When as a student, you get an opportunity to listen to a world leader like the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, you listen. You take notes and hope the learning pays off at some point in your career. But two students from SRM University took things a step further, and it has resulted in the innovative, buzzing, Next Tech Lab.
As Anshuman Pandey and Aditthya Ramakrishnan did their internship at the MIT Media Lab, US, the multidisciplinary nature of research stood out. The inspiration came from a conversation with Kofi Annan about research brain-drain. The concept note that followed sowed the seeds for first of its kind, student-led lab that has won accolades for itself and its members.
Wide scope and growth of the student-led lab
Next Tech Lab came into being at SRM University (now SRM IST), Kattankulathur and has made its strong presence on the sprawling Amaravati campus too. What makes it unique that it is a complete student-led activity with no faculty in charge. However, the multidisciplinary lab has a board of advisors, including industry bigwigs and academics.
Where ideas create winners
Since its inception, Next Tech Lab has been a success story for student-led innovation. It has been behind prototyping of ideas that have been well received. Some of the work that has emanated from the lab has been published in renowned journals across the world. The work has made top intellectual minds sit up and take notice, offer guidance and mentorship.
The results have also been astounding for individual members and teams of students involved with Next Tech Lab. In the past four years, they have won prizes at around 20 top events, including highly followed hackathons. Earlier this year, Aakanksha Chouhan, 2nd Year CSE student and member of Minsky group at Next Tech Lab gave an invited talk at PyCon X Italia in Florence, Italy. She was the youngest invited and funded speaker at the International Conference on Python programming and its applications.
Innovation is the future of all industries, economies and thereby, the Nations and the world. Next Tech Lab, the only Indian organisation to win the QS Reimagine Education 2018 award, is paving the way for it with student-led innovations, one exciting idea and experiment at a time.
How Interdisciplinary Education Hones Requisite Skills For Entrepreneurs
In their study ‘A Multidisciplinary Approach to Creating the Entrepreneurial Mindset Amongst Graduates’, Angela Hamouda and Colman Ledwith strongly recommend this modern “reform” in education. The Dundalk Institute of Technology scholars assert that while entrepreneurs recognise opportunities, skills from interdisciplinary learning allow them to conceive, design and build ideas. Both types of skills complement each other.
It is now well established that entrepreneurship is the backbone of growing economies. It’s particularly true of India, which is seen as a land of opportunities all over the world. For our economy to flourish, we need more entrepreneurs, who give rise to successful and sustainable businesses. But for that to happen, future entrepreneurs will need to call upon skills that they can gain only through interdisciplinary education.
What do experts say?
A European Commission report read, “Traditional educational methods do not correlate well with the development of entrepreneurial traits and attributes and that interdisciplinary collaboration is an essential element of building enterprising abilities.” That belief has been supported and propagated not only by leading academic and researchers all over the world but industry practitioners and entrepreneurs too.
According to noted historian and academic Dr Patrick French, students with interdisciplinary education including Liberal Arts are more adept to problem-solving. Other experts assert that it promotes lateral and innovative ways of thinking, which are crucial for professionals and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. There are examples galore of Tech companies hiring professionals with some Liberal Arts backgrounds. Others have followed suit.
Building vital skills for entrepreneurs
In an interdisciplinary setup, students are exposed to varied perspectives and schools of thought. That enables them to approach a business issue from different angles as they look for solutions. It thus organically enhances their problem-solving skills, which is a vital ability for future entrepreneurs. It’s also important to realise that entrepreneurs are captains of their ships and have to take decisions, where they benefit immensely through this approach.
One of the most underrated entrepreneurial skills is creativity. While being a visionary and the appetite for risks are skills that are often touted, you can’t lose sight of creative skills, which will come into play a lot more in the fast-evolving and versatile world of entrepreneurship. But arguably the most important lesson of the interdisciplinary approach comes through the understanding of and interacting with minds from diverse backgrounds.
Entrepreneurs at the helm of matters might not necessarily have to lead teams directly, but they realize the benefits of getting the best from their personnel for business. The interdisciplinary approach encourages students to transcend boundaries of discipline and engage with peers from different backgrounds. That along with the other crucial skills can make for successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Entrepreneurship at SRM Amaravati: Ennovab-The pulse of Engineering College
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen,” said Scott Belsky, Cofounder of Behance as he spoke of entrepreneurship. His wise words hold a lot of truth as it is often seen with brilliant minds that come up with exceptional ideas, which unfortunately don’t see the light of the day. They need honing, follow-up, and strategic execution.
Those exact words sum up the role of Ennovab at SRM University, Amaravati. The Entrepreneurial Innovation Lab is a student-led activity, which has fostered an ecosystem on campus that is shaping entrepreneurs who lead the way. Sowing the seeds of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking amongst students, it aims to take them closer to their business goals.
Silicon Valley work culture to Amaravati
Ennovab is the brainchild of Piyush Mitra K, Vatsal Rathod, Tuhin Sarkar and Aayushi Biswas, students of SRM University, Amaravati. During their semester abroad program at University of California, Berkeley, they realised the need for a student-led entrepreneurial lab back home to foster the startup culture, which has been at its peak in the Silicon Valley.
What followed were discussions with honorary delegates of Sutardja Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Their guidance was complemented by the strong support the students received from the management of SRM University, Amaravati. That gave birth to Ennovab, which strives to imbibe the renowned business ethics of Silicon Valley.
What does Ennovab do?
In a short period, Ennovab has nurtured entrepreneurial dreams of teams that are now well on their way in their startup journeys. With innovation at the forefront, it’s not surprising that several of these startups have focused on Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence as well as Extended Reality. That’s blending technology with entrepreneurship for best results.
But it all begins with the desire to add value to the world. New members of Ennovab driven by the goal are mentored through the various stages of startups – ideation, validation, market research, business model construction and finally, venture capitalist presentations. Case studies, brainstorming sessions are a common practice as Ennovab members meet.
Some of the other crucial aspects of the startup journey are networking and making pitches. Through Pitch Days and Founders speed dating events, Ennovab gives its members a taste of what to expect as they venture out into the world of entrepreneurs. Talks by startup heads and gurus, give them insights to navigate their challenging and exciting realm of startups.
India’s growing economy needs more entrepreneurs to take it to its pinnacle. With its activities, Ennovab is playing its part in the startup revolution in the country.
Active Learning at SRM Amaravati- The present and future of higher education
The growing presence of the Millennials followed by Gen Z has changed the nature of the workforce world over. Their expectations from the workspace are dynamically different from their predecessors. Interestingly, expectations of corporates and the industry have changed too. Problem-solving, decision making, EQ are some of the most sought-after skills now.
Centres for higher learning and educationists have had to rise to the challenge to shape professionals who possess these skills. It has prompted them to adopt new-age learning strategies that lead to the desired growth and development of students. Amongst the strategies, Active Learning is one that has shown exciting results and is definitely here to stay.
What is Active Learning, and what makes it different?
Quite simply, it is an approach to teaching where students are active participants in the learning process. It’s in stark contrast to conventional lecturing where, as a student, you would be a passive recipient of knowledge. Active Learning approach can be implemented in different streams of education equally effectively.
In traditional classrooms, you would have only a few students asking or responding to questions every session. Active Learning changes that as it not only allows but also enables all students to participate in learning activities. However, that does not mean it has to replace the traditional classroom format completely; in fact, it serves as a powerful ally.
What does Active Learning involve?
Active Learning encourages students to participate in big and small activities that revolve around reflecting, responding, writing, solving problems and more. As a student, you would have to spend some amount of time in the classrooms doing these activities either individually or in small groups.
Active Learning, in its simplest form, begins with reflection and pondering over an idea mentioned in the classroom. It can progress through large group discussions, brainstorming, case studies, role-playing to experiential learning, in its levels of complexities. The activities are designed to give students time to assess their understanding and practice skills too.
Astonishing results achieved through Active Learning
Experts recommend certain steps for the successful execution of Active Learning. The trick lies in choosing meaningful activities and explaining the rationale to students. Educators also need to develop a facilitation approach. Finally, faculty members should ideally collect feedback and keep track of it for future reference.
According to studies, Active Learning improves critical thinking skills, interpersonal skills as well as motivation. Freeman study suggested that without active learning, students were 1.5 times more likely to fail a course. Owens, Sadler, Barlow, & Smith-Walters research in 2017 proves the influence of Active Learning on emotional states of students.
These are just some of the reasons why Active Learning has found an active place on higher studies and is the way ahead.
How Arts and Science co-exist in Education
An article published in online coding school, Skillcrush’s magazine last year made a startling claim. If you want to succeed in the Tech industry, don’t major in Computer science, its headline read. That is contrary to traditional belief that if you want to make it big in a career, you master the specific field.
But today’s workplaces are anything but conventional. Tech companies now believe that creative problem solvers come from areas outside of Computer Science. Hence, it’s not unheard of for them to hire professionals with a background in Philosophy or History. In fact, it seems to be the way ahead, and the phenomenon is not related to IT alone.
From Sabarimala to LA, we as people are compelled to question gender roles and divides in our society. How much of the divide is due to lack of awareness, our conditioning or even Science, which is supposed to be neutral and objective? Dr. Malavika Binny, Assistant Professor, Department of History, SRM University AP, Amaravati takes a closer look at the latter with her research ‘From the status of anokha to lesser humans – a study on Ayurveda and transgenders’.
An internship in Cloud Computing. Greece for 50 days. Aaditya talks about his experience and how things came by!
Aaditya of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at SRM University, AP- Amaravati would be seen at the SRM University- AP, Amaravati’s Cloud Computing classes hosted by Python- engrossed and visibly interested. The reduced cost, refined usage of personnel and robust scalability of Cloud Computing made Aaditya grow curious with each day.