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IIT Bombay launches e-Yantra Lab Set-up Initiative

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Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay announced the launch of its e-Yantra Lab Set-up Initiative (eLSI) - a nationwide vision to enable and empower engineering education in the country through creating facilities and producing mentors. A logical next step to providing scalability and sustainability to the pan-India e-Yantra Robotics Competition for students launched in July last year, e-Yantra Lab Set-up Initiative will create the infrastructure for students to engage their interest in Robotics and Embedded systems in a continuing manner. E-Yantra is an MHRD sponsored project under the National Mission for Education in ICT (NMEICT) program.

‘We do this by setting up e-Yantra labs, training teachers and getting them to integrate our "learn by doing" ideas into the curriculum. Once the labs are in place we can share our know-how, teaching insights, project methodologies, etc. ultimately to train the teachers to take ownership of our Embedded Systems course,' says Prof. Kavi Arya of the Computer Science and Engineering department of IIT Bombay and one of the conceptualisers of e-Yantra.

In the pilot phase, e-Yantra conducted workshops where teams of 4 teachers from the shortlisted 16 engineering colleges in the Mumbai region were trained in the theory of micro-controllers and programming of Robots. To give them a hands on experience, these 16 teams participated in the e-Yantra Robotics Teacher Competition - a competition over a period of 4 months to train them in all aspects of a technology project. The finale of this teachers' competition also coincided with today's launch of eLSI as a symbol of preparedness of the teachers to assign projects to their students in the newly launched Robotics labs.

The launch event took place at the Vidyalankar Institute of Technology, Wadala - one of the 16 participating colleges from Mumbai. The entire team of teachers and principals from the remaining 15 colleges were present at the launch along with the team from IIT Bombay including Prof. Krithi Ramamritham, Prof. Kavi Arya and also Dr. Rajan Welukar Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University who joined in through a video link to address the audience.

By the end of first year, IIT Bombay aims to create e-Yantra labs across 100 colleges and 5 Nodal Centers (each Nodal Center (NC) to oversee around 20 colleges). By the end of 3rd year this number would go up to 500 colleges and 25 NCs in all the small and large towns, villages and cities of the country.

A couple of weeks ago IIT Bombay's e-Yantra concluded its first National Robotics Competition grand finale. First a phenomenon and then a rage among engineering students from across the nation; it led to 6000 registrations (from some of the remotest parts of the country), 500 participants, 25% female participants, 131 teams, 20 finalist teams and all winners.

While that created awareness and identified a need, in order to sustain the generated impact on the engineering curriculum in future, it was essential to create a supporting infrastructure that enables and empowers. An infrastructure that brings students and teachers together to work on innovative and meaningful projects and solves problems, which are unique to our country and environment.

Prof. Suresh Ukarande, Dean of Faculty of Technology, University of Mumbai who enthusiastically put Mumbai University behind this initiative and piloted and supported the e-Yantra Lab Setup Initiative said, ‘through Robotics, we want to create a culture of practical knowledge, research and creative and innovative thinking among students'.

‘What makes e-Yantra special is its inter-disciplinary approach. This results students across departments - be it electrical, mechanical, computer science - to come together to solve an existing tangible problem and create something that is beyond their defined syllabus. The e-Yantra Lab Setup Initiative is a visionary concept that only an institute of the stature of IIT Bombay can think of and see through. I wish them all the best,' he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Krithi Ramamritham also from the CSE department and co-conceptualiser of e-Yantra said, ‘our goal is to help develop core engineering skills in our students to inspire them to look upon themselves as "problem solvers for society." To stimulate their creativity and analytical skills and to "learn by doing." This practical approach is sadly lacking in Indian education'.

‘We believe e-Yantra will play a significant role in addressing a number of the pressing issues in our education system at the college level. We need to scale up the program as fast as possible to create useful skills in the students. This means not only technology development but to nurture a market driven eco-system that will sustain the new infrastructure being created of robots and ancillary equipment in the academic community. This being our goal, we have certainly made a promising start and the story promises to get more exciting as we reach out to the rest of the country to colour it in different hues of e-Yantra,' added Prof. Arya.

Commenting on the launch, Dr. Seema Shah, Acting Principal of Vidyalankar Institute of Technology said, ‘We at Vidyalankar Institute of Technology are extremely proud to be a part of the e-Yantra MHRD pilot project. Under the able guidance of the capable e-Yantra team from IIT Bombay, all the 16 colleges in Mumbai will definitely take this project to greater heights. This is just the start of a productive relationship among us all in the field of Robotics. The success of the pilot initiative will enable the e-Yantra team to extend this project to the other engineering colleges across the country'.

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