A Sneak Peek To NIT Conclave 2019: Pre-Fest Analysis
With the onset of a cheerful monsoon and inception of a rejuvenating academic session, NIT Rourkela, an institute of national repute gears up to kickstart with a plethora of events in its bucket list for the upcoming year. Situated in the heart of the steel city of Odisha, NIT Rourkela flaunts to harbour some of the greatest innovative minds from across the nation and beyond. This renowned and illustrious institution stands at the façade of the citadel to usher in great pioneering events and programmes in the years to come to facilitate geeks and enthusiasts from various domains of life.
Buckling up, as the countdown begins for the first of its kind event, NIT Rourkela awaits for the golden opportunity to host the annual conglomeration of NITs titled as “NIT Conclave 2019” from 23rd August 2019-25th August 2019. With half the populace aloof of the concept behind this trailblazing event, team MM brings an unabridged segment of the conversation that it had with the convenors and mentors of the conclave about the preparation and progress of the three-day-long event.
WHAT IS NIT CONCLAVE?
NIT Conclave 2019 is a pan NIT conference which aims to bring the brightest minds of the national institutes and exchange ideas on various topics and issues pertaining to NITs across the nation. The theme of the 9th edition is “Technological Development in NITs: Enhancement of Research and Entrepreneurship Opportunities”, promises to render a concrete approach to the fellow young intellectuals to think and analyze meticulously on such a burning topic. Talking about the origin and motive behind the fest, here is what Luv Krishna, the convenor of the event had got to say,
The first edition of NIT Conclave was hosted by VNIT, Nagpur in the year 2011. It is not the first time it is happening in NIT Rourkela, we also hosted this in the year 2016. The main objective of this conclave is to bring forward all the issues to the social mainstream and discuss various factors in which NITs lag. It is questionable that why do people prefer IITs over NITs. Ultimately a draft is made, considering all the factors and forwarded to MHRD to take actions on them.
The theme chosen for this edition seems to be really promising. Moreover, it has the potential to enhance the zeal among the young multifaceted entrepreneurs to think out of the box and come up with great ideas that can be implemented in the technological advancement in NITs. Moreover, this topic also serves as a major cause for enhancing the scope in the field of research and development. There is a high expectation among the convenors of the conclave that this theme would turn out to be a very successful one with this being the subject of applause and appreciation.
Here is the list of the NITs that have hosted NIT Conclaves since its inception.
The Conclave doesn’t come under any society of SAC, the event is directly funded from the SAC President’s fund. It is managed by the concerned faculty advisor, Prof. S.N. Alam. This is what Prof. Alam has got to say to MM,
NIT Conclave is a marvelous initiative, it was conducted in our institute in 2016 and now it's back to our institute. Students should know what are the problems faced by other institutes and must form a network to solve the problems that the institutes face in a collective manner.
It is very interesting to hear out from the convenors that no registration fee has been levied from the participants. The budget seems to be well sorted and pretty organised. The team has finalized to invite exactly five representatives from each NIT across the nation. As of now, 20 NITs out of 30 have given their consent to attend the conclave. The rest are yet to confirm their presence in the conclave.
Regarding the sponsorship, the convenors said
We are in contact with various sponsors. The negotiation is still under progress. As soon as we get confirmed about our sponsors and partners, we will update it on our social media handles.
There has been an effort to ensure a decent stay for the participants of the conclave. The participants will be accommodated in the halls themselves. It has been decided to allot 15 rooms in Verghese Kurien Hall of Residence exclusively for girls only after they submit a proper undertaking that they won’t indulge in any kind of ill-practices like smoking, narcotics within the hall premises. For boys around 30 rooms could be alloted but that only after the consent passed by the Chief Warden. The Chief Warden has also been informed regarding this matter. But the final number of participants in the conclave hasn’t been confirmed. Based on that all the necessary arrangements will be made soon.
The conveners confirmed the presence of two guests for this year’s NIT Conclave, one of them being Sohrab Sitaram, Co-founder & Director of Keventers. From being a musician to being one of the biggest food entrepreneurs, Sohrab Sitaram promises to be an inspiring addition to the fest.
The other guest as confirmed by the conveners is Smt. Aparajita Sarangi, Member of Parliament from the Lok Sabha constituency of Bhubaneshwar. A former Odisha cadre IAS officer who quit her job and joined the BJP in 2018, Aparajita Sarangi promises to add a very important dimension to the fest.
NITs being the organization for technical and research development demand plenty of technical enthusiasts, fusing it with the cooperative world of business meets the demands of this global era. Keeping this in mind the organizing team of NIT conclave comes up with the theme of Technological Development in NITs.
They recognized the value of building relationships with their key constituents through a variety of events, which led them to organize the following three events in the conclave :
Innovation has always been at the core of what we do but that innovation needs to be meaningful if they are to change people's life. A hackathon is something that crystallizes this way of thinking, a way to push boundaries and think laterally.
An overnight hackathon, for the first time in NIT conclave, is being organized. The event will start on the very first day at 6 pm.
Problem statement has been released to the candidates a week before the conclave, keeping three tracks in it, one relates to the automation of the paperwork that every nit faces including us. Second, about communication among the NITs, and the third one is using augmented reality to discover the campus of the NIT before taking admission into it.
There are predefined parameters on making the judgment of the winners for the hackathon. It will be managed by an executive committee of open code and mentored by Shashwat Lenka who says,
It’s a closed hackathon with a limited number of people, so we cannot go for sponsorships, as sponsors look for greater participation, but it will be a modest hackathon and we expect some great innovations in it.
Motivation and ability to keep going and dig deep through the barriers is what is required for a start-up to be successful, but all this starts with that one idea. Conclave brings you the platform to present your idea to the masses and win prizes in the Startup Hunt. Encouraging new ideas for business and helping them flourish is what is required in the present era.
It consists of two rounds, including a closed room discussion with the panel of judges, who are from FTBI, and the other round of discussion with the audience. There will be investors coming which provide better incentives to showcase their startups.
Representing your institute at such a platform is a matter of pride, which provides them with exposure and ways to learn. To ensure the main purpose of NIT conclave, the second day begins with the event of institute presentation, where each NIT comes and presents what their NIT does, like the various organization they start. They are also required to follow the theme and highlight the research going on in their institutes and develop various schemes. This isn't a contest but provides NITs with a platform to discuss issues they face and get a solution for it.
Selection? Nomination?: The Convener Selection Mystery
The normal procedure for selection of conveners for any fest is that they are either elected or they are nominated by the Dean SW, in both of the cases nominations are sought through an official group mail after which a selection procedure is devised to sort the candidates, but in the case of NIT Conclave the conveners were selected in a rather ambiguous manner.
Girish Vaisyaraj, a pre-final year student had the following to say regarding the selection of conveners:
I was the manager of Event Management in NU and I wanted to become a convener of NIT Conclave but I didn’t know whom to approach and was waiting for webmail to be circulated calling for nominations but the only mail we received was after the team was already selected.
We had an interview with the NIT Conclave Team (all five conveners and Abel Mathew, mentor),
NIT Conclave Team: After the end of last year’s conclave at NIT Surathkal, we submitted a proposal to NIT Conclave in consultation with the then SAC President Prof. S. Chakravarthy to organize the same in 2019. After getting the confirmation that NIT Rourkela would be the host for this year’s conclave we contacted the then Dean Student Welfare Prof. S. Panigrahi and in consultation with him the conveners were finalized.
Responding to the issue, Prof. S Panigrahi responds:
I was told that all five of them were a part of the team that went to NIT Conclave last year, but if some of them were not a part of the team I agree that we must have verified before giving the consent. I agree that the process should’ve been more transparent and I will convey the message to the present Dean SW that we must be more vigilant in such matters.
But ironically, among the five chosen convenors, only Luv Krishna had been a participant in NIT Conclave.
MM: Since there was no calling for nominations through webmail or any other means, how were these specific five people selected?
NIT Conclave Team: We had to submit the budget details in the last semester itself as we wanted to avoid any processing delay because as we can see not even the dean’s nominee has been selected till now and the event is scheduled in a week. Hence we arranged our faculty advisor, Prof. S.N. Alam and after his approval, the conveners were finalized. Coming to the question of how these specific five people were chosen, there were around 12 people in consideration for the post all of whom were previously involved with NIT Conclave, the selection was done by Abel Mathew, Sainandan Mohanty and Ashu Patel in consultation with two BOG members one of whom was Mehul Anand, an alumnus of our institute.
MM: Only one of the five Conveners, Luv Krishna was a part of the institute team that went to NIT Surathkal last year, what made the other 4 convenors eligible for the post?
NIT Conclave Team: For the post of convenor, we weren’t looking for someone with excellent management skills rather we were looking for people who had past experience with NIT Conclave. The twelve members who were considered for the post were the ones who had applied to be a part of the institute team that went to NIT Surathkal, although they were not selected back then, their association with NIT Conclave in the past made them suitable for the post.
(As per the NIT Conclave Team, these 12 students were the ones who had applied for representing NIT Rourkela in 2018’s edition of NIT Conclave and obviously, most of them didn’t qualify including 04 of the chosen convenors. Any other involvement and expertise of these students in NIT Conclave is still doubtful)
In this regard, Debaprasad Badajena, a pre-final year student who had represented the institute at NIT Conclave 2017 responds:
I had represented the institute in NIT Conclave 2017 held in NIT Silchar and I have no idea how the conveners were selected this year. I had no idea that such a thing was happening in our institute until the posters came out where the conveners were already decided.
We also reached out to the FacAd of NIT Conclave, Prof. S.N. Alam for his statement in this regard:
There is nothing wrong in this process, they were the guys who got the event to our institute so they must have the full right to form their team. Faculty involvement in NIT Conclave is very less and getting the event to the institute is not a small thing. When I'm capable of bringing the Olympics to my country, of course, I’ll be the president of the Olympics for my country that year.
MM: On what basis were the mentors selected and why weren’t capable students approached for being mentors?
NIT Conclave Team: Mentors are not selected; If someone had an interest in NIT Conclave then he/she must follow NIT Conclave on various social media platforms and when it was declared that our institute will be hosting the Conclave this year, such students should have contacted us. Anybody who wants to be a mentor and has previous experience with NIT Conclave can contact us for being a mentor. The best example for this is Shaswat Lenka who was not a mentor in the initial team list but later he approached us to become a mentor and we made him a mentor.
To cross-check this we contacted Shaswat Lenka, who had the following to say:
Around 5 months ago, Abel Mathew asked me if I wanted to be a mentor or not. So, they were the ones who approached me.
The above contradictory statements infer the ambiguous process involved in the selections of mentors. The organizing team was expected to be more transparent and credible in approaching experienced students as the mentors similar to the way they approached Shaswat Lenka.
We also contacted another member of the 2017 team who went to NIT Conclave held in NIT Silchar, Nalin Modi:
I was never contacted by any of the team members regarding this year’s conclave, they might have considered people who went to the NIT Conclave,2018 but the problem with NIT Conclave is that the team selection process is always through contacts. Even in 2017, we got into the team through contacts without any proper induction procedure. The team that went last year consisted of people from their group itself so selecting the conveners and mentors through them doesn’t really make sense.
MM: There are allegations that the conveners and mentors were selected because of their proximity to the unofficial white team, don’t you think a more streamlined process of calling in nominations would have been more transparent?
NIT Conclave Team: We will take your suggestion positively and would implement it next time.
On a concluding note, the chosen theme will definitely stand commendable as it would develop a new perspective among the young aspiring entrepreneurs to think and analyse situations from a different dimension. With less than a week left for the event to take centre stage, NIT Conclave promises to be a one of its kind opportunity for students of our institute to exchange ideas with talented minds across all NITs. With guests like Sohrab Sitaram and Aparajita Sarangi, the event will definitely prove to be an inspiring one for everyone who attends it. In the end, the Conveners had the following message to share with the students of our institute:
We have worked very hard and the authorities have been very supportive. We urge the students to attend the guest lectures, communicate with students of different NIT’s and make this event successful in its true essence. We would also like to thank the then Public Relations Officer, Itishree Singh Rathaur Madam for her incredible support and cooperation to reach out to the guests.
Team MM urges everyone to take an active part in the event and make it a grand success.