Putting science back into rural labs  

Putting science back into rural labs

Published: 06th July 2018 10:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th July 2018 02:18 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD : Imagine being able to simulate a sophisticated experiment online with just a computer and an internet connection. Now imagine that happening in rural areas anywhere, anytime throughout the country. This is precisely what the Virtual Labs project launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) aims to achieve. The project was launched in 2012 and is being developed and maintained in partnership with the various IITs of India along with IIIT Hyderabad and other partner colleges throughout the country. There are over 114 such virtual labs spread over 11 domains including Mechanical Engineering, Material Sciences and Aerospace Engineering. 

One of the main objectives for bringing about virtual labs was to recreate real-life scenarios in areas where it would be physically impossible to have all the necessary lab equipment. “While in the case of Computer Science, there may not be much of a difference between an experiment online and the actual working in real-time, in non-Computer Science fields, there are huge advantages in using virtual labs,” says Ravi Shankar, Program Manager of Virtual Labs and the Outreach Co-ordinator at IIIT-H.

All the experiments are uploaded to a central engineering platform, which can now be accessed by anyone throughout the country by just logging on to the project website. The Virtual Labs Engineering and Architecture Division (VLEAD) of IIIT Hyderabad, is one of the several teams working on the Virtual Labs project. At its recently conducted ‘Bugathon’, 117 students across eight colleges participated in a day-long exercise of identifying and fixing bugs on the virtual labs platform. Around 1500+ bugs were identified.

This was followed by a three-day boot camp by VLEAD after which students got bugs assigned to them regularly which they could fix from the comfort of their own homes. “Such internships are one of the ways by which we are promoting a culture of open source, where anybody can contribute to the virtual lab project,” says Priya Raman, Program Manager. 

Sarika, a 2nd year BTech student from Vasavi College of Engineering who is currently interning at VLEAD said that this has been a completely different experience for her. “It has given me a great exposure as to how it would be stepping outside our college and into the professional world,” she said.  Currently IIIT-H is hosting a summer residential internship program for undergraduate engineering students throughout India. More information can be found on vlab.co.in and dev.vlabs.ac.in

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