A Mélange of Gravity and Mirth

There is an aura of gravity around him. But, he is a down to earth man who believes in “work hard, party hard” mantra. He is none other than the newly appointed HOD of Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, Prof. Kamala Kanta Mahapatra. Team MM brings you the details of the tasks at hand for the new HOD.

MM: A hearty congratulations on your appointment as the Head of the Department of Electronics and Communication. Please share your feelings with us.

KKM: Thank you. It is fine to be back as the Head after ten years. I was the Head from 2004-06. In the interim, I have been in other appointments like Chairman Golden Jubilee, Dean Academics. And its good to be back. We have more scope now, in terms of labs and infrastructure, as to what the department possessed a decade back. Our aim is to improve the standard of the Department in the next couple of years. Ten years back, the department had only 120 students. But now, it has grown to over 630. 

MM: What all plans have been decided for the improvement of the department?

KKM: The country is focusing strongly on electronics manufacturing today. We do not have indigenous chip fabricating systems except for a few, like the SCF (Semiconductor Complex Limited). Besides that, Bharat Electronics Limited and Indian telecom industry have some systems. Even the top premiere institutes cannot produce the chips in the right kind of technology. 

Since the scenario in the country is changing, we need to keep up with the times. We have to focus on hardware too. Only developing software won’t help.

The product development lab has been introduced to expedite this process. Not just simulation, we also want the students to know the actual process of manufacturing. We want to go in the direction of the requirement of the country.

 MM: How did you come to associate yourself with this field?

KKM: It is a very challenging subject. In fact, during my B. Tech, I studied both electrical and electronics. Electronics is an offshoot of electrical engineering. The subject became so vast; it became a discipline of its own. It is interesting and analytical; you don’t have to mug up facts. Everything is derivable. I like analytical stuff and circuits have always fascinated me. 

MM: You also made the department proud by receiving the IETE J N Bose Memorial Award for best engineering oriented paper. Congratulations for the achievement.

KKM: Thank you. Yes, I received the award along with Prof P Karuppanam, who is one my previous students. He is currently a professor at MNIT, Allahabad. The topic of research was “Digital Non Linear Controller based Active Power Filter for Harmonic Compensation”. 

MM: What all instruments and equipment that have been procured by the department?

KKM: We have procured some basic equipment to support the strength of the department, like CROs, oscilloscopes and function generators, multimeters, meant for basic teaching. We have added a lot development boards for the students to develop projects as per their desire. We have got processors from Texas Instruments, VSworks: a real time operating system that’s capable of doing any real time system design. We have got the things. But we need a lot more. 

MM: What all changes have been made to the syllabus this year?

KKM: Apart from the product design lab for 5th semester B.Tech students and 1st semester M.Tech students, we have made changes according to the requirement of the country. We have faculty from almost all the specializations. But the major worry is the total faculty strength. There are 21 of us, but need at least 40. Hopefully, we will add up more faculties in another 4-5 years.

 MM: Please tell us about some significant research work going on in the department.

KKM: We have significant research in almost all the areas. The VLSI group has been able to fabricate chips. We fabricated our first chip about a year ago. We tested it, and it was found to be working perfectly. We hope more students pursue this field. A lot of embedded systems are being developed for different kinds of applications for industrial electronics, motor vehicles. The antennae and microwave group is also researching. The communication group is researching on mobile and cellular applications. Then, we have a young faculty, who has started research on assistive technology. We are also in the process of developing technology for sign language interpretation. The software is being developed after which the hardware will be developed in 2-3 years. The input will be through a camera in front of that person and in the absence of a translator; he/she can be understood. The gestures will be converted and can be displayed. We have developed a hearing aid with low power consumption. This can last for more time, so the patient need not go for frequent battery replacements. All these works involve a lot of signal processing and circuit designing. 

If we are studying engineering, we must do something for the society. We must justify why we became engineers. 

MM: The department has met with significant success on the Balloon Satellite. A new Balloon satellite is being planned. Please shed some light on this matter. 

KKM: Yes, the Balloon satellite project is definitely a big step for the institute. Two of our colleagues, Prof Ajit Sahoo and Prof. Samit Ari are the in-charge. They are being supported by both students and faculty alike. This satellite requires signal processing, mechanical works, VLSI and circuit design. The second satellite is quite heavy. So it needs architectural and mechanical designs. We have involved people from other departments as well. In the entire country, only a few institutes have been successful like IIT Kanpur and SRM Chennai. We have taken it as a challenge and hopefully we will be successful. 

MM: You are in a great position of responsibility and therefore must be having some expectations from your students, since the department works as a team. What advice would you like to give to the students as motivation?

KKM: The students should know their responsibilities. That is very important. I mean, they should not study for grades. They should study for learning the subject and become more proficient in that. The mentality of studying for grades and getting a job is very detrimental. If you are studying engineering, study it properly. That’s what a majority of the students’ lack. But I think, they can use this knowledge in their field of interest to improvise the work. They can use technology in a better manner. For example, if you become an IPS officer in future, you can use your knowledge of electronics for the good of the society.  The focus should be both on software and hardware.  Think on a long term. Also, I don’t believe in “All work and No play”. You should learn to balance your life properly. My piece of advice is “Work hard, Party hard”. That is all I say. <Smiles>