Calibrating Quality of Education: Lab Facilities at NITR
Laboratory infrastructure is one of the vital parts of any institution. It is where the practical skills of a student are laid and also where one can expect to hone his practical skills and complement his theoretical knowledge. Ours being majorly a technical institute, it becomes highly imperative that the laboratory infrastructure is updated at regular intervals and most importantly it meets the industrial requirements. It also demands a thorough input into the syncing of the existing curriculum with the facilities available.
Team Monday Morning conducted a survey among the various departments regarding the status of lab facilities. The following article presents a detailed result obtained after consulting the HoDs of the concerned departments.
Department of Ceramic Engineering:
The labs are well equipped. There is a deficit of some lab equipments like PRESS, Furnace, Mill and Drier. We are trying to procure for the UG Labs. The department has received a funding of about 1.52 crore from DST FIST Funding. They are in need of two presses: Hot and Cold isostatic press.
When enquired about the safety of the lab the HOD said
The fire which broke out in the CS Dept was due to a short circuit in the AC. Keeping that in mind, we have replaced the old ACs with the new ones and have discarded the obsolete ones. There are no safety issues from the furnaces as they are alarm automated.”
The quantity is an issue. Much of the department’s equipment comes under CIF.
X-ray Diffraction machine is one of the equipment that is highly needed for the department but owing to fund crunches the department cannot own one.
Asking about his opinion on CIF, the HoD Prof. Ritwik Sarkar says
In major institutes like IITs, Central Instrumentation Facility is housed in a single building, which is not the case in our institute. There is an online system where the bookings can be done and experiments be carried out.”
Department of Mining Engineering:
All the desired facilities are available in the UG laboratories. Additionally, they require 4 important equipment. They are:
- ICPMS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrophotometer)
- CHNS-For coal analysis
- Differential scanning calorimeter
- Floatation Cell (For mineral processing)
- Gas chromatography
There is a lab called a Rock Mechanics lab which is one of the high-end labs housed in the Mining Engineering department. They have been granted funds under the FIST Project, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The department is likely to get the first three pieces of machinery. The department also does not have any space constraints. There are automated fire alarms.
The HoD-in-charge said
There are some fire safety loopholes which needs to be looked upon. In fact, there should be a fire safety audit carried out in the entire institute.
On being asked upon the need of manpower, he said
I am the PIC of Water quality resources lab and I need a trained technician who has a Masters degree in Chemistry or Environmental Engineering. I had approached the Director regarding this matter and he has given his kind consent to fulfil the needs.
Regarding Central Instrumentation Facility he says
There is a limitation on the use of CIF. Only 2 slots are allowed per week. This prolongs the research period because there are constraints and different factors you need to take into consideration for performing various experiments involved in the research project. For example, if I have to test some 50 samples and I have been allotted only 2 slots/week i.e 2 hours, the rest of my time is wasted. Moreover, there are some samples which require estimation immediately after their preparation. So various parameters come into play when CIF is taken into consideration.
Department of Electrical Engineering:
The Department of Electrical Engineering is well equipped with the necessary instruments required for the conduction of experiments in the UG labs. There had been complaints from the students of Basic Electrical Engineering Lab that most of the instruments in the lab are either broken or outdated.
When enquired about this to the HoD Prof. Sushmita Das says
There is no equipment which is obsolete. We are updating the equipments and are trying to introduce their newer versions. We have received a fund of about 1.8 crores from DST, Govt.of India under the FIST Scheme. That amount would be divided among 4 research groups. There was a meeting among the 4 groups which discussed the needs and requirements and accordingly orders were made to procure different types of equipment. We are updating our labs and the needs of the UG labs are being met first following by PG and research.”
Team MM also came to know that 2 new labs are going to be set up in the department which is Energy systems lab and DSP Lab (Digital Signal processing). Alongside the high-voltage lab, there is going to be an accredited lab so that industrial testing can be carried out. Earlier industrial testing was not allowed, but now the lab has been given full accreditations.
Additionally, two floors in the Electrical Sciences building have been allotted for the ISRO Incubation center. They will be visiting the campus very soon regarding the finalization of projects and other related matters.
Prof. Sushmita Das who is a member of the team says,
We will be most probably have them in the campus by mid-March. After they scrutinize everything and everything goes in the affirmative, we will start taking students from various different for the projects. There will be two guides: one professor in charge and the other will coordinate from ISRO Main centre. Students from all departments across the institute are welcome to participate in this endeavor. If the mini projects turn out be successful, they might give a nod for setting up a centre here in our institute.
The department has no risk for fire incidents as the fire safety of the labs and other rooms are up to date. The audit was carried last semester itself and all loopholes have been fixed. The department is safe from all fire-related accidents.
On enquiring about the central instrumentation facility, Prof Das says
We have no such instrument that can be used in the central facility. Whatever it is, all the high-end types of equipment should to be housed in one place which is not there in our institute.
Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering:
Since the Basic Electronics lab possessed a few non-functional pieces of equipment, the department has now replaced them with functional ones. The quantity has also been enhanced for the smooth conduction of experiments at Basic Electronics laboratory. The purchases were made keeping the quantity and requirement in view.
When enquired about this to the HoD Prof. Tarun Kumar Dan, he says
Our department is always upgrading itself and we always look out to keeping ourselves updated with the advanced technologies.”
Regarding CIF, he says
Our department is not a part of CIF because we do not have equipments which can generate any source of revenue. Still there are instruments like microwave and other related equipments in the microwave lab that can be used in the CIF. The main constraint is the fund crunch. We are unable to procure the desired amount of instruments as we require for the department. Yet whatever amount of money we receive, we try to meet the requirement and needs of the department.”
The lab facilities at NITR are at a manageable state, as seen from the research scholar students’ and the faculties’ point of view. A major upgradation in the face of capital crunch due to lack of grants is a big setback for the institute. There are plans for necessary upgrades across many departments in the pipeline and Team MM hopes the research facilities of the institute comes up at par with the global standards in a continued steady rate.