Maharashtra government to involve engineering students in development projects

Project works for engineering students from Maharashtra will soon change its structure – from monotonous laboratory works to real-time issues faced by society. Starting from water-supply problems at a locality to sewage water issues in another and from traffic or transport issues in a city to replacing the traditional ‘chulha’ in rural areas with new-age technologies, all these problems will be on the radar as Maharashtra government has decided to include engineering colleges in development works for the state.

As per an order issued by the state government, all engineering colleges will be able to take up different projects. This is expected to help colleges have real-time problem statements to work on while government will be able to take advantage of professors’ expertise and students’ innovative approach. Students will be given credits for these works. Government has decided to the follow model of Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), which has been taking up such projects for over three decades now. A committee has been formed, comprising government authorities as well as engineering college officials, to design a plan.

Milind Sohoni, HOD at the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA) said, “It is a very important factor for a developing country like ours. There are so many clever students and professors with ideas and visions. Involving them will give them a sense of belonging and recognition that they have a part to play in development of the country. But, at the same time, it is important that their these efforts are rewarded appropriately with credits as it will motivate students. CTARA has being doing this work for many years now. Hence, the model will be shared with other engineering colleges willing to take part. After all, newer, alternative creations for betterment of the society defines science.”

He continued, “There are already few colleges working in association with us on some projects, but state government encouraging other institutions will result in better participation. Moreover, after government’s recognition, these colleges will now be able to individually work on projects for which we will be providing training.” The training will include how to approach government authorities or locals, how to conduct research on problem statements before creating alternative solutions, how to allot credits and further how to involve finances.

The initiative is receiving appreciation from technical colleges, but one common point raised by all is institutes, is about working on credit system around it. Dr. Santosh Narayankhedkar, principal of MGM engineering college, Kamothe, appreciated the initiative. He said, “Engineering is to help society. This will allow students a platform to get hands-on experience on real-time projects. Whatever laboratory facilities we may provide to students, those will always be inside the four walls. But such projects works will provide enough intellectual challenges to these budding engineers.”

Talking about attaching credits to such project works, Narayankhedkar, said, “While it is an easy step for colleges enjoying autonomy, for Mumbai University-affiliated colleges, these decision will have to be taken by varsity authorities. However, having government involved in the projects, we are hopeful that provisions will be made soon.”

A senior level officer from higher education department at the Mantralaya, explaining the procedure, on condition of anonymity, told mid-day, “Colleges willing to participate in the initiative will register themselves with the committee. After that, as and when local grampanchayat, corporators or other officials register problem statements, these colleges will be given platform to work on resolving the issues. The committee shall work on a plan around creating credit system to suit the initiative, which shall be approved by respective universities. This is a pan Maharashtra project, so colleges will not be limited in territories. Any college will be able to work on problem statements of any part of Maharashtra as per their choices and abilities.”

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