July 9, 2012
“Students from Western universities are opting for inter-disciplinary courses with a new fervor and travelling to India, the Far East and Africa, interacting with society, delivering solutions, offering discourse and influencing governments. We should not be surprised if the Government of Madhya Pradesh calls upon the University of Pennsylvania for advice on water-quality testing and storage,” stated Prof. Milind Sohoni, Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, IIT Bombay.
Proposing a teaching and research paradigm for national development, he emphasized that engineering colleges should operate as regional solution providers, designing and implementing projects in the public domain, a piped water supply scheme, for example.
“Selection and development of curricular material should go hand-in-hand with the agenda for research,” he concluded.
Prof. Milind was addressing over 10,000 teachers from across the nation as part of the ISTE Workshop on Introduction to Research Methodologies. The workshop was transmitted through Amrita’s A-View e-learning platform to 168 remote centers in India.
The ten-day workshop during June 25 – July 4 provided the opportunity to all participants to interact with and learn from several experts.
“This first-of-its-kind workshop in India, is itself an interdisciplinary real-world project that could serve as a case study on how engineering sciences can contribute to solve specific problems of a developing nation,” expressed Project Coordinator, Prof. D. B. Phatak of IIT Bombay.
“Research methodologies are most needed for the development of the country. Thanks to the technology that Amrita has provided, the training of 10,400 institution teachers can be simultaneously carried out,” stated Shri. Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Human Resources Development, during the inaugural function.
“The workshop is a very unique Indian answer to the pressing issue of lack of qualified teachers. One of its main objectives is to build a spirit of enquiry,” the Minister added.
As it turned out, building the spirit of enquiry was the main thread running through the various lectures and sessions of the event.
“A research scholar has to be an independent thinker. Creativity involves asking new questions, seeking to alter the domain,” stated Prof. Shreepad Karmalkar of IIT Bombay, during his lecture titled Productive Thinking.
Pointing in the same direction, Prof. S. P. Sukhatme, Professor Emeritus, IIT Bombay, said, “Obstacles have to be overcome. Service to society should be the main purpose of research.”
“The focus should be on quality work. After that, we decide which is the most appropriate journal for publishing. You don’t have to agree with what others have done as long as your results are obtained in the correct way, and you are confident about what you are doing.”
During the workshop, participants gained exposure to the scientific method and experimentation skills, management of research and professional ethics.
Besides the live interactive lectures through A-View, the workshop included locally-organized tutorials and lab sessions. In one such session, participants learned the use of Sci-Lab, an open-source scientific software package for engineering and scientific applications, globally popular in educational institutions as well as in industry today.
During the entire workshop, participants submitted assignments on a daily basis, in addition to completing an overall assignment that was to be submitted ten days post the event. “Before the workshop, local coordinators participated in an in-depth training at IIT Bombay,” shared Dr. Smitha Chandran S., Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Sciences, Amritapuri Campus, who coordinated at her campus.