An All-Round Reconnaissance
With a lot of infrastructural work in the institute happening at snail’s pace and obvious concerns about the security issues in the recent ISM, there was a lot to digest and seek clarifications for the average NITian. Taking up new proposals such as elevating the research phenomenon in undergraduate students and introduction of minor degrees along with the core courses, team MM went to the director on a sunny afternoon to get the answers to various such issues. The following are the excerpts from the interview:
MM: Could you give us an update on the various infrastructural developments coming up in and around campus?
SKS: There are a lot of developments with some undergoing construction and others in the pipeline
* We have reached the maximum height of the Golden Jubilee building. Along with its other uses, the School of Management will migrate there and remain there until they get some new space. The tower section would be used for some labs for those departments requiring elevated space, line-of-sight applications etc.
* Mechanical and ID annexure will be provided with ramps for people using wheelchairs and so that students can travel faster. The entrance to the Mechanical building is supposed to have a large pendulum of length 14m, which will demonstrate the rotation of the Earth as it changes the direction of oscillation over the course of the day.
* LA II will soon be finished and is meant to be used for same purpose as LA I. Each floor will be linked and a ramp will also be provided, so that the students, after parking their bikes can take the ramp and move in any direction on reaching the required floor. There will be two canteens – one on the ground floor and one on the top floor.
* A ring pathway is being made connecting the Electrical department, the road behind Rajendra Mishra Hall, BM department, and LA.
* A new architecture building is to be made. The present Architecture building will be used by the department of Earth Science, and it will be extended.
* The space beyond the Naga Pond is supposed to house an Auditorium of a capacity of 1600 people and an Open Air Theatre, where Celebrity Nights can be held, instead of holding them in DTS as is currently being done.
* SD Hall is going to be completed in its entirety within a very short time.
* There are plans for two hostels – each of 6 floors housing a total of 3000 students. They would have a common dining complex with options for students to register for a separate caterer in each semester. A new sports complex would be built accompanying this area.
* The space along the industrial avenue is supposed to have a sewage treatment pond having a capacity of five days, to oxidize the sewage water either naturally and/or in addition with motorised devices.
* Near the faculty quarter, towards the south west, a new compound is coming up where 5 Million litres per day water treatment plant is being set up. From there water will be pumped to the hilltop, from where it will be distributed to the hostels.More building for faculty accommodation is already being built near the existing faculty accommodation.
* Roads are being repaired. Some of the work was stalled due to rains.
* AC installation in LA is currently stalled due to funds. However, the LA and the Electrical Sciences building basements are being provided with ventilation facilities to ensure relief.
In the more distant future:
* There is a plan to have a 6 floor laboratory facility for the students adjacent to the two lecture annexures where all the foundational laboratory courses shall be conducted so that the freshmen don’t have to move elsewhere.
* Creation of an instrumentation and data acquisition lab is also there in the pipeline, where all students will be acquainted with the for their curriculum.
* Land has been set aside for a new guest house with 120 rooms in the space beyond the State Bank where the road bends.
* All departments are starved for space so the current buildings will be used to by the existing departments, but each will have more space. FP and Civil shifted to Mechanical department and the library would be used by the mathematics or biology department.
MM: What are the updates on infrastructure for Persons with Disability in the existing buildings?
SKS: The government has sanctioned a lot of money, close to 3.5 crores this year and they want lifts installed in all the buildings. As the money flows in, we will be installing lifts in the Chemical department and replace old lifts in the LA and Main Building. The issues with lifts is not buying and installing but maintenance.
MM: People are still not convinced with the PD Labs since there isn't any set curriculum and evaluation system in place. How effective has been this course?
SKS: The PD lab was kept so that the students have an idea about how to proceed while making a product, not to create a product itself. It is intended that the entire class gets to make a product or two. The teacher encourages the students to do a literature survey, regarding what equipment and machines are required, the steps and come up with documents that need to be submitted to the fabricating agency, the financing body etc. The idea is to be industry-innovation oriented. It aimed to tap the creativity of the professor in terms of product proposal and subsequent methodologies. In the process, some amount of impact is made on the students, and given some time, it will be effective for the students.
For PD lab, we could have a system in which four parameters/levels are devised in the timeline and which can then be used to evaluate the students upon. These four stages, namely literature survey, market survey, technical drawings and simulation, and cost analysis should be submitted within fixed time intervals and accordingly graded. This would give a standardized system of evaluation.
MM: Most IITs and Institutes abroad have a system of Minor and Majors in place. Is it feasible for our institute to have such a system?
SKS: In the US system of education, the total amount of education that they go through is quite low and is with a lot of flexible and lot less attachment. However, in our institute, we have a packed schedule with a more than adequate curriculum. It is more useful to have to student follow a heavy credit curriculum and a packed program, rather than giving them free time to follow other pursuits as it results in a waste of time anyway. First year is devoted to foundation, and that leaves us with three years with 28 theory subjects to complete, along with four labs per semester Hence there is hardly any scope to follow a Minor in our system. Also, most people are employed according to their degree and not their minor. Also, there isn't adequate faculty to offer Minors in different subjects due to the lack of faculty personnel in all departments.
MM: A recent circular has been issued addressing the alumni and the parents of the students, soliciting money from them for various SAC purposes including the celebrity night? Have the existing funds dried up? What is the motto behind this action?
SKS: It is a matter of fact that the SAC expenditure is exceeding the funds available. However, I would take this opportunity to reiterate the fact that parents and alumni have been valuable financers and honourable people of the institute and have made the institute, apart from the help we receive from the central government and it is a problem we have at hand that presently we aren’t being able to give them the facilities and stature of distinguished guests every time they walk in.
The intentions of issuing that circular is not just generation of funds but also to provide an avenue to the parents and alumni to be distinguished guests of the institute who can avail a lot of facilities, which currently aren’t in the picture.
We are soliciting funds from parents and alumni in checks of 10,000 and 50,000, which will in turn provide them with invitations to all functions of the institute throughout the year as a guest and an amount of 5,00,000 would open up the avenue of them availing a platinum card, which would include facilities like a free accommodation and victual services for them along with their family throughout the year. The funds thus collected would go into the SAC funds and the alumni funds equally.
On the other hand, Prof. Majhi and I along with Mr. Venkat Peri are visiting the States, soliciting alumni and anticipating to pitch in funds from industrial houses for supporting scholarships so that the institute would never look back in providing facilities to the students in academic and extra-curricular arenas.
On Saturday 26th March, Dr. Surya N. Mohapatra, who is a former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at Quest Diagnostics, a Fortune 500 company and presently a Professor of Management at the Columbia University, shall be visiting the institute to address the students and staff. We are privileged to have such an amazing personality set foot on our campus and hope that everyone makes the most of this session.
MM: The ‘Research experience for Undergraduates’ programme is a distinguished one, which invites
applications from the 3rd semester students and chooses a few to pursue research for the rest of their time at the institute under faculty who work on a variety of projects and majorly aims at inculcating aptitude for research in the students at an early stage. Is it feasible to have such a programme in our institute?
SKS: The research scenario is a bit skewed when it comes to our country and even at our institute. We do have a provision for the third year students to drop out two theory courses and go for the development of a product, with the institute giving grants for the projects. However, this provision is corrupted with students not showing interest after registering for it subsequently and might as well end up as a headache to the faculty concerned, due to constant diversions like semester exams, fests etc . Industry and product development in the institute is yet to see a lot of reform and owing to this, it is possible to look into the prospects of this proposal and review the procedures.
MM: Keeping in view the upcoming elections, can a discussion with the nominated candidates be possible for the students to deliberate with them and decide fairly whom to elect as a video of a manifesto is not sufficient as a motivator to vote in their favour?
SKS: This is an idea which can be implemented and would be appreciated if done, as I believe that an interaction between the nominated candidates and the voting populace would clear all doubts about their manifestos and give an idea of their work at SAC. This can be done on different days for different societies so that it goes in an organized way.
MM: During ISM 2016, there were a lot of clashes between orders from different authorities ultimately leading to a lot of conflicts, especially pertaining to security guards and permissions. One instance was that the students who had permissions from Japes Bera to stay and work in SAC had to vacate because the Security Guards refused to accept the permission. Please comment.
I have come across incidents like these previously too and it is high time that we introduce a form for security purposes which will include everything from the authorities sanctioning the permissions for extended timings and the signature of the concerned security authority. It can be in the form of a Gate Pass which would be recognised by everyone concerned. This will be duly considered as the final order, by all the security guards so that no more unnecessary inconvenience is caused to any of the involved parties.