From the Horse’s Mouth: Joining CFI

If there’s one reason IIT Madras can be said to be the best place in India for technological advancement and ideation, it’s because of our “Centre for Innovation”. The CFI, in short, is a student-run organization, intended by the batch of 1981 (its sponsors) to be an avenue where the students of our institute can vent whatever ideas they have, without the constraints of limited money and guidance that they would usually have should they attempt to pursue their chosen course independently.

Though it’ll still take us a while to compete with the likes of the Edgerton Center at MIT, which started way back in 1992, the CFI has made enormous progress in the 10 years that it’s been functional.

For anyone interested in being a part of this, in doing their bit to promote innovation in our country, the CFI has a lot of areas you could work in, and a need for a large variety of skill sets.

cfi-structure

CFI Student Head and the Core team:

The CFI head is always chosen from the core team. All clubs, departments and teams under the wing of the CFI will be reporting to him. The Student Head is responsible and will be held accountable for the overall management and approval of activities, competitions, projects, facilities and finance related to the CFI.

Right under the CFI head is the CFI Core Team. This team includes the heads of all the departments shown in the chart above. Each of these members is responsible for the execution of tasks set to their respective teams by the CFI Head. Being a part of the CFI Core Team is no easy task. If you’re selected, expect to devote a hell of a lot of time to your department’s activities. It involves more work than being a Shaastra, or a Saarang Core, because the CFI isn’t as structured or well established as our college fests. A lot of your work will be made up on the fly, and expect to deal with a lot of problems from the other departments as well. Tough job.

In every department, your tasks as coordinators and Super-coordinators will simply be to carry out whatever job your Team Head assigns to you. Like I said, the CFI is a very informal organization, structure-wise. Your responsibilities will be quite fluid, and not always solely related to your department.

 

Clubs:

Every Club has its own Faculty Advisor specialising in whatever field the club offers projects in.

Heads of Clubs:

The basic duties of each of the Club Heads are identical. Depending on the workload assigned and size of the clubs, there may be more than one head for a particular club. As a club head, you would be expected to:

  • Plan and manage the activities of your respective club
  • Maintain and document your club’s inventory
  • Have a detailed record of all projects being taken up in your club’s name
  • Collaborate with the Project Management Team to ideate and manage projects under your club
  • Conduct fundae sessions and get students to work on their projects
  • Be the representative of your club in the CFI Core Team in any meetings or events

Being part of a club you love is a wonderful experience. Most people get through college without ever truly discovering where their passion lies. None of us want that to happen. Explore, experiment, and settle in with a club where you can enjoy your work.

List of Clubs:

3D printing club:

3D printing is a relatively new method of manufacturing, and being a part of the 3D printing club will let you both explore and try to improve on today’s 3D printing standards. The club itself is very new, introduced only 2 years ago.

Aero Club:

This club is one of the CFI’s original clubs. It is both the biggest and most active club in the institute, with regular meetings and workshops. Joining this club will give you amazing opportunities, and can even get you in competitions like IARC (International Aerial Robotics Competition) and MICAV (Micro Air Vehicle Flying Competition).

Astronomy & Physics Club:

The “Physics” part of this club was added only recently, and the club is now called Horizon. As a member of this club, you would –

  • Conduct observation sessions every fortnight, and special sessions during rare celestial events.
  • Manage projects. This part only became a prominent part of the club’s job after their move towards the Physics aspect.
  • Organize trips to research facilities, labs, and astronomy related events.

Analytics Club:

Number Freak? Enjoying data scrunching, analysing, surveys, and all sorts of stuff related to numbers? This is the place for you. This club was started to provide students with a forum/environment where they could exchange ideas and study data analytics. You would be collaborating with prominent companies while organising projects or data analytics challenges. The club is currently associated with Systech Solutions, USA.

Auto Club:

The more well-known “Raftar” competitive team started from this club. It is one of the newer clubs, but has become one of the biggest in the CFI because of its coveted working field.

Biotech Club:

Biotechnology is one the most rapidly growing industries in the world. The Biotech club is a step toward helping India catch up with the world in this field, and to help people realize its potential. They work on key areas like agriculture, environment, healthcare, food, energy and waste management.

Computer Vision Group:

The CVG group at IIT Madras takes up and completes Industrial projects, and in the past has finished such projects given by ITC, The Indian Railways, VDime, and others. It was acknowledged as the best CVG team at the IARC (International Aerial Robotics Competition).

Electronics Club:

Started in 2012, the idea behind was to have a forum for projects based on core electronics, which were becoming too numerous for other clubs, and to develop a comprehensive database of electronics knowledge. This involves constant discussions and sessions to address problems related to electronics.

iBot Club:

Dedicated to raising the standard of Robotics knowledge in the institute to international standards, it is likely to be the most popular CFI club. The iBot team mentors competition teams and has succeeded in sending teams to ROBOCON, DRDO, IARC, IUVAC and FIRA.

WebOps Club:

The WebOps club was created because the existent WebOps teams were caught up in doing the same thing again and again, with no time given to innovation. This club doesn’t just take in seasoned developers, it takes in everyone who’s willing to learn and provides excellent mentoring.

Team Sahaay:

Team Sahaay, as its name suggests, is dedicated to helping “specially-abled” people carry on with their lives in today’s fast developing world. Until now, the focus of the projects has mostly been on making lives easier for differently abled children with products like the Block Printing device, Leap motion games and the Paper Punching Machine.

Currently, the team is working on projects useful for a broader range of consumers. These include Android Applications to Assist Autistic Children, Toilet Seat Sanitation Mechanism, and Aquatic Weed Removal Mechanism.

 

Project Management Team:

This team is, arguably, the most important part of the CFI. The success of any other team is dependent only on the success of this team. Management of this team is a huge responsibility to bear, and likewise gives you the most experience.

The CFI, for the most part, encourages students to come up with ideas for projects on their own, and start them. However, since first and second years may not have enough experience to suggest a viable project, you and your department come up with suggestions for groups who want to work on a project, but are unable to think of a suitable project. These projects are released to students to choose from for the Summer/Semester programme. Apart from this, students are also encouraged to ideate on their own.

The Project Management Team has 3 major functions that you, as a part of the team, would carry out:

  • Executing any new initiatives.
  • Ideating and suggesting new feasible projects that students could take up.
  • To make sure that all facilities and tools required for the projects are present in sufficient quantity and quality.
  • Managing ongoing projects under all clubs.

Team Head:

As the Project Management Team Head, you would co-ordinate and ensure the execution of the above mentioned duties. Apart from these, you shall –

  • Convene regular meetings serving as a forum for sharing ideas and validating them
  • Represent the Project Management Team in all meetings and events involving the CFI Core Team

 

Finance Team:

The Finance Team is responsible for managing the funds assigned to the CFI. Funds for every department (Excepting Nirmaan) are taken from the Gymkhana funds, which has a separate budget allocated to the CFI. Any major decisions regarding the distribution of these finances is taken by consensus during a CFI Core Team meeting, and for very big undertakings, the Dean of Student, Faculty Advisors, and various alumni are consulted.

Nirmaan is funded separately from the rest of the CFI. The money is drawn from alumni funds, and cannot be used for any other CFI-related purpose. The Gymkhana funds assigned to the CFI, likewise, cannot be used to fund the Nirmaan programme.

Finance Core:

Your duties as a Finance Core would include –

  • Keeping records of finances and expenditure
  • Carrying out the distribution of funds as decided by the CFI Core Team
  • Representing the CFI Finance Team in any meeting involving the CFI Core Team.

 

Nirmaan:

Nirmaan is the “pre-incubation” cell at IIT Madras. It was started a couple of years ago, to help students who want to start up qualify by equipping them with everything they might need to step up to an incubated enterprise. Any worthy project is entitled funding of up to 2 lakh Rupees. They will also be provided with a workspace, tools and facilities required to pursue their idea. Any required mentorship, be it with the technical part of your idea, or with the entrepreneurship side of starting up, will be provided under the Nirmaan programme.

Aside from all this, your idea will be floated among various venture capitalists, and you can establish the viability of your service without fear of serious financial repercussions. The participants in Nirmaan will be given exclusive opportunities to interact and network with various prominent entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

And last, students who qualify for 2 rounds of funding can turn their project into a credited free elective.

The Nirmaan Team has 1 Team Head, with multiple Super-coordinators and coordinators. The team is externally advised by 3 Faculty Advisors.

Nirmaan Head:

He is the student head and final authority for Nirmaan and related activities. His duties include-

  • Reviewing and approving applications for funding under Nirmaan, alongside the Faculty Advisors and the CFI Head.
  • Overseeing the working of projects funded by Nirmaan

 

Branding & Engagement Team:

The Media and Outreach team has been christened as the “Branding & Engagement Team” from this year. This team was the product of a realization of how behind the CFI was in matters of publicity, especially when compared to Shaastra and Saarang, both of whose importance the CFI supersedes in terms of adding to the overall quality of the institute’s education.

The duties of a member of this team would be threefold –

branding_engagement

Since this is a new team, your duties won’t be set in stone. Your ultimate goal will be to popularize the CFI both inside and outside our campus. Collaborations with other team heads will be frequent. A majority of your duties would be done alongside, or taken over from, the Media Team. The CFI team structure generally allows for a lot of flexibility, and this team is no different. You will fit in and help the CFI as best as you can while working toward your ultimate team goal.

 

Eligibility:

There are certain eligibility criteria one must satisfy in order to qualify for consideration for the post, apart from the common criteria related to academia and discipline.

The CFI Head must be a member of the previous CFI Core Team, and he is chosen by an interview panel consisting of the CoCAS, the previous Core Team, and the CFI Faculty Advisor.

The Core Team members must either have been a member of the team for which they are applying, or must have held similar positions either in the CFI itself, or at other events and organizations like Shaastra. The selection panel for a Core Team member will include the CFI Faculty Advisor, the CFI Head, and the respective core(s) of the team for which they are applying.

The Coordinator and Super-coordinator posts have no such restrictions, any one of you is free to apply. You’ll be chosen based on an interview taken by the core member of the team for which they are applying.

Attend the Aspiring Coordinators Meet in CLT at 8.30 tonight for further clarity.

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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Pranav Bhargav

A to-be Mechanical Engineer, with a long way to go. Not just an “avid” book reader, I don’t just “enjoy” or “pursue” books. I devour them. They are my sustenance. My Oxygen. My Water. My French Fries. You get the idea. And never forget Cotton Candy. I love Cotton Candy. Besides these, I play Tennis and capitalize my words (it’s addictive) regularly.