A group of enterprising brains from IIT-Bombay is now harnessing its energies on creating robots for practical use, which would go beyond the walls of the august institute and would be adapted by the other technology institutes.
And it led to the setting up of the ambitious ‘E-Yantra’ programme,which was sponsored by the Union HRD Ministry under the National Mission for Education in Information and Communication Technology.
Initially, the exercise that got under way in November 2012 was greeted with skepticism from the colleges. Under the pilot project, 16 colleges affiliated to the Mumbai University have set up a robotics laboratory in their campus at a cost of Rs 5 lakh apiece .
“Once the labs are in place, we can share our know-how, teaching insights, project methodologies, etc,. The teachers will be trained to take ownership of the Embedded system course,” said Kavi Arya, professor of Computer Science at the IIT- B.
It was Arya and his colleague Kirthi Ramamirtham who came up with the concept of e-Yantra 5 years ago. The present model of e-Yantra evolved after several instances of trial and error.
And by the end of the first year, IIT Bombay aims to create e-Yantra labs across 100 colleges which is expected to reach 500 colleges, including those in the small villages and towns of the country, by the third year . According to Shrikant Welankar, professor of electronics and engineering at Vidyalankar Institute of Technology in Mumbai,the strategy is already is paying off.Welankar, who headed a four-member team of teachers bagged the third place in a competition to create a Fire Bird robot that would successfully navigate a random maze.
“Though I had worked in the industry I was getting back the same excitement of working hands-on. The robotics which is part of the curriculum in our college is theory whereas this dealt with practical aspect,” he said.
Though their team teachers stood third in the competition, they were in a much better position to guide the students for their competition in robotics.
“Our student team stood first. The process of learning we underwent during the competition made us not just confident, but also better placed to guide our students. The students also realise that the professors are giving guidance based on their own experience not just by referring to theoretical texts,” said Welankar. And this is precisely what the ideators of e-Yantra had desired when they set out.
Arya says the teachers will be trained to take ownership of the Embedded system course and Ramamirtham articulated how it would enrich the society at large. “Our goal is to inspire our students to look upon themselves as problem solvers of the society,” said Ramamirtham.