This is the sequel to the article that narrated the story of CFI up until 2016. Click here for Chronicles of Hobby Club: Part 1!.
The administration and the majority of faculty had grown supportive of CFI by now. They were willing to put in their very best for the sake of their students. The faculty advisors encouraged the students to take their projects to the next level and, serving as an interface between the administration and students, they always strived to get the best resources for the student- be it funds, contacts of alumni, or industrial funding. They were especially instrumental in guiding the first batch of students in a new club or team. Consider the case of Team Avishkar Hyperloop, which was born in the year 2017. The team members had no seniors to seek mentorship from, and it was this gap that the faculty advisor filled, and very effectively at that! (Let’s not forget that they successfully made it to the world finals on their very first attempt.) On a similar note, three other competition teams- Abhiyaan, Anveshak and Raftar tasted success as they all made it to the international round that year!
Perhaps it is the tireless effort of the students in the initial years that made CFI gain the trust of the administration and the Dean’s office grow supportive of CFI’s requests.
There were quite a few organisational changes in CFI in the year that followed, including the merging of the Auto Club with Raftar Formula Racing. CFI and Shaastra began to have common teams for Webops and FR/O&IP to reduce redundancy. The Project Management Team was further structured with the introduction of the position of Coordinator. It also bore the additional responsibility of mentoring projects which didn’t fall under any of the specific clubs (foldable housing, a civil-engineering-based project, was one of the projects mentored by the PM Team).
CFI Open House was made public in the year 2017, with the press and media being invited. The teams worked together to conceive a publicity plan and executed it with great efficacy. One notable publicity event organised in 2017-18 was a collaboration between the Electronics Club and iBot Club: the Cleaning Bots Event, where 45 bluetooth-controlled robots made by Insti junta cleaned an area of 750 square feet with the help of rotating scrubbing pads. This is an Asian Record for the number of bots simultaneously cleaning a specific area. Not only was it aligned with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (which was gaining good traction at that point in time), it was also a display of good cohesion among the clubs which conducted the event. Furthermore, the bots were made by the freshies! Such events where the freshies are taught to build something from scratch and get their hands dirty allow them to judge their field of interest within the superset of technology and to interact with / learn from the CFI clubs, probably motivating them to join these clubs, too.
The introduction of a fully devoted Branding and Engagement Team in 2017-18 further increased the reach of Open House to media, sponsors, industrialists, alumni and other stakeholders who can help and benefit from the work happening at IITM’s student-run ‘tech-space’. This also opened up the window for critique and helped CFI take into account the interests of the general public and the industry.
2017-18 witnessed a good number of projects evolving into start-ups. Modulus Housing Solutions, the team focusing on foldable housing is currently a start-up in Research Park. Electric Bevel Gear Cycle is a company aiming to build smart e-bikes for public usage. Artemis, the railroad crack-detecting bot, isn’t a start-up but it enjoyed great success in this year, bagging the Silver Medal at the 6th Inter-IIT Tech Meet in Jan 2018.
The 6th Inter-IIT Tech Meet 2017-18, hosted by our own Insti, lifted the standards of Inter-IITs by a notch.
At the 6th Inter-IIT Tech Meet were innovative problem statements obtained from organisations like BARC and DRDO- parts of problems which they have been working on for years but haven’t been able to find feasible solutions for. Judges came down from these organizations and the winning teams were given a chance to implement their ideas as well! This was a new style for the Inter-IIT Tech Meet- more like a college tech fest with the participation restricted to IITs. The new IITs especially had an opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge. The competition format in itself facilitated knowledge sharing. The organisers pooled all the ideas that the IITs were working on for the meet and shared them on an online platform. This helped cut down redundancy in some ideas and created collaborations in some others, saving precious time and resources for the students. An all-IIT Open House was also hosted here in IITM, where 5 student projects per IIT were displayed, along with 2 research projects each.
This is the advice that Gaurav Lodha, the CFI Head for 2017-18, has for students looking to enter CFI- “Get involved in diverse projects and don’t restrict yourselves to certain fields. Not only will this help you gain knowledge in diverse areas, it will also help you judge your interests.” He also requests students to work on projects that would be impactful at the societal level. As a developing nation, we are grappling with several issues, and CFI is proudly playing its part in solving at least a few, by taking up projects in these areas year after year.
CFI also took up the Dean’s suggestion of collaborating with JIPMER, Pondicherry to develop solutions to problems faced in hospitals. The Core team chalked out the entire plan of how the event should pan out, went to JIPMER and inspected the on-field situation, decided on potential project ideas, and finalised the MoU with JIPMER. It is a reflection of truth that technology can go a long way in improving the function of many hospitals, especially in the Indian scenario. Additionally, CFI conducted a hands-on workshop for about 45 students from IIT Palakkad and IIT Tirupati. The motivation behind this was to help these IITs also build something similar to the CFI ecosystem. The participants worked on 6 projects and displayed them during the Open House of 2017. IIT Palakkad has even started a Centre For Innovation of its own!
In the year 2018-19, plans for a new building of CFI were cemented, and excellent finance management and budgeting done. It was the year that witnessed Abhiyaan surge to the overall second position in the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC).
If you have a solid vision for a new club, one would urge you to definitely try building a team and working on it! Not only would it be a great experience, a club would also grow to give more projects and the opportunity of learning in diverse fields to the students of the future. As intimidating as it may seem, it would be well worth the effort.
All the clubs and teams we see today were just mere concepts in the minds of some of our seniors at one point, and have all become realities through their hard work and CFI’s support.
The entire CFI system creates an opportunity for students across years, degrees, and branches collaborating, sharing their knowledge, working in exciting fields, all while having loads of fun. Let us not forget that even at this moment we are all a part of CFI’s growth story- working on cool projects, exploring new ideas and writing history every moment. As Raghav S Vaidyanathan, the 2018-19 CFI Head puts it, “At the end of the day, CFI is whatever we want it to be, and whatever best benefits IITM and its student community.” Let us strive so that our work enriches the shining legacy of CFI and adds to its growth and that of Insti in general.
Once again, we would like to thank the respective former heads who agreed to share their fond memories in CFI with us. Without them, this article would have been impossible.
Series by: Akash Reddy