Yes, you heard it right: Steve Wozniak will be keynoting at DAC 2011, bringing his joie de vivre and general engineering good cheer to the Electronic Design Automation community.
Of course, that's not the only reason to come to San Diego from June 5th to 10th. You'll mainly want to come for the opportunity to learn, which won't be hard to do, according to DAC 2011 Vice Chair Patrick Groeneveld, who also serves as DAC Finance Chair and Principal Engineer at Magma Design Automation – not necessarily in that order.
Patrick and I chatted at DATE 2011 in Grenoble, where we were both manning booths in the Exhibition Space – for Patrick, the DAC booth, and for me, the EDA Confidential booth. When I stepped across the aisle from my booth to the DAC booth, both Patrick and DAC Publicity Chair Michelle Clancy [Cayenne Communication] were there, and more than happy to tell me why people should plan on attending DAC.
Per Patrick, “There will be over 300 presentations, many fabulous panels, and over 175 exhibitors. We're also evolving the conference to include more embedded systems content, plus the User Track is growing bigger every year.
“Then, of course, there's our unique keynote speaker who will talk about the Joy of Engineering. I've specifically asked Steve to stress this, because people don't see enough of the joy involved. We who are engineers feel it, but we don't do a very good job of projecting it, or showing the rest of the world how much we actually enjoy our work. Even here at DATE, most people really like their careers in engineering, but again it's sometimes hard to perceive.”
“Also,” Patrick said, “Steve's going to talk about how following your passion allows you to convert innovative ideas into reality.”
More relevant to DAC 2011, however, according to Patrick: “Steve's really an embedded engineer, and that's an emerging focus at DAC, so [it's all the more appropriate] that he should be keynoting.”
Michelle Clancy noted that Wozniak's become even better known outside of Silicon Valley given his recent appearance on Dancing with the Stars. She said that's helped build yet more cache around becoming an engineer, along with Wozniak's natural enthusiasm for everything. Patrick added, “Steve's helped people everywhere to no longer be ashamed of being an engineer. When I started my career, we would never tell the girls that we were engineers, because we were sure we'd never get a date. Now engineers are getting more dates, and – even more importantly – now many more girls are becoming engineers.
“In fact, this year there are more women on the DAC Executive Committee than we've ever had before. And next year, in 2012, Donatella Sciuto [Politecnico di Milano] and Soha Hassoun [Tufts University] will be co-chairing the Technical Program Committee – a first for DAC.”
Regarding the program, I asked Patrick how things are progressing. He said, “From hundreds and hundreds of submissions, we've accepted 680 for review. There are 70 members on the Technical Program Committee, plus over 500 external reviewers, which will result in thousands of reviews of the submissions. It's always a really huge effort, and one of the most important ones associated with DAC.”
I couldn't hang out in the DAC booth forever, so I wrapped up our conversation by asking Patrick to address the age-old question of how to balance the needs/demands of academia versus those of industry in constructing a conference like DAC.
He said, “I came from academia, and so did Leon Stok [DAC 2011 General Chair, IBM], so we both understand this concern. And yes, the gap between academia and industry is noted. We're solving it, however, not by breaking down the academic quality of the conference, but by building up the content that's [relevant] to the average user, the type of engineer who doesn't want to attend technical sessions.
“These people want to know how to design better, and in the past have perhaps been under-served by conferences like DAC. We're changing this, however, with better invited materiel, plus by [enhancing] the User Track.
“That's allowed an engineer to go to his or her boss and say, I really need to go to DAC to learn to be a better designer. The DAC EC believes we should be offering the type of material that's more relevant to designers than any other conference throughout the course of the year, and we think we've accomplished that goal.
“We have better content offerings in terms of what's presented to designers, with less marketing fluff, than any other conference. Plus, DAC is still the place where they can come and really can do 1-stop shopping for all of their design tool needs.”
Like I said, there are plenty of reasons to be coming to San Diego in June.