A peek into the yearlong journey of the one-of-a-kind student-run techno-entertainment show in India
October 31st 2019, 1:00 AM (63 Days to Shaastra)
Any unassuming person out for a late-night stroll through the dimly lit campus roads can see a sudden change in scenery as they move towards the quaint old building of CFI nestled behind the Central Workshop. Here, one is usually greeted by the sound of whirring motors and drillers, the bustle, and the constant calling out for that one elusive team member as bolts, nuts, wires, boards, and metal come together and bring ideas to life.
This night, though, has a double dose of frenzy. With just a day to go for the CFI Open House, everyone is hard at work, doing last minute adjustments, tests, and runs.
If you are wondering that even after an entire series on CFI while also having recreated the day before Open House, and that T5E has also perhaps taken a Star Wars trail and is moving into a “day before the day before Open House” prequel, fret not. We are not so desperately out of ideas, yet.
This time, we fixate on that one club whose corner looks as if an art workshop picked the Arduino as their canvas; the “dyes” are the strewn-around LED lights, music equipment, laser, sand, and even actual paint. The members of Team Envisage, like all others at CFI, are striving hard; for this team, the Open House is like the rehearsal before Shaastra.
The two major verticals of Envisage, Shows and Tech-Ambience have different agendas at hand. The members working on Shows- which go live on Day 1 at Shaastra- are putting together prototypes to present the work they have done so far, which would motivate those who visit the Open House to return for the shows during Shaastra. Team Tech-Ambience on the other hand have to wrap up one or two of their mini-projects and patch them up, deeming them ready for display.
Our chosen quest today is the journey of Team Envisage, the only team that is a part of both CFI and Shaastra. Let’s rewind a little and start at the beginning: back when the team was formed.
April 2019 (8 months to Shaastra)
WANTED: Techno-Entertainment enthusiasts!
It is the recruiting season. After weeks of WhatsApp links doing rounds and people taking a crack at the applications, the super-coords were finally selected in March. Next came the search for coordinators. The coordinators apply to be a part Envisage through submission of an application form; it’s just as it is for nearly every other PoR.
All the coordinators are on board now and pleasantries have been exchanged. As per standard protocol, the first round of introductions: Name, department, and one general question (which, I believe, regardless of the group and context, is always a pain) are checkpoints that have been conquered. What next? Conventionally, this is the time when one either sits down to bond further with the team or sighs at the overdose of socialising for the day and leaves to the comfort of one’s room. But it’s not the case here, where the coordinators are already at work, huddled together in groups and working on equipping themselves with the necessary skills to work on projects. Envisage coords start work on day one.
What drives people to pick Envisage from among all other CFI clubs and Shaastra verticals?
“I loved the show! 8000 people shouting the SAC auditorium off. The impression!” says Karthiyalini, a coordinator for the Techno-Orchestra.
“Inspired by the tech-scene in Insti, like a lot of other people, I wanted to get into CFI. But I felt like the other teams require lots of technical knowledge, while Envisage seemed more welcoming in the sense that it gave people more room to improve as they worked from scratch. I found this to be an opportunity to level up,” was the response from Siddharth, a member of the Tech-Ambience team.
Team Envisage’s members working away, deeply engrossed in their projects
May 2019 (7 months to Shaastra)
In pursuit of projects
The supercoords and cores are engaged in brainstorming sessions, pondering over the pros and cons of various ideas. Ideas from the applications and all other inspirations are put to trial in search for the most scintillating projects. There are cheers in favour of and rebuttals against each idea before the decision is made.
What do they look for?
The first thing they look for in a project is the synergy of technology and entertainment. Second, the project should be quality enough that it requires the coordinators working on it diligently for four months. The coordinators’ time in Envisage should be a worthwhile experience where they get to learn from the project. Various factors including feasibility, budget, and time-constraints are considered as well.
“In the end, it is a show, and should have good entertainment value. The balance between coordinator experience and presentation value is what we strive to achieve,” says Gautam, a fourth year Mechanical engineering undergrad and Envisage core.
The projects are decided. Phew, one brain-squeezing task out of the way. Next, Google Forms are created explaining each project, which are then circulated among the coordinators who choose which project they want to work on. There are no prerequisites to join the team and the projects. All the coordinators are trained during the summer through tasks and reading assignments, so that they have the basic skills necessary to start work on their project once they are back for the semester.
June 2019 (6 months to Shaastra)
It is sweltering in Chennai, the summer at its peak. The coordinators have all gone back home for the summer. At their homes, one can find them busy tapping into their laptops. Each one of them is hard at work, learning the basics of Python, Arduino, and the rest of the skill sets that will help them pull off their project. Envisage is not rooted towards any particular discipline of technology like robotics or electronics, it is a mix of everything. As a result, the coordinators get to learn a variety of skills that they can employ to bring their ideas to life.
Once the teams get their projects ready, they present at several avenues like the aforementioned CFI Open House, Shaastra Theme Launch, Coordinators’ Meet, and other co-curricular events throughout the semester.
24th December 2019, 10:30 PM (9 days to Shaastra)
It’s the night of Christmas Eve. Insti is nearly void of undergraduates save those working on professor projects and, of course, those at CFI. Team Envisage has just moved from CFI (which is now at NAC) to SAC for the last stages of their project. So ignorant as to be oblivious of something called the Green Room, a girl walks into SAC, in search of Team Envisage.
What follows is a buzz of activity with the heads explaining to the other team members why a tired-looking girl wearing a huge backpack, with a withered bunch of papers in hand, is standing at the doorstep eagerly, sneaking a peek or two at the equipment.
As she hears several hushed exchanges of “interview”, she sits down with the team members of Techno-Orchestra. She learns that they were inspired by the “marble machine”, the brainchild of the Swedish band Wintergatan, which housed hundreds of marbles that fell on cue from a manual flywheel to recreate an orchestra. The team members refuse to reveal more about how exactly it works, but mention that their version is completely automated.
The next team she meets is from Tech-Ambience. They have been working on exploiting Persistence of Vision (POV) to create stunning LED displays. This is one among the 4 projects that will be displayed in KV Grounds on all the four days of Shaastra, with a goal to provide a visually aesthetic and interactive experience.
She learns that, in a project, everyone dabbles in everything; the verticals are not rigid. When they sit down to learn, they absorb technical know-how from a myriad of fields, and this is put to test with every problem that pops up.
As she concludes the interviews, she understands that the team radiated a bond that developed from working closely together. (3 hours a day, all weekdays!) She walks out of SAC, wondering where to begin. Everything she just heard runs around in her head. She realises that boundaryless learning, the scope for improvement, and the love for cheering people up are what drive this team forward. She sits down to write.
Envisage has 7 acts lined up for Shows. Catch them at SAC on Day 1 of Shaastra!
Edited by: Akash Reddy