BENGALURU: With sensors, wheels, thremocol, plastic, plywood, and wires, Dr V Vinay encourages his students to experiment and commit mistakes. “One cannot become an engineer without making mistakes,” he says. “Mistakes are good.”
Known for inventing the Simputer, a handy computer-like device, he is unhappy about the quality of engineering in the country.
Out of 10 lakh taking up engineering in various colleges in India, seven to eight lakh pass. “About three lakh get placed in IT companies, and 50-70,000 in core engineering companies,” he says.
From his research, he found that only 10,000 of them are really competent.
“I spoke to various professors and the maximum number of competent engineers who pass, they all think, is about 10,000. That’s not enough for India. Until 2042, India will be the youngest nation. By 2060 we will be oldest. We might land up with the oldest population with little skill. That will be a huge burden. We have a window of about 20 years,” he explains.
He started with PES University five years ago and now has students from six other colleges, including Christ University, who train under him before they complete their engineering. “I spend about 25 hours with them and in the last 10 hours, they build a project,” he says.
The professor resigned from the Indian Institute of Science in 2006 and is working towards making school and college dropouts skilled individuals.
“Agastya Foundation came to me and asked if we could give engineering skills to school dropouts. We set out on a mission to make them productive. Once they get trained under us, they might come up with ideas to develop their villages,” he says.
The course, called Jed-i Explore, is currently on to help 40 school and college dropouts at Kuppam village near Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. Their first batch will complete the course in a month.
“I teach them whatever I expect from an engineering student, except mathematics. That would be difficult for them. We have created a programme like that. It’s not a
do-it-yourself kit. We tell them what we are expecting them to make and just give them the tools they need. They have to put it together. Every team comes up with a solution. It requires some electronics, some mechanical knowledge and some logic. This will help them come up with a solution if they confront a new problem,” he says. Their next course will be conducted near Hubbali. In order to catch students young, Vinay trains students of Class 8, 9 and 10.
“Parents think that coaching centres are ‘better schools’. I wanted to provide them an alternative space without the stress of exams or time,” he says.