“The active participation of industry enthused the students and faculty considerably”

Raghuveer Vernekar / Chairman, Education Committee, GCCI

GCCI’s Education Committee hosted the ‘Presentation of Final Year Engineering Students’ Projects’ for an industry-academia exchange

What is the composition and focus of GCCI’s Education Committee?

GCCI Education Committee, being that of an industry association, is primarily concerned with the way and extent to which education per se affects and impacts the Industry. We have noticed that while industry in India has galloped in its endeavour to catch up with the ‘Developed World’, the academic programmes have not managed to keep the necessary pace. There is an oft-repeated gap – a huge gap between the skills required at the industry and society at large; and with what the students and trainees are prepared. This accentuated gap in hard and soft skills has even caught the attention of GOI and made it launch Skill-India campaign.

The industry as well as academia needs to realize that both are partners – stake holders in each other’s domain, and need to actively contribute to its development. We noticed however, that both keep playing blame-game and the repeated refrain of non-cooperation or lack-of-interest. Academics do not stretch to orient themselves to the preparation of their students as warranted by the dynamics of fast changing scenario, nor the industry takes care to reach out to the academia apprising them of the necessity of specified changes and relevance of the skill set imparted. So the mission of GCCI EduCom was clear – to initiate and bolster education-industry connect.

How did this initiative of Presentation of Final Year Engineering Students’ Projects originate?

During the last term (2015-17), after marathon discussions spread over three meetings, the EduCom decided to focus on and contribute to ‘Skill India’ campaign. Our objective was to initiate long term changeswhich would invigorate systemic curriculum development. We decided to focus on the engineering colleges in Goa in the first instance; and while reviewing their curriculum transaction practices, realised that lot of well-conceived ideas were getting ritualized. One such was the ‘Final Year Project Work.’ Students were expected to submit some creative, research based innovative project as mandatory assessment component in their last semester. Howsoever the project be, it was usually left at the ideation or conceptual stage; never discussed with the field experts, never seen from the social utility point of view and hardly ever converted to functional prototype. We collected the details of all 120 projects from five colleges and shortlisted 30 of them for the presentation to the industry representatives specially invited on 1st March 2017. We solicited and received the support for 28 out of 30 projects in form of funding or mentoring, or use of lab facilities for developing prototype, critiquing from the perspective of end usage, soliciting the finance and necessary guidance for presentation, IPR protection guidance etc. One of the project is under the process for patent.

The active participation and interaction of the industry enthused the students and faculty considerably. For better preparation for this year, we visited the five colleges in the month of April, and guided them towards proper choice of the projects and how to work from ideation to product development. We impressed upon them how even as students they could turn entrepreneurs and also apprised them of the avenues for sourcing capital investments.

What is the structure of the Projects programme?

We collate the details of all Final Year Projects from five engineering colleges and sift the suitable ones for presentation to the public. Care was taken to include at least one project from each stream of each engineering college.

Next year, we hope to arrange preliminary presentations at each engineering college, and sift fewer number – may be 20 or 25 projects, with longer time for final presentation and industry interaction. We hope to get select audience – very probable people who could be interested/benefit from this. Focus would be to get deserving support from the society immediately. It may not be general public presentation. We are still to finalize the details, and hope to do so by the end of December 2017. This year, we were able to give three prizes from amongst the projects presented. We shall see if we could give cash awards next year – which could perhaps help prize winners with fund required for their projects outright.

How many entries ideas were in the reckoning?

41 entries were selected from a total of 130 projects. This year, we held the presentations much earlier – 3rd November 2017. More than 300 attended the presentations, with over 100 from the industry, as well as other prospective beneficiaries. For instance, SP Traffic Police specially deputed a Police Inspector to sit through the presentations especially in view of two projects that were specific to Traffic Management.

Next year, we plan to further advance it to August-September period to provide still longer period for students to fine tune their projects. Meanwhile, we shall invite suggestions for possible projects that could in fact help the industry/society. Once on proper trajectory and after the initial push – we at EduCom expect it to work on autonomous mode.

What was the broad trend of presentations?

The breakup of the selected projects for final presentation was Mechanical Engineering (11); Computer Engineering (7); Electronic & Computer Engineering (3); Information Technology (6); Electrical & Electronics Engineering (3); Electronic & Telecommunications Engineering (11).

Let us understand that the main idea is not necessarily to advocate/ promote entrepreneurship, but to facilitate the development of projects – though it may help some young students to evolve as entrepreneurs.

How has the industry reacted to the Projects programme? Has any presentation being picked or mentored by industry representatives?

In March as well as November, the industry response was good. Primarily it enthuses the students that society is ready to take notice of their work, and this may trigger the creative/ innovative spark in them. The media too, apart from covering it well on its own, gave very encouraging feedback about the exercise. We hope to take this to further level and enlist necessary support selectively during the ensuing months.

We shall now pursue with the select industries appropriate support for further development of these projects over the next few weeks. However, students themselves will be able to follow through only from January onwards – since they are now busy with preparation of ensuing semester examination and thereafter two weeks of internship.

This is your second event. Going forward what is your takeaway from these two events?

We realized that if you take up the right cause in right earnest and collaborative engagement of all stake holders – rather than just generate the fizz, there is always scope for garnering support. We look forward to build on the goodwill generated to pursue our goal – active collaboration and cooperation between academia and industry.

Would you also look at streams beyond engineering as your resource in the future?

In fact, we have already initiated the work in that direction. Let us understand that this event was just a means to our vision of bringing about positive curriculum change and to see it more in sync with social and industry expectations. Dr Radhika Nayak of Dempo College has started the work on collating best curriculum and learning practices in leading commerce colleges in the country and if possible across the national boundaries, and see how we in Goa could incorporate these in our curriculum. Dr Sawant of Chowgule College is coming on Board and agreed to undertake similar exercise in humanities. Dr Basavdatta Mitra of BITS Goa is expected to do similar exercise for engineering curriculum, and we hope to engage soon in sciences too. We shall look into architecture and pharmacy at a later stage. All this is voluntary work and there is limit to which professionals can spare their time.

The idea is to promote curriculum excellence in  sync with industrial and economic development – to make up for the lost opportunities of industrial revolution et al in bygone times as also promote active engagement between industry and academia as in countries like U.S. Education should not be looked upon in isolation but as a seminal component of socio economic development .

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