Technology and innovation in India have always been a concern for a layman like me when I used to read about the advancements happening all across the world, especially in the countries like United States of America, China, Japan etc. I always wondered whether the population of over 120 crores isn’t up for the challenge to build innovative things that are not only useful but also at par with the inventions around the globe. However, all that changed after my recent visit to Manipal University, where I was lucky to witness the young breed of innovators and engineers of India’s own MIT cultivating their dreams into ideas and then the ideas to reality, while they are still in the learning phase.
While exploring the huge campus of Manipal University, I was also witnessing the life at Manipal. The complete tour made me realize the importance of the overall ambience of the university, neatly set up in a small town of Manipal, Karnataka, and how it helped the students stay focused at the same time being free from all the pressure and stress.
A Brief about the Life At Manipal
Manipal is a university city located in the state of Karnataka. Being home to Manipal University, where the maximum population is dominated by the students enrolled in the University and its faculty, the life at Manipal is meant to be different than any other city in the state of Karnataka, or even all across India.
All the credit for building such a vibrant campus culture all across Manipal must go to its founder Dr. T.M.A Pai, who laid the foundation of the University by starting India’s first private Medical school, Kasturba Medical College in 1953. After successfully establishing the medical college, Dr. T.M.A Pai conceived the idea of establishing an engineering institute in Manipal and hence, The Manipal Engineering College was formed in 1957. Later on, in 1974, The Manipal Engineering College was renamed to what it is called today, Manipal Institute of Technology.
With India’s own MIT (Manipal Institute of Technology), he envisioned to set up a culture of its own at Manipal, where students will feel free to study without barriers or boundaries of any kind. Though miles away from their homes, they won’t feel distant and come closer as a family while bonding with fellow students and the faculty members.
The fact is that I witnessed this culture developing at Manipal during my visit there.
So, what’s Special about India’s MIT?
Besides the life and the vibrant culture of Manipal University, the one thing I enjoyed the most was the interaction with the Director of Manipal Institute of Technology, Dr G.K. Prabhu. This was the first time I wasn’t scared but thrilled after meeting a Director of the Engineering department of an educational centre.
He was quite humble, a quality that I seldom found in our Director while I was studying for engineering a decade ago. However, it was his approach towards heading the department that actually inspired me. He was a pioneer in starting the trend of bicycles at the campus, which is actually the USP of MIT, and I am not sure if there is any other institute in India that follows the suit.
He even told us how difficult it was to set up such an environment-friendly trend that not only helped the green initiative of the University but also got down the numbers of accidents at the campus that resulted due to rash driving.
While I was being informed about the campus life and culture at MIT, the one thing that caught my full attention was the freedom given to the budding engineering students to cultivate ideas and turn them into reality. Besides that, the Manipal Engineering department also collaborates with different corporate companies in order to help their students get hands-on experience in the field through various internship programs.
It is often observed that most of the engineering graduates in India fail miserably professionally as they don’t hold any real-world experience of their skills. However, the concept of internships at Manipal Engineering boosts the confidence as well as the experience of its students and makes them ready for the tough competition and challenges waiting for them in the outer world.
Meanwhile, the real change I discovered was the work of students at MIT on their live projects, which are entirely managed and developed by students themselves.
Exploring the Workshops of Manipal
Now, we were already briefed about the things we will be witnessing while exploring the student projects at MIT. However, just the names of some of these live projects being developed by MIT students had been enough to boost my excitement.
And, I wasn’t disappointed at all when I met the Robotics team of MIT, who were busy building both automated as well as remote controlled gadgets. They were also quite welcoming as they showed us a demo of their projects that they were building at that time. The experience was so awesome that I was now confident that I am going to be astonished even more from now on as we proceed to the next projects.
The next project was from the Team Manipal Racing, which was building a new state-of-the-art Baja vehicle to race at different Baja racing competitions. We could see their latest model as it was already to feature at some competition abroad which was a bit disappointing. However, the surprise from the automotive sector was not done yet.
Next up were the Formula 1 Team of Manipal, which was building a student Formula 1 car to compete in various student competitions across India as well as around the globe. I had a good chat with the team building the car as I am a huge fan of Formula 1 racing. Although, I know a bit about cars, their engines, suspensions and transmissions, I was totally taken aback by their conversation.
I realized how dull I was about cars and realized the fact that if I was passionate about cars, there is this young team at Manipal living the passion and building their dreams. They also told me the few changes that they made to the new car from its previous model which would make it lighter as well as few operational changes that would make it easier for the driver to manage the car without much effort.
While the automotive innovations were dominated by racing and speed cars, there was one team at MIT called the SolarMobil Team, which was successful at building the University’s first prototype solar car powered car named SERVe (Solar Electric Road Vehicle).
The team is all set to build a completely solar-powered car that can be used on Indian roads while looking at its commercial viability and consumer security needs.
Now, after a quick ride of the different automotive projects at MIT, it was time to check out the work of Parikshit team, which is building a Nano-Satellite. The preliminary design of the satellite named Parikshit is approved by ISRO and is all set to be launched by ISRO once it is constructed and all the tests and standards designed by the ISRO are fulfilled.
MIT has set funding of Rs. 1 crore for the project and the excitement can be witnessed among the students, who are now even considering pursuing further education in the field of space science technology.
While it was all an amazing experience witnessing these young minds ideate, innovate and invent new technologies, I was also surprised to see their passion towards these projects. All the students working on these live projects at MIT came to the workshops after finishing their regular classes and stayed until 11 or 11:30 pm to build their dream projects.
Also, there’s no mandatory attendance policy for the workshops at the Innovation Center, yet these students spend quality time on their projects without any kind of pressure and that’s what inspired me.
For, once even I wished to get enrolled into MIT and explore the life at Manipal as well as the college life all over again.