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Hope and a Tin Can

by Humblebee
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An impression that is almost cast in stone amongst the minds of alumni and the world at large that exists outside the gates of this Institute is that cutting edge technology  at IIT Bombay extends to little beyond the ‘cutting chai’ served in its canteens.

Here we do not wish to speak about unique and interesting R & D projects that we periodically hear about or more foundational issues of what excellence in research means for IIT Bombay. Our lense on encouraging an ecosystem of research among the students of IIT Bombay.  We believe that Research is not all about solving complicated math equations but nurturing a hobby in students.  There are many passionate students at IIT Bombay who spend a lot of time in Laboratories and being part of research group and working tirelessly at some ‘cool’ problems or in building and fabricating stuff with their limited resources. Be it the student Satellite project or Project Velocity ( IIT Bombay’s indigenous formula car racing team) or its most recent Team Shunya  they continue to carry the IIT Bombay name in far corners of the globe.

But encouraging this spirit of research and engineering cannot be done with just hope and resources gathered in a tin can.  Take the story of Team Shunya for instance, that took up the challenge to build a sustainable, cost-effective, solar-powered house for the Indian middle class in urban areas. It is the first team from India to ever be selected as one of the 20 international teams selected for the prestigious Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in France. Its previous participants include MIT, Purdue, Cornell, CMU and TU Darmstadt among others.

The team has estimated the total project cost to be INR 1.96 crore, comprising all of construction costs, cost of social awareness campaign and the costs sourced from participation in the competition, such as international air travel and shipping. Do note that 1.96 crore number is not the cost of the house, but of the entire project. The cost of the house that the team judges a consumer would have to pay for a fully-furnished, self-sustainable, solar-powered house has been estimated at around 35 lakhs.

The team has sought and received sponsorship in various forms from a number of companies from a range of industries, such as Jet Airways, ISHRAE and ONGC, and is currently looking for sponsors in other related areas. The team hopes to accumulate sufficient funding to complete the project and take the house to Paris, to compete against similar world-class houses made by university teams from around the world.

So the tin can is out as the students and it faculty members are left scrambling for resources. That is the not-so-attractive truth behind the R & D journey of students at IIT Bombay. They lose out not because the students at MIT Caltech or Purdue are better. But because compared to them what they have is hope and a tin can.

If you wish to help then do reach out to Team Shunya and Adwit Kashyap. Time is truly running out for them.

-Humble Bee

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