Digital Fabrication Movement in India

Finally effort to create a digital fabrication movement is sweeping across the country with the AICTE IDEA Lab network growing. This would have profound effect on the innovation landscape of the country as well as manufacturing sector and growth of GDP and move India towards “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”

While preparing Technology Vision 2035, after joining TIFAC as its head in April 2013, we started tracking various technologies that were likely to impact us in the coming decades. I have described these aspects in detail in my blog Making and Launching of Technology Vision 2035. Among the many technologies that were on the horizon, we had 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). This was also covered widely in the Manufacturing Sector Roadmap of Technology Vision 2035. I was aware of this and of FabLab initiative from MIT. 3D printing and other digital fabrication technologies were revolutionizing prototype development as well as customized manufacturing. The cost of setting up labs of this kind was around Rs 50 Lakhs at that time. Due to lack of awareness and cost, very few places in India were setting up such facilities. Most of the educational institutes were not aware of these developments nor were these part of the curriculum. Even those places (one could count them on fingers) were mostly setting it up for projects and special facilities, not for the part of regular training of students as part of the curriculum. From my project funding, I had procured a PCB milling machine to reduce the time to make PCBs. This made it easier for students to indulge in hardware development.

PCB Milling machine in my DA-IICT, Gandhinagar Lab 202
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Coaching distorting Indian School Education?

Coaching industry flourishes in India at the cost of students’ learning opportunities and loss to nation of innovative minds essential for India to progress fast. Key issue is popular perception of very few “quality”seats being chased by large number of good quality students.

Recently IISc Bangalore Professor Arindam Ghosh highlighted the importance of school education and how the recent structure is destroying the minds of the students. He said that students leave schooling to prepare for IITs ‘Destroys Fabric of Education’.

I basically agree with this statement about students spending 4-5 years in coaching to prepare for one exam is distorting the learning process. They do very targeted learning during this period focused on “cracking” an exam. We do lose a very important part of students’ life where creativity and exploration would have been important. Being able to ask questions is more important learning than trying to learn what is the “correct answer”. We make the students “convergent thinkers” rather than “Divergent thinkers” needed for an innovative mind.

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My Contribution to Nuclear Fusion Technology

For nearly four decades, I have been involved in the Nuclear Fusion work due to a midnight patriotic feeling while on my way out of the country for higher studies and since then have continued to play a role in developing or promoting nuclear fusion in India. I hope to continue contributing to this and expect to see applications happening in India too!

Starting in 1983 at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (and Univ of California, Berkeley) till 2002, I did full-time research in the area of Nuclear Fusion in USA and India. I contributed through modeling, development of data acquisition and control system, variety of system development, experiments, and operational improvements as well as solving technical problems to enhance the performance of both the first generation Tokamaks(a type of Nuclear Fusion Reactor) in Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics(SINP), Kolkata and Institute for Plasma Research(IPR), Gandhinagar to international levels of performance. At IPR, I was project leader of Aditya Tokamak from 1996 to 2002. I was also Project Leader of SST-1(Superconducting Tokamak) Operation and Control Group from 1997-2002.

Here I describe my contribution during the continued contribution to Nuclear Fusion for almost 4 decades.

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How Did I Start Working in the Disability Sector

My chance entry to the disability sector through a student project changed my life for better and made me a better human being as I learned to be more positive and to “Count the ability and not the disability”

Getting Initiated

In DA-IICT, we had introduced design thinking in the second semester of BTech(ICT) program. This was followed by an internship in summer(later changed to winter) in a rural area and a Zero Credit Design project in the second year. Idea was to let them explore some area of societal benefit for a full year without any pressure of grades and timeline.

Two students, Pallavi and Ramya(both from Hyderabad) approached me(most likely in 2007) to work with me on design project with an interest in helping persons with visual impairment. They visited Blind People’s Association in Ahmedabad to get an idea of various needs. Later in summer vacation, they came across news about a girl, Bhawana from Chennai, who had passed class 10th. Normally this does not make news but Bhawana was not in a position to move or talk. She did not have fine finger movement just a coarse movement of hands. In spite of these conditions, her passing of 10th was worthy of news. Pallavi and Ramya visited her in Chennai to understand how she studies and carries out other functions.

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How Artificial Intelligence Got into India’s Curriculum

When I served as a member of AICTE Perspective plan committee in 2017, I did not know that I would become part of a sequence of actions that led to the introduction of AI on large scale in India!

While AI was being taught as a part of Indian Institute’s curriculum for long time, it got its deserved place as a separate stream more recently. As Facebook showed photo of a meeting held at AICTE in 2017, I thought it would be good to write out the story for others to know.
At TIFAC, we had worked upon Technology Vision 2035 ( a set of 13 documents, consisting of a Main Vision document for India along with road maps for 12 sectors of importance such as Education, Healthcare, Energy etc.). See my blog on this at Making and Launching of Technology Vision 2035.

In April 2017, a committee was formed by AICTE to help in “Preparing Short & Medium Term Perspective Plan for Engineering Education in India”. Here is the photograph of the first committee meeting in AICTE HQRS in Delhi in May 2017.

First meeting of AICTE Perspective Plan Committee in May 2017
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Nuclear Fusion in India : Past, Present and Future

This is video of a plenary talk that was given at Bihar Science Conference on Dec 3, 2020 held online. Talk gives overall progress of nuclear fusion in last 4 decades in India and where we need to go. The talk also makes historic announcement regarding a privately funded Nuclear Fusion project in India code named – Project Sanlayan. Here is the link to video – talk starts after 3:00 minutes.