many dreams in our mind that we feel that it can be real only by co-operation between all of us; committee and members. We are seeking all members who can allocate some of their time to help in driving and following up the activities that are carried over by the committee to contact us to join the committee as active members.

Many of us are part of this story. VLSI-Egypt as a journey from an idea in a single person’s mind till the moment when it is starting to formulate and taking steps forward to become a pool of information and a link that gathers all players of this industry in Egypt in a single channel is the topic of this article. Let’s see the start

VLSI-Egypt: The past

Circa 1999, when the VLSI industry was only a dream for many engineers in Egypt, one engineer – Nabil Ibrahim- noticed the lack of a communication channel that would gather all people interested in this field. Back then, Eng. Nabil thought that he could create a simple Yahoo group to establish such a channel, which he did. He created and publicized the group, putting the following sentences as the description for his emerging group, “The aim of this group is providing a PERMANENT communication link between all people who are interested in VLSI design (Engineers, Professors and undergraduate students).”

Many people started joining the group and rapidly many Egyptian people at different level of expertise, from both academic and industrial backgrounds, both inside and outside Egypt, started to join in.. A strong and diversified group was thus formulated and represented the nucleus of the group. Many fascinating technical discussions started that showed the level of expertise present within. In addition, some early trails to start outsourcing activity in the semiconductor industry by collecting resumes and trying to contact potential employees started at this time. These trails did not work well because the target of such activity was not clear enough in the minds of the group members and also because members were still not synchronized as to the target of the group.

However, the group continued to play an important role in information sharing, job announcements and answering questions that are facing people working in this industry.

Some years later, due to personal reasons, Eng. Nabil decided to pass on his duties as group moderator to others who he found to be interested in the task. Till 2004, about 4 or 5 people were assigned to follow up the group’s moderation tasks. By the end of 2004, Eng. Nabil assigned myself, Haytham Ashour, as the moderator of the group. Eng. Haytham Ashour tried to understand the old moderation issues with the group and started to put some rules that were approved by the group members to facilitate such tasks. Once approved, these rules were strictly applied to group members and actions were taken against any group member who violated these rules. This allowed filtering of many un-related topics and put an end to a large portion of email spam. During this period, the following set of rules was approved by the members and was monitored by the moderator:

1-It is strictly prohibited to send religious, Charitable, or politically related emails on this group’s mailing list.

2- Emails of job announcements or other technically related topics are allowed.

3-Course announcements, promotions, and advertisements are allowed to be sent only once during a period of two weeks. The topic of a message is taken into consideration, and not the name of the sender. Therefore, if the same course advertisement is sent more than once in two weeks it would be considered as a violation, even if sent by a different person.

4-It is not permitted to circulate any kind of topic concerning cracked tools within the VLSI-Egypt group.

In doing so, the group gained more credibility within the community and more people started to join. By the end of 2010, the number of group members reached 1000 members.

VLSI-Egypt: The present

Eventually, many group members came with ideas to extend the group’s activities and tried to formulate it. This was always hindered by the lack of resources in the moderation team; it was all done by a single person. One member, Ahmad Ibrahim, inquired about the possibility of creating a forum on which all activities may be discussed. The moderator welcomed this step and asked Eng. Ahmad Ibrahim to take on this task. A few months later, Eng. Ahmed Ibrahim was able to successfully launch the forum “http://vlsiegypt.co.cc”. It was a good step forward in allowing information and questions to be shared with the group and keeping track of it. In this way, the topics being shared were categorized and a database of all technical information available on the group was created.

This step, however, was not fully accepted by the group members. Many members preferred to use the Yahoo group as the emails sent were automatically forwarded to their email accounts without the need to check the forum itself every now and then to check if there had been any activity. We would like to seize this opportunity and encourage members to register on the forum and send their topics on it as this would help in future for all group members to search and get answers for their questions and queries.

At the start of 2010, the group moderator – Eng. Haytham Ashour – took the decision to start making a moderation committee by adding more people to the committee to help with him in making the group better. He asked people on the Yahoo group who were interested in enrolling in moderation roles to start contact him and a month later, a moderation committee was created and started to make monthly meetings to follow-up and discuss activities on the group. Currently the moderation committee is composed of four members (Haytham Ashour, Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Omar and Ahmed Abdel- Hamid).

The committee started first to try to formulate the group by putting a clear mission and vision for it. After long discussions, the committee agreed on the following statements for VLSI-Egypt as an entity and its vision and mission:

VLSI-Egypt is a non-profit, service oriented, community based NGO. VLSI-Egypt has the following mission and vision:

Vision

Establishing a dynamic environment for the electronics engineers and interested entities in order to help the advancement of the VLSI field in Egypt

Mission

1-Develop methods to share technical knowledge between people

2-Develop methods to encourage people to join and interact on the group

3-Develop channels between engineers and interested entities

As per this mission and vision, the moderation committee decided to create more channels between group members. The committee started a Facebook group that has about 300 members as of the date of this article and a Facebook page that has almost the same number of followers. It was initiated mainly to add more socialization between the group members and it has little restriction on topics that can be sent on it compared to the Yahoo group. The Facebook group is currently representing the official interface of VLSI-Egypt on the web. It has all news about official activities that are carried out by the committee. As of the time of publishing of this article, we have an overall of 2000 members between the Yahoo group, forum, Facebook group and Facebook page.

As per the activities, the committee started the “Share Your Knowledge” initiative. This initiative aims to encourage experienced people in the industry to share their knowledge with other members. VLSI-Egypt is aiming to be a pool of lecture and courses in each and every field that is related to the VLSI industry. The committee successfully managed to make a printed lecture series on microcontroller track “PIC16F87X Nuts and Bolts”. This was a series of eight lectures with labs about PIC16F87X microcontroller and some applications using it. A webinar series on FPGA design titled “Unlocking FPGA Secrets” followed later on. This series is still in progress and is focused on illuminating the secrets of FPGA design.

Another activity that has been started and which had taken a very long time in preparations and discussions is this magazine, “VLSI-Egypt Magazine”. In this first issue, we hope to present something that would enhance the communication between the members of this field in Egypt.

VLSI-Egypt: The Future

After this long story, what we are targeting in the future?  We see the future as bright as this story has been. Our plans for the future are shaped by the moderation committee and by group members who are willing to share their ideas with us. We see it more depending on you – the members – to help us in our activities and to be part of this success story.

We want to continue in the magazine activity and we are planning to issue it quarterly. We want to formulate an editorial group to take over this responsibility and to help with the moderation committee in making future issues of the magazine. We see this first issue as a start of a reputable and periodic magazine that gathers all news and presents new ideas in this industry.

We want also to get contacts from people who are ready to share their knowledge with others and to arrange with them about courses that they can present. This would allow us to be able to continue “Share Your Knowledge” initiative. We see this as our way to make VLSI-Egypt, after a few years, enriched with a pool of courses, lectures and webinars that could be downloaded for free to share our current knowledge with the new generations and fresh graduates and make them prepared for our ever-changing field.

We have ideas about starting an application notes or white papers activity that are written by engineers who have some specific experience about certain topics and are ready to share it with the community. This is also can be considered as a part of our effort to collect information from experienced people and sharing it. The difference here is that these white papers are more into tiny details and deep technical problems. This would allow more people, even fresh graduates, to share more information about the problems they faced and how they solved it.

We have many more ideas about making VLSI-Egypt to be the interface of the VLSI industry in Egypt. As a policy, we are targeting to be at the same distance from all companies and universities that are working in this filed in Egypt. We want to build a successful relationship with them as sponsors and partners with us.

We have many dreams in our mind that we feel that it can be real only by co-operation between all of us; committee and members. We are seeking all members who can allocate some of their time to help in driving and following up the activities that are carried over by the committee to contact us to join the committee as active members. We also want people who have expertise in any field and are ready to share this information with others to contact us to arrange with them the best way to share this information. We would be pleased to collect all your ideas, feed-back and questions to study it and take it into consideration in our future plans.

 

Haytham Ashour, M.Sc

VP of VLSI-Egypt Moderation Committee Board,
M.Sc. Electronics & Communications Engineering
Digital Design and Verification Leader, Consultant and Entrepreneur
haytham.ashour@gmail.com

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