One of the most underappreciated, yet one of the most important aspects of undergraduate life in IIT Madras is the amount of freedom granted to undergraduates. Classes occupy only the first half of the day, ensuring that the remaining time can be invested in cultural, personal, or as we illustrate here, co-curricular development.The Freshman Co-Curricular Orientation was held at the Student’s Activities Centre (SAC) on the 5th of August. With a crowd of almost 400 people, the turnout was unprecedented. The co-curricular scene in IIT Madras refers to the set of all technical activities which exist beyond the academic sphere, including entrepreneurship. These activities are aimed at personal development, and promoting a spirit of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking skills which are crucial in the long run.
The Co-Curricular Orientation kicked off with Vamsi Mula Krishna, the Co-Curricular Affairs secretary, presenting an overview of the entire co-curricular sphere of IIT-M.The co-curricular sphere consists of five different elements, consisting of: the Centre for Innovation (CFI), Entreprenurship Cell (E-Cell), Shaastra, TechSoc and Nirmaan.
Centre for Innovation
This is a 24×7, student-run technical lab, where ideas turn into reality, and inherent creativity comes to the fore. It consists of nine diverse clubs, namely:1. Astronomy and Physics Club: Deals with astronomical observations and events, and projects which focus on the real-life application of physics such as the Cloud Chamber Muon Detector;
2. Analytics Club: Focuses on projects which involve the interpretation and analysis of data, like the Stock Market Predictor;
3. Computer Vision and Intelligence Club: Among this clubs’s activities are to try “teaching computers how to see,” focusing on cutting-edge applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence, such as the Automatic Waste Segregator which uses ML to categorize and segregate waste;
4. Electronics Club: Focuses on anything and everything which involves electronics, going as far as to build an Electronic Nose;
5. iBot Club: This club specializes in the field of robotics, with Artemis: The Railway Crack Detector finishing as the National Runner-Up in the James Dyson Award;
6. Webops Club: They aim to nurture the hacker-enthusiast culture in insti by building cutting edge web applications;
7. Programming Club: The Programming Club is about attempting ridiculously difficult problems within unfairly short time limits. Their focus is on contests such as the ACM ICPC, Google Codejam, and the Facebook Hacker Cup;
8. 3-D Printing Club: The aim of this club, as the name suggests, is to increase the breadth and width of 3D Printing;
9. Team Sahaay: They focus on technology for social good, covering various aspects such as sanitation and assistive devices for the differently abled, with their Toilet Sanitation Mechanism winning the prestigious GYTI Award;
10. Techno-Entertainment Club: They aim to use technology for the purpose of entertainment, producing a dazzling array of techno-entertainment which culmnates in Envisage, one of the most anticipated shows of Shaastra, the annual tech fest;
11. Aero Club: The Aero Club builds a variety of planes gliders and drones, one of which was flown inside SAC during the orientation, such as the Ball Drone.
It also consists of four competition teams, Team Raftaar, the Formula Student Team; Team Anveshak, which represents IIT Madras as well as India at the Rover Challenge series, an international platform for competitive robotics; Team Abhiyaan, which works to create efficient and safe transportation solutions and are trying to build a ground vehicle which is capable of navigating autonomously via GPS way-points; and Team Avishkar, which represented IIT Madras and India at SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, an international platform seeking innovations for a fifth mode of transportation.
CFI has forged a strong reputation in the past 10 years of its existence. Built on the tagline, Walk in with an idea, walk out with a product, it has given rise to some great start-ups, products, and patents.
The students were allowed to interact with the various club members of CFI, and the prototypes on display, to understand what CFI really had to offer.
The pre-incubation cell of IIT-M, Nirmaan provides projects with up to 2 lakhs of funding to convert their ongoing work into products. Mature CFI projects use Nirmaan as the stepping stone to a final product.
E-Cell IIT M
The principal entrepreneurship body on campus, E-Cell fosters and nurtures a spirit of entrepreneurship on campus through a series of talks, workshops and mentorship sessions in collaboration with some of India’s top entrepreneurs along with its flagship entrepreneurship extravaganza, E-Summit. E-Cell provides projects with the requisite information to make the transition from a CFI/Nirmaan project to a fledgling start-up.
Shaastra IIT M
The principal technical festival of IIT-M, Shaastra is a four-day event which brings together people from across the country for a series of technical workshops, presentations, lectures, events and shows. It aims to promote technical collaborations and increase the skill-set of all involved.
TechSoc IIT M
TechSoc is the Inter-Hostel Technical Competition which inculcates technical skills into participants in a competitive environment, promoting junior-senior interactions and hostel feels.
The orientation also featured talks by two of IIT-M’s top entrepreneurs who rose out of this very co-curricular environment, Daniel Raj David, the co-founder of Detect Technologies and Divanshu Kumar, the co-founder of Involve.
They shared their experiences about starting up in IIT-M, dealing with grades, funding, and other problems, and emphasized that anyone with a great idea could build a great company.
The event concluded with Project X, a quiz organised by Shaastra. The top performers were awarded prizes.
The event was officially concluded after a span of four hours, though several freshmen stayed back long after the event came to a close, eager to get involved in IIT M’s rich co-curricular scene as soon as possible.