By Bhargavi, Devaansh, Isha, Neha, Raghavi, Rajaram, Samvita, and Vishakh
T5E thanks Oswald Lobo, RAS-in-charge, for writing the section on ‘Research Accomplishments’.
It was a year of progress: our institute was in the news for several outstanding projects, for the good work of its faculty and alumni and students, for its collaborations with industry and other universities.
It was a year of debate and dissent, and (hopefully) a better understanding of one another.
Like every other, it was a year of learning, of interesting conversations, of life in the peculiar microcosm of the world that we call IITM.
2012-2013. T5E briefly reviews some of the year’s memorable events and activities, as we raise our glass to the year that was.
Freshie Night 2012, as always, was a riot of sound and colour, but mainly sound. The audience members made enough noise to effectively make attending to the programmes on stage impossible. Nevertheless, the participants managed to show off their singing, dancing, acting and drawing skills (the stage decorations were much appreciated). The performances, especially the skit (which was only understandable because it was a silent act) and the dance, were greeted by loud cheers and wolf-whistles. Freshie Night was certainly a night to remember, if not all for the right reasons.
The monopoly of A-Diet caterers at Himalaya in 2011-12 was met by large-scale opposition from the student body, who felt that the lack of competition was resulting in poor food quality. Keeping this in mind, a variety of caterers were awarded contracts for 2012-13, to offer more choices to the students. A detailed report can be found here. The mess fees saw a significant increase over 2011-12; whether this resulted in a corresponding increase in food quality was a matter of much dispute.
The New Secretary Post
A new Institute Secretary post, that of International and Alumni Relations, was created this year. The post of Dean, International and Alumni Relations, was created last year, and Professor R. Nagarajan became the first Dean. While two Alumni Affairs in-charges looked after this work earlier, the important nature of the work necessitated the creation of a new secretary post. The plans for the coming year include an Alumni Blog, an Alumni Telethon – a drive to know more about alumni, their families, careers and so on – and International Weekends. Hopefully with the creation of this post we can see the International Student Community getting more integrated into college life.
Elections and Stuff
The 2012 even semester produced a surprise when, instead of the expected ferocious elections, 8 out of 9 posts remained unopposed and a general lack of enthusiasm hung in the air. While discussions on the unusual situation abounded, the ninth post created history as it resulted in insti’s first female Academic Affairs secretary, Damini Gandham. The soapbox was noisy and the audience undisciplined, with Damini being interrupted several times by the mostly male crowd. With the advent of the next year, we hope to see more election enthusiasm (read: more candidates), especially from the girls.
Shaastra and Saarang play an important role in many students’ lives. Until last year, the two festivals were held in different semesters, with Shaastra in October and Saarang in January every year. The beginning of January 2013 saw a flurry of activity, however, as the two festivals were held back-to-back for the first time. The new schedule, designed so that the festivals will no longer disrupt the flow of the semesters, was received with skepticism from the student organisers. With both festivals having their own heritage to secure, students felt that the strength of the coordinating populace would be divided since students now have to choose between working for Shaastra and Saarang. Since the festivals were scheduled before the start of the IITM-semester, it weakened the institute’s contribution to the footfall, as some students were reluctant to arrive a couple of weeks before the start of semester. However, it appears this schedule is here to stay – at the very least, for another year.
LitSoc 2012-13 witnessed a battle royale with hostels fighting it out for the top spot right till the very end. Plagued by schedule changes, unavailability of venues, and poor participation in some events, the inter-hostel cultural competition nonetheless played host to its usual share of stellar performances, underdog victories, inter-hostel rivalries and unforgettable memories. A new points system gave weightage to improved performances from last year and freshie events. Narmada hostel, long known for its technical prowess (and languishing at the bottom of the LitSoc table), became one of the fore-runners – finishing near the top of the table just a few points behind winners Saraswathi. Tension prevailed in the wake of some last-minute uncertainty about mono-acting (there was a proposal to scrap it due to its proximity to the end-semester examinations, and an expected lack of participation). In the end, a decision was taken to stick to the plan and go ahead with the event, which saw Narmad ultimately lose their narrow lead over Saras – a moment of heartbreak for many others who had been hoping to see some hostel other than Saras win LitSoc after 4 years of holding the title, more so after their hostel T-shirt for the year which proclaimed them the unchallenged winners of LitSoc. LitSoc for this year marked the end of an era, wherein a large part of the hostels’ success hinged on the enthusiasm displayed by its freshies. With a new system set to be put in place, it remains to be seen if the LitSoc of coming years lives up to its original intensity.
New and Improved Cultural Clubs
The advent of this new academic year brings with it a major overhaul in many clubs, notably the Design, Fine Arts and Writing Club. Although the general perception is that many new clubs have been introduced, the truth is just that a framework has been created for the old clubs to function better and get back into the limelight with more visibility. Most of the clubs that we have in campus are centered around the existing LitSoc and Saarang events. Specifically, you should look out for the Writing, Design and Media clubs- all of which have big plans for their flagship events and all sorts of other activities planned for the year, such as workshops, tie-ups with Litfests around the city and year-round SFM projects. There is also a tentative plan to club their flagship events and come up with a grand visual arts festival. We look forward to it!
Shaastra 2013 saw major changes made to the events structure; where previous Shaastras attempted to squeeze in as many events as possible, this year, the number of events was reduced, with emphasis placed on quality over quantity. This was reflected in TechSoc 2012-13 as well; events like autonomous robotics, which carried significant weight earlier, were not held, while older events like Junkyard Wars were reintroduced. Events new to this TechSoc include Aerobotics and Gamer’s Inn.
Alakananda Hostel won TechSoc 2012-13 with 243 points, while Mandakini and Tapti finished second and third, with 201 and 152 points respectively. The strong correlation between the number of freshers and the hostel’s TechSoc standing was evident this year too; thus, the new freshers’ room allotment might have an impact on TechSoc.
The 2012-2013 edition of Schroeter saw a most unusual conclusion with two hostels tied for first place. Jamuna and Tapti were forced to share the trophy for the year as an ambiguous claim by the latter of having won points for the march past on Gymkhana Day remain unresolved till the end. The sports fiesta, however, delivered on its usual promise of providing nail-biting moments for participants. The drama reached fever-pitch as decisive points were doled out in the football finals between the top two hostels which for many was a parallel of the larger race for the Schroeter title itself. The 2012-13 edition also saw the addition of squash to Schroeter.
The institute hosted a successful sports festival, SportsFest, in September 2012, which was well attended by colleges across the city. The participating teams battled it out for medals in a variety of sports, from football to weightlifting. The host teams did their reputation no harm, as they returned with a bunch of medals in almost all sports. While the cricket team clinched gold, the weightlifters brought back two gold medals and one bronze. The tennis and table tennis teams added to the medal tallies with a bronze medal; two silver and one bronze medal respectively. The basketball teams (Men and Women) secured a silver and bronze medal respectively. The badminton teams shared the spotlight along with cricket, with the boys’ team clinching the cup, while the girls ended up as runners up. Serving as a prelude to the Inter-IIT, SportsFest provided the institute teams with much needed practice preceding their travel to Roorkee.
The Inter-IIT sports championship 2012, held at Roorkee in the freezing temperatures of December, saw different IITs fighting for glory and precious medals. Although IITM (last year’s defending champions) lost the General Championship (GC) this year, there were many triumphs to be rejoiced over. Our teams performed well in athletics, winning gold in long jump, hurdles, and relay. The water polo and hockey teams also kept up the institute’s reputation by bagging gold in their respective events, as did the basketball team, who were the defending champions. Other notable performances included the cricket team, who won their first medal ( a silver) in five years.
The last year has witnessed a leap forward in both the quantity of participation and the quality of work at the Centre for Innovation (CFI), IIT Madras, as evidenced by the number of students and professors (many accompanied by their families) that turned up for the CFI Open House, a day on which all the projects made at CFI were put on display. In the words of the Co-Curricular Affairs Advisor, Dr. Mahesh Panchagnula, “the two jewels of CFI”, the FSAE and Robocon teams have once again not failed to impress. Equipped with a brand new strategy and a year’s worth of effort, the Raftar Formula Racing Team, taking part for the 2nd time in the international Formula Student racecar design competition, is currently on their way to the famous Hockenheimring Circuit in Germany, to put their creation, RFR-13, to the ultimate test. Not only being the only team in India to successfully complete the problem statement, but also bagging the competition’s most prestigious award “Fastest Job Completion” for it, and standing in the Top 5 overall, the Robocon Team of IITM managed to win over the hearts of both judges and fellow contestants alike at the nationals competition arena in Pune, this year. Putting up a mesmerizing student-run show at Shaastra (the first of its kind) through augmented reality, the Computer Vision Group (CVG) deserves kudos for being the only club in CFI to have taken up an industrial consultancy project and brought results up to the production stage. Numerous innovative projects done by students over this last summer have set the pace for further improved participation by IIT Madras in various engineering competitions. A report on the CFI clubs and their plans for the upcoming year can be found here.
IIT-M Research Magazine
The year 2012-2013 saw another first with IIT-M releasing its very own research magazine. The magazine showcases the research of the MS and PhD scholars at IIT-M. It was released at the Shaastra Press Conference held in January and attracted a lot of media attention as well, with journalists interested in the direction the research at campus was heading towards. With research playing an integral part in the institute’s philosophy, a venture such as the magazine is most likely to only get bigger every year.
There has been a tremendous increase in the emphasis on research and development at IIT Madras over the past few years: be it in actual research activities or in the infrastructure for research or in the research culture.
Notable research innovations of the past year include the Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum (GFRG) demonstration building, a cost-effective and eco-friendly dwelling, built in a span of 30 days by a team from the Civil Engineering Department. A team from the Physics Department led by Dr. Pradeep have developed a low-cost water-purifier using silver nanoparticles which can provide pure water at a rate as low as 5 paise per litre. Improvements in infrastructure for R&D included the High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster Virgo, which was unveiled in the Computer Centre, and is the fastest computer in any academic institution in India. Among new facilities for which ground has already been broken and construction started is the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development and the Thematic Unit of Excellence. Apart from this, many collaborations have been signed between IIT Madras and companies for conducting joint research.
The research culture in the institute has also undergone a tremendous change over the past year. For the first time, outreach programs were held in 3 cities of the country to spread awareness about research programs in IITM and to attract talented researchers to the institute. The Director personally invited the toppers of the GATE to join research programs at IITM, resulting in the best of talent joining the direct PhD programme this year. Also, interdisciplinary PhDs have been introduced from this academic year. To end on a cheering note for the fairer sex, a third of the research scholars who joined IITM in the year past have been women.
IITM has produced its 50th batch of graduates, and many of us will miss familiar faces in the coming semester. Dr. Subra Suresh, President of Carnegie Mellon University, graced the Convocation Ceremony, which was broadcasted live on the internet.
The natural order demands change. This has always been the case with campus eateries: in years past, Quark paved the way for Basera, which in turn was replaced by Zaitoon. This year, it is the turn of Tifanys to be replaced by ‘Suprabha’. Patrons often had a love-hate relationship with it, but Tifanys will be remembered by many for its steaming hot filter coffee, (sometimes) excellent dosas, and forty-rupee mini-meals. It remains to be seen how well Suprabha can fill its shoes.