The three primary ways of finding a community and venues that suits you are:
- talk with people familiar with communities that might be of interest to you (will be heavily based on luck and talking with a lot of different people about their work)
- find publications that make the sort of contributions that you want to make (requires broad reading of the literature in your field, and possibly beyond it)
- find venues that sound like they are on-topic for you and read papers from it to see what variety of papers seem popular there recently
In short, there is a three-way link here: People <-> Publication <-> Venue
Find one and you can work your way to the others. Find a publication that fits what you want to do, and you can find the venue it appears in, as well as the people involved with it. Given people, you can find what other papers they publish and where they publish them. Given a venue, you can find what sort of papers are published there, and who is responsible for those papers.
All of these are in a constant state of change, so what contributions are valued, what work people do, and what are top/good/ok/bad places to publish changes at least yearly. Ideally you would have local contacts (advisor, other professors, fellow researchers) who can help you, as the search space is so large, but sometimes you are (or want to be) in the minority and so what works for most people near you won't work for you.
Specific to engineering, you should be aware (and look for) the fact that not all engineering contributions are the same, either. Some focus on novelty, technical difficulty, real-world application, industrial applicability, actual deployment, etc. You'll discover that as you read through papers.
I should also clarify that math is not a short-hand for academic or scientific work. While math is often a part of papers, there are many types of paper where you could remove the math completely and the contribution would be the same. Sometimes math is part of the key contribution, sometimes it is sprinkled on for effect (like a garnish), sometimes it is just for clarity, and sometimes it is just because it is standard to include some definitions/equations but they aren't otherwise important. Learning to distinguish them is just part of the process of reading through them - though I suspect you are getting hung up on the fine details before you get to the general big picture, which will actually make it harder to figure out what is going on.
I would suggest you try to read the papers in a less detailed way on the first pass or two, and basically replace the math with this: input -> (magic happens...) -> output. First understand the general gist of what purpose the math is to serve, and then you can go back and look at the math more closely when it seems relevant - but most papers won't be relevant enough to the task at hand to bother with that level of detail. It can also help to join a reading group so you can get the experience of seeing how other people talk about the papers and work through them. This is especially important with unfamiliar math, as there are many natural language ways of talking about the math that makes it make sense, when you would never get that from only reading the paper itself.
Eventually you will be able to find papers and say, "hey, this is the kind of paper I want to write and the work I want to do, only instead of this detail here I would instead like to do this other thing..." - and there you go. Since you have less time to do this than a full PhD, I suggest you be a bit less picky and instead focus on the lower-hanging fruit of being closer to the work your group does, or at least focus on papers you feel are more intelligible to you and settle for an OK fit.
Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help from those around you, that is part of the process and point of being in a program. Well, you can be afraid, that's fine - just ask for help anyway. You will not understand every last bit of what you do, much less what other people do, and that's part of the work - don't worry about it. Much of the goal of the field you are in is to try to make advancements even though the level of complexity has long gone beyond what any one person can understand fully, even with many more years of experience than you have. Do what you can, muddle through, and accept that you will only understand a small percentage of what there is to know.