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How can we improve students and industry collaboration on innovative projects? (Answer & win prizes)

Update: The contest is over (but the discussion can still continue!) Abhay Patil, who judged the contest, had this comment about the contenst:

On behalf of IITB Alumni Association (Pune Chapter) – organizers of Innovations 2010 – let me thank PuneTech and it’s members for this set of insightful, passionate and well articulated responses. You literally made our day and have given us enough high quality stuff to digest before we plan the next edition of Innovations!

I will share the ‘verdict’ of the organizers with Navin shortly. You would agree that this exercise is not just a ‘competition’. We should/ would figure a way to move forward with these inputs. Thanks again!

After looking at the quality of the answers, the IITBAA(Pune) has decided to increase the number of prizes to 5, so we have 5 winners: Manish, Ruchika, Abhishek Nagaraj, and Vijay Patil. Vipul gets a special prize for the best student answer. Congratulations and thanks, your free passes are in your email.

Now for the next steps – actually implementing some of these ideas…

We are giving away two passes for Innovations 2010, worth Rs. 1000 500 each (Update: after this article appeared, Innovations appears to have dropped the ticket price down to Rs. 500), for the best answer to the problem laid out in this post. Read on for details.

Earlier today, we wrote about the Innovations 2010 event happening in Pune next Saturday, and while it is great that we have interesting innovations to showcase in events like this, it is a cause for worry that a country of a billion people cannot come up with more innovation; especially when you consider that we probably have more high IQ people than the entire population of the United States.

One of the problems, as I see it, is the lack of collaboration between our best students and Industry. We have lots of smart students wasting away in a bureaucrat controlled education system. They have time on their hands, and even motivation to work on interesting stuff (if you manage to catch them at the right stage). What they don’t have, is the experience and guidance necessary to work on the right problems. I’ve seen many bright students working on difficult, but ultimately pointless problems/projects, because nobody pointed them in the right direction.

Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune

Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune

By contrast, there are enough bright people in industry who are full of brilliant ideas, but who are too busy with their delivery schedules, and they just don’t have to time to implement and try out any of their ideas. Connecting the two sets of people is an obvious solution, that many groups of have tried without much success, for many years. There are lots of initiatives, like Peepaal Campus, projects4students , but I don’t see any of them really achieving critical mass. I’m not sure what the problem is, but I feel that one of the issues is the fact that many of these initiatives are focused on B.E. projects of 4th year engineering students – and that, in most cases, is a waste of time. By that time, most of the students have lost any interest/motivation in doing a good job of the project. Most BE projects, which are supposed to represent a year’s work for 3 to 4 people, are worthless, and could be done by a passionate/motivated student in 2 weeks. For a more detailed discussion of the problems with motivating 4th year students with industry projects, see this interesting discussion on ForPune.com.

But, let us not give up. Cynicism is over-rated. I think we can still do something. At least in Pune, a few people getting together can make a difference.

So, here is the challenge:

Suggest a specific, detailed, implementable initiative that a few of us can start in Pune, to get students and industry to work together on innovative projects. To improve your chances of winning, give a proposal that is:

  • Specific (as opposed to general handwaving)
  • Detailed (as opposed to short one or two liners)
  • Implementable right now (as opposed to a 10-year plan)
  • Implementable by us – people like you and me (as opposed to something the Government is supposed to do for us)

Leave your proposal as a comment on this article, or you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere and leave a link (or a trackback/pingback) here. Extra credit if you’re willing to be one of the persons who will implement the suggestion! The best two entries get one Innovations pass each. Of course, you’re encouraged to enter even if you’re not interested in the Innovations pass. (In that case, please indicate that in your entry, so we can give the pass to the next best entry.) The deadline for this contest is Tuesday, 5 January, 2010, midnight, IST.

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Comments

34 responses to How can we improve students and industry collaboration on innovative projects? (Answer & win prizes)

  1. Owais Lone says:

    First of all improve the courses. Our courses are irrelevant when it comes to practical application. Take a look at world class institutions and compare the course structure. It needs to be flexible in terms of needs of students e.g, students with programming experience don’t need to attend programming introduction classes. They can instead attend something more productive. Similarly, students with no programming experience should be taught from scratch in a easier programming language like Python. Alice is wonderful tool to teach programming in schools.

    More value should be given to projects/assignments, assignments should change ever, existing important subjects should be updates eg, Computer Graphics has no clue about OpenGL/DirectX. Data Structures should be taught in easier languages so that students spend more time understanding Data Structure concepts and less time learning language semantics debugging.

    Restrictions for participating in Campus events should be totally removed. Everyone should be given a fare chance of interacting with the industry.Remembering formulae and writing them in exams is in no way a proof of ones ability.

    Go Open. Go Standard. Dump corporate tools like Turbo to teach generic technologies like C. Use GCC instead. Use Postgre or MySQL to teach SQL instead of Oracle. Use platform neutral technologies. Don’t make students think in terms of corporate technologies.

    I’m sorry for going off-topic a bit but I just couldn’t help myself.

  2. navin says:

    @Owais, while I agree with most of what you said, I think it helps to remember the serenity prayer:

    1. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
    2. courage to change the things I can;
    3. and wisdom to know the difference.

    I guess you’ll agree that changing the education system comes under #1… :-)

  3. Ruchika says:

    Usually such programs have a implied thought that get students to work for less by giving time in mentorship. The problem with this is that in such a situation, for mentors it becomes a lot of handholding and for students, they never really get a true industry experience, since its still a project given to them.
    I would say have industry approach colleges with projects and a certain budget. Students then form teams (small companies) which pitch to the companies. Teams can involve students from different batches and majors (engg/mba) with self appointed leads/marketing and such. The teams pitch with regards to time/technology/design.. The industry can give them feedback on their pitches and choose.
    This should help students in learning how to present their solutions, pitch their ideas, think in terms of budget/time and deliver.
    Rather than simulating a real world situation, tihs will be the real world.

    • navin says:

      @Ruchika, I find your idea interesting. What you’re saying is that projects have a budget attached to them, and the student team that is chosen and completes the project as required will get that much money. The students self select the teams, and the teams could comprise students from different colleges, and they essentially make a bid for getting the project from the company, is that correct?

      I would think that in this case, it doesn’t seem that companies are approaching specific colleges (since the student teams will typically have students from from different colleges) – rather they’ll just throw an open challenge to any student team willing to make a pitch to them. Right?

  4. Dishant Ghai says:

    I agree with you Naveen.

    I’ve recently entered the professional world, what i’ve realized is that there are many students who are passionate about working on innovative projects but they don’t have any means to find any. For most of them the sole point of contact is their college Training & Placement Cell, whose association with technolgy is limited to emails and are themselves dependent on their alumni and connections in industries for projects.Many don’t know what’s a Startup.

    I think the best way to achieve the objective is to start a campaign to showcase the power of social media
    among students and more importantly among the Placement Officers.

    -Students spend hours on orkut/Facebook but hardly anyone in college uses twitter and very few know that groups such as punetech can be followed on twitter.

    -Students should be made to maintain a Profile on Linked-in,So that industry can easily reach them.

    -Students don’t know that events like POCC meets,proto.in,techstart,barcamp etc. exist.

    i myself came to know about most of these groups and events through twitter.

    So, in short – Go to colleges and Show them the POWER of Social Media.

  5. Ruchika says:

    @Navin with respects to the budget, the actual money can be part of a fund or such, because any such program will require running costs. Time and budget estimation for projects is something which takes time to learn and the sooner they start the better.
    Yes, students can be from different colleges/years. But it would be better to have this program centrally rather than have industries take the onus to set it up.
    Lets say there is a Industry Projects cell in the Pune Unniversity, where Industries/NGO’s/Public can approach with projects and students can approach to work on them as part of their credit for courses.

  6. Ruchika says:

    @Navin, also wanted to add that along with money going to the fund, the students can paid too partly.

  7. Bagdu says:

    Printing a piece of paper and pasting it on College notice board can be much more effective than any number of web alerts/twitter/linkedin/google groups/blogs combined. We are still a poor country and very few students can afford a computer,much less an always-on Internet connection throughout the 4 years of their studies and hence social media for serious stuff like this is effectively out of reach for many.
    Quite simply,students can be made aware of technology events taking place around them through student coordinators who, for example, can be on the lookout for events like these:http://punetech.com/calendar/
    and paste the notification on the message boards.
    Majority of students can benefit from them even if they dont have a Computer of their own or Internet at home.
    At times,there are campus events that go unreported and unattended which people might be interested in attending but for want of Information.The network of student coordinators can plug this gap. The events dont have to be technical only and need not be open to all. The knowledge of the events itself might enthuse or inspire others.
    One way to go about this is to float this idea among senior faculty members who might prompt some of their students to join this initiative and coordinate among this starter group via any of the social media.Or directly reach out to the student community through events facilitated by Punetech.
    If more lectures/camps are held in which more students participate with enthusiasm, this will surely lead to cross pollination of ideas and hence more innovative projects.

  8. Sam says:

    IMHO The students need the following:

    1. Mentor-ship: Some one who can help them in designing and creating the deliverable.

    2. Clearly defined objectives: Students need achievable and clearly defined goals and not abstract statements of work.

    3. Work environment: Books, Reference Guides, best tool set, correctly set deadlines, and support from teaching staff.

    3. Incentives: They need encouragement in terms of appreciation, certificate of achievement or monetary benefits


    I was one of the few students in my batch (GCoE Amravati) to have an industry sponsored project. We struggled hard to understand the scope and approach. It was similar to 6 blind people describing an elephant. We delivered the project in the end however if we had mentor-ship and good work environment, we would’ve done a much better job.

  9. Anand says:

    Each student-not just ‘bright’ ones – needs close mentoring by professionals. Students face various challenges and the help/guidance they get from parents or teachers may not be very effective. Industry on other hand faces crunch of talent – and existing student pool can’t fulfill talent demands just because there is wide gap between what they studied and what industry wants.
    Institutes and industries should come close to help resolve this challenge. Industry professionals should volunteer to provide a close ‘mentoring’ to at least couple of students every year.

    We need to invest our “time” to build next generation – this is something that can’t be outsourced :-).

  10. Mihir says:

    - I think one most important thing which can be done is:
    Professors in college should work in collaboration with industry experts to design the syllabus of the university courses.
    – The most important thing that can be done to improve students and industry collaboration is that the industry people can give or suggest some project topics to the students who are looking out for projects.They can also guide the students on the same.

  11. Manish says:

    @Navin This is a great initiative; here are my two cents on this topic:

    1.For companies that give out projects – No Discrimination:
    The number of Engineering colleges in Pune/ PCMC exceed 15. Companies which generally give out final year projects only consider students from the renowned 4-5 colleges; students from other colleges no matter how deserving they are shown the door by the Security/HR personnel of the company.
    Talent is not restricted to these 4-5 colleges; instead companies that are willing to give out projects should mention the brief profile of students (by profile, it is not meant the academic qualifications, rather the technologies the person has worked on) they are looking out on a public forum (like punetech.com); and at the same time give out a small assignment which the students shall have to complete first before they approach the company for the second filtration stage.
    This shall allow for sifting through the crowd, such that only the sincere/ serious student teams are screened to the next round, and this shall also bring about better transparency in the process of allocating projects.

    2.For students looking out for projects – A Problem Solving Attitude:
    Final year students looking out for projects generally visit companies with only their resume with them, which they have to deposit with the Security/ HR personnel.
    Instead, students on the look out for projects can create a profile on an agreed upon common forum (like punetech.com) where they can post their profile in detail which includes (more than their academic profile) the projects they have worked upon in the past, tools/ technologies they are aware of, and more importantly what kind of problem they tried to solve by means of their previous projects.
    This Problem Solving attitude needs to be inculcated in Engineering students to ensure that year after year, new ideas are being worked upon, rather than imitations of projects from EFY etc.

    3.Catch ‘em young – Improving the Learning Curve:
    Mid sized core engineering companies which are genuinely on the look out for fresh talent should try to catch them young. Instead of looking at only final year graduate students, such companies should offer projects, and more importantly mentoring/ guidance to students from the Third year of Engineering itself. This way the company/ students can have a sustained relationship over a period of 2 years which could potentially lead to employment opportunities within the company.
    This way interest in the Core Field can be kindled, and time spent for grooming new recruits in core companies can also come down drastically.

    4.Awareness- Collaborative Knowledge Sessions:
    Most of the students in almost all colleges live in state of darkness. They are made to believe by their inept profs that doing anything worthwhile would cost a bomb.
    During our times, we were made to believe that an 8051 programmer kit would not cost anything less that 2,500 bucks; after some googling we realized that we could make a kit for ourselves in less than 200 bucks. With this awareness, we spread the word within our college, and voila – more than 50% projects teams had their projects on this kit.
    Collaborative Knowledge sharing sessions should be held across colleges – the details of which can again be posted on a common forum. It is only when students of various colleges can collaborate freely, that we can have any sustained improvements; restricting such activities to only select target audience will have a limited/ time bound impact.

    5.Events – Allowing a Fusion of Events:
    Most of the technical college events taking place in colleges around Pune are of the same kind/ nature and attract the same kinda crowd – i.e. junta that is already self motivated. We should remember the fact that only a small percentage of students enrolling in an Engineering college is actually going to take Core Engineering a career option. In order to improve upon this percentage, various fun events (like a dance competition in the midst of a Robotics Event) can be mixed along with the core Technical events to attract a greater variety of crowd, and thus enthuse interest towards the Technical events.
    Also, instead of having mere Project Exhibitions where Student teams merely showcase their projects – a platform like Proto.in can be created, where apart from showcasing their projects, the teams are required to market their projects, present a Case Study of their Project etc.
    This shall give greater recognition to the works done by the students, improve Industry – Academia interaction, and inculcate a sense of business in the students minds.

    6.Where Am I Lecture Series:
    A similar platform on the lines of POCC can be created exclusively for students, where executives from companies can come and share their experiences across different industries. Many students when they realize that Engineering is not their true calling, are sucked up in the MBA whirlpool; instead, having such an open platform for discussion would help open their minds to the fact that there are multiple options in the Technical domain available for Engineering graduates.

  12. Abhishek says:

    Hi navin,

    I’d like to email my response. What email ID should I send it to?

    Abhishek

    • navin says:

      Abhishek,
      1. You can email your response to punetech@punetech.com and I will definitely consider it
      2. However, a response is useful only if it is public. A suggestion that I cannot publish on PuneTech is of very limited use, so I’d strongly recommend that you post it here instead of emailing it to me.

  13. Abhishek says:

    Hey Navin,

    Wanted to email because I had written up a large specifications doc. I figured I can upload it and share the link here.

    So here it is:
    http://www.coldsteelrail.com/idea1.pdf

    Abhishek

  14. Sachin says:

    What I have seen work well abroad is a consortium of companies (typically non-competing) within an industry partnering with educational institutions to research the longer term problems they face. While working on long term projects would take some time, we could immediately start with medium term problems that sevral startups share. Reason I mention startups is they can make decisions quickly- it could be large companies as well.

    For example we work in the online advertising space and face problems/ opportunites in the semantic web space, analysis of large amounts of data, performance computing etc. We could work with few other startups (non-competing) that could benefit from the project in this area. Ideally this project work should be something that we don’t need right away and is an area where we see some opportunities down the road. Also by working on problems which we anticipate facing down the road the students by the time they graduate will have some experience with problems the industry faces at the time. Having a consortium of companies working together also ensures the skill the students gain is broad instead of being a niche skill. It is also recommended that each of the consortium companies nominate someone that at the minimum participates in monthly/quarterly meetings with the students and professors working on the project. I would gladly spend a couple of hours a week working with this group. This maybe something we can discuss at the next Startup Saturday meet. We can have each startup list 5 problems they would like to research in the medium term and pair them up with similar non-competing startups to define the projects.

  15. Sourabh says:

    Hello,
    Went through all the responses. Found out peoples interesting ideas of improving the collaboration between students and industry on innovative projects.

    I am a student of 2nd year computer engg in pune. I have completed my diploma in computer engg and so I had been through the tensions of final year diploma project.
    Groups of students were struggling to get some innovative ideas for the project. But, the students of my class were not so innovative type. One or two group of students had got project from some industry. But seeing their presentations, there was nothing innovative, just payroll system or something. They did not get any help from the industry, professionals from that industry. They were in condition when the project they were preparing was not at all meeting up the industry’s requirement. Lots of problem.. So, problem of mentorship was faced by them.

    Coming back to the topic, leaving the diploma aside and considering the BE, there are various sections where some changes should be done.

    First of all, there should be a strong communication and link between the college staff and the industry.
    This should be a whole concern of the college.

    Like Training And placement Cell, there should be a Cell consisting of 2 or more experienced teaching staff who should have good links with the industry, professionals. This cell should be in contact with the industry professionals regularly which will help
    – Bringing up ideas
    – Selection of students
    – Need of industry
    – Requirement of students
    – etc..

    The major part will be done by this Cell and proper working of their functions.

    1. Selection of the students. This can be done by taking a test.
    What should be done :

    ~ Select the innovation / project by students or industry itself.

    ~ Considering the project, prepare a list of questionaire that will help industry to select the students that could really work on THAT project.

    ~ After selecting the students (based on the results of the test), resources should be made available to work on it.

    ~ Mentorship- Help from a professional person should be made available to the students.

    ~ Also, motivation from the staff members or the college professionals.

    2. Awareness among students about the social, public forums like Punetech, Programming forums, etc..
    This is the best way students can be in touch with the professionals and can learn a lot.
    But, again here is a problem that not all students get access to Computer and internet.
    This can be done by colleges by displaying on the notice boards as Mr.Bagdu said up here.

    3. Also as mentioned peepal.com, project4student.com, this type of websites should be made familiar among students which will help students to get ideas about the projects and much more.

    4. The students should also be made familiar about the startups, meetups, events where they can definitely get benefited by the professionals present over there.

    Still, something is missing above and cannot be fully implemented. Just a part of a big IDEA.

  16. Abhishek Suryawanshi says:

    How can we improve students and industry collaboration on innovative projects?

    A: Work should be started from school level,

    _________

    SURPRISINGLY Government (wasting,not wasting actually) almost 25- 50 crores every year, including National Children & Science Congress[NCSC], many programs by Department of Science & Technology (DST).
    [Limited students get opportunity & they make their future]

    ______

    & At present,

    PROPER MENTORS & MENTOR-SHIP is one of powerful way

    nothing much is possible at “present” level.

    ___

    :

    Nothing much wrong in present education system,
    Just ways in which it gets presented to students is bad one.

    If teacher is good, student will be innovator’s as well as inventors.

    and Industries will adopt such students.

    __

    Distributing Prize’s will encourage students, but will create Rat-Race. & again, it will be back to Govt. Board Ranking Numbers type.

    __

    I loved everyone’s solution posted above :-)

    And nice to see, PuneTech is taking initiative.

  17. Vinod Kulkarni says:

    Could we limit the scope?

    Target only BE 2nd and 3rd year folks.

    Only those projects which can be implemented through plugins and extensions to popular open source systems. (And may be some closed source systems where APIs are published.).

    Create a new Community site. It should identify Which open source software, what requirements (for extension), and an example of existing extension. And mechanisms to let the people experienced with those specific APIs to add themselves as helping hands.

    That’s all. We will have better success with this approach. Particularly when multiple teams can write extensions to same open source software.

    -Vinod

  18. Sridhar says:

    The main issue here for both students and companies/individuals is lack of Connections and Mentoring
    Here are few suggestions:

    1] Connections: : Maintain a public list(on Punetech? as suggested by others) of students with specifics like their topics of interest/resumes. Orkut/FB groups are fine but essentially not open and limited to one college. Students reps from colleges could volunteer and contribute to the db/list. How easy is it to find a student from Pune interested in CG ?
    2] Reputation : Let’s accept it, there aren’t too many opportunities as are students. So have a Stack Overflow kind of platform where students can gain reputation based on questions/assignments. Though, reputation(gained by this method) may not be the best way to judge a student, it definitely would serve the purpose in the absence of any other system. Few among us could create a question bank. Students would get the much needed exposure to industry problems and in turn be easily ‘found'([1]).
    3] Mentors : The framework in [2] would also resolve the other main issue for students- lack of mentors. Mentors themselves may not be able to spend prolonged time with students. Again few Punekars could pitch in.
    4] Money : More than the financial benefit students need Recognition/ Letters of Introduction which would help later in their careers. Instead of Internship (which very similar to the jobs they would take up later), a project could be handed over to a group of students with certificates of merit[ or linkedin recommendations] upon completion.

  19. vijay patil says:

    Contest problem :
    Assuming all statements in the blog post are correct, propose a plan to positively affect innovation.

    My Proposal :

    My proposal is simple and it involves :

    + Students : Students studying (voluntarily, not forced by parents) in any year of science and engineering.

    + Mr. Innovator : Engineer working in Industry who have deep expertize on a particular topic, have list of
    unsolved problems, innovative ideas, good communication skills.

    + Mrs. Academia : Professor teaching at the college, interested in more interaction with Industry.

    + Companies : Mr. Innovator’s employer. This company has lots of money and believes that applied research is one of way to increase profits.

    + Colleges : Colleges where stundents are studying. This college is believes that collaboration with Industry is good.

    Initially, companies and colleges non-critical role in this plan. So plan can be executed even without them

    Following are the stages of the plan :

    1. Guest Lectures
    Most important part of the proposal is great technical lectures by Mr. Innovator. Arrange guest lectures by Mr. Innovator at the college. Mr. Innovator will conduct this lectures, show demos, talk about interesting problems and ideas not found in the books.

    2. Forming Team and Bonding
    After one or more lectures, interested students and Mrs. Academia will meet Mr. Innovator. They will form a team, Mr. Innovator can pick best students and team will continue meeting for further discussions. Team will decide how they can work together.

    For example : In case of a software program, Mr. Innovator may set up the project website and arrange infrastructure
    for students.

    3. Funding (Optional)

    Mr. Innovator’s employer (or Mr. Innovator himself) will pay decent remuneration to (Mr. Innovator), students and Mrs. Academia after producing useful output.

    For example :
    + In case of innovative mechanical design, Mr. Innovator/company (whoever funds) will own the design and file for patent.
    + In case of sofware, copyright etc.

    For achieving the scale, i.e. to encourage students to work hard, funding (financial incentive) will be important factor.

    Summary:

    Ironically, the proposed plan to increase innovation is not at all innovative or ground breaking, because there is no silver bullet or ready made recipe to increase innovation (See reference). To increase industry-academia collaboration, people in academia and industry must become pro-active, collaborate, create win-win situations at different levels.

    So this plan is combination is internship programs (like TechStart), summer project (Google SoC), industry sponsors contests, consultancy services offered by academia to industry.

    The plan has one new aspect i.e. Mr. Innovator spending time at campus, giving great lectures about things not covered in the books and forming a team. The other aspect is providing right incentives for stakeholders to participate, I agree that the plan needs some more work in that area.

    Reference :
    Challenges in Industry-Academia Collaboration
    Pankaj Jalote, Dept of CSE, IIT Kanpur
    http://www.cse.iitk.ac.in/users/jalote/GenArticles/IndAcadCollab.pdf

    Note : If this plan is to implemented, yes I am willing to participate.

    Note : Yes I desperately want free passes to Innovations 2010.

  20. Nilesh Sane says:

    Interesting topic.

    “A brilliant idea, if given to the wrong people can cause great greif to the originator.”
    There are too many variables involved here, and the first and foremost (since the projects targeted are filed under the innovation category) is the protection of intellectual property.
    I have been working with Passouts for the past 4 odd years and I can state that they have absolute apathy towards the mentoring company and even less about the projects. Can these people be trusted with innovations? Are they even equipped to carry out the task of :-
    1. Understanding what the requirement is,
    2. Being able to propose & design a suitable system
    3. Being able to develop the system,
    4. Being able to support it, and do a proper technology handover.

    Call me a cynic, but as Abhiskekh said, the foundations have to start at the root level.

    Effective mentor ship, coupled with decent incentives (not just money) is what can be tried out. How about appraising the teachers of the plight of the industry and the opportunities that await their students if they do well. Surely if one professor can take up the cause, and his/her students benefit, there will be more in que. This way the impact is maximum with the minimum effort.

  21. Vipul says:

    @Navin

    (I am presenting a sum up of the discussions that i attended over this issue and some which were spun by me within various groups of :Students,Industry people,Social Activists working in this respect,and my friends.I place the whole suggestion or problem from a students perspective,me being an engineering student myself.I present this as a discussion not considering the surety of its implementation)

    1.Problems:
    2.Alternatives:
    3.Pilot Program:
    4.Plans Implementable:

    1.Problems

    As reported by some of the previous comments and many more unregistered ones:
    1. Before you consider taking out the initiative you need to understand the environment or mind-set the students undergo today(-Not being very socialist over here).Students are claimed to be lazy, without any interest,or such other scenario, while these are, these prove to be the first barriers within the industry and the students from the industry point of view.They lose the interest on this very thing. Although true to some extent, I would like to plot some of the really major problems:
    a.Students fear:The most important of them all, the fear to approach a high placed industry personnel,or as such.
    b.Knowledge:Lack of knowledge about industry ways of working , jargons ,which there by lead to the problem listed in ( a.)
    c.Forum:Lack of a proper platform.Though there may be many there , hasn’t been one that does it all, or tries to reach throughout, limiting itself to the selected few(with regards to college or students)
    d.Interaction:Mailing lists,forums,irc,etc,wont break the barrier of a student whose mindset is as in that influential state made by teachers.(Exceptions may exits!).The breaking needs to be done through direct meet ups.
    e.A proper Umbrella, that would suffice to spread to
    all rather than a selected few colleges.I consider this to be the root cause as I find many evangelists who are interested to conduct workshops or propogate things ,but don’t find a proper platform,therof.

    2.Alternatives:
    The previous list is endless,but yet some of the problems listed could have solutions as below:
    a.As previously pointed out:Starting at an early age .
    Here I don’t say preach the First year people,But if the seeds are sown say at least the second year, the benefits would be huge.Would students face today is,as the fourth year dawn,they start for projects and then the technologies for them.Here I want to point out,that if the technical know how was imparted at a yet younger time,the students would be thinking on the problem rather that how he’ll be implementing it,or the technology needed to implement it.
    b.Give at least an idea of what exists. There exist students who going to the final year, don’t know languages, or scripting perhaps. These if even knew about such things ,a and were given a spark ,would explore on their self later on.
    c.Hands-on would be a miracle for them
    d.As i get it, people have ideas but aren’t able to implement them due to time.Well you could share them,at meet ups,workshops.(Not Forums or such things,as its a waste going to some person who isn’t at all interested,but was surfing the net for buying off ideas for getting the project done from a third party)
    e.I guess it wont be a lot of harm if industrialists shared their ideas on what they do(If so please forget it). The students would muster over your works and create their own set of ideas,from your genuine ones(A salute to your work!).
    f.A platform for the students to showcase or at least expose their project.(Competitions may be many,but we haven’t got one that is for the “city”,people!,all are for some or the other college.)
    ..The list continues….

    I post the other two parts in the next comment…..

  22. Vipul says:

    Pilot Program:
    I list a program that could be developed from the root levels, as pointed out earlier.

    a.Contacting all interested or enthusiastic colleges. This is the main step, as pointed in the “Creation of Umbrella” topic. Forming a network first that could then implement the plan.
    b.Arranging introductory talks to start of in every college
    b.Formation of groups of students from whom feedback could be taken later on. The students could be the ones seen enthusiast in the introductory sessions.A teacher volunteer would be excellent.
    e.Formation of a group , that could perhaps be the core of the pilot. These could be software evangelists(here i mean it!) from various part of technology, and are ready to spare time for spreading their ideas.
    f.Once these enormous tasks are done,the primary tasks would be
    >>Meeting up of the two groups at regular intervals.(say a month)
    >>In a round robin fashion, making the core group to reach out to various colleges on various topics,so as the students could get a feel of all
    >>Hands-on would be a boon,instead of just talks,as such monthly showcase workshops(as the Drupalkar event).
    >>Creating of a separate domain,(under pune-tech of course!),devoted to students,listing undergoing ideas,projects,etc.
    >>The choices are endless

    4.Plans Implementable
    Here I list a few of the alternative suggested which wont be a short term implementation.
    a.The most important,developing a tie up with UoP(University of Pune).A huge task, but one that could do the following:
    >>Dedication of time in schedule , thus reducing the time problems of students and the volunteers
    >>Proper approach, and implementation by the colleges,rather than taking it casually.
    >>Integration of teachers into the pilot.
    b.Floating a competition under the name of “Pune”,rather than any private college, or such. Here stress isn’t on the competition, but on a platform to showcase it
    c.Mentoring programs:Creating an Umbrella,along with the one creating before to spread the mentoring,so as the companies could approach here rather than search someplace inefficient.

    P.S.:I presented the above keeping a student in the view, or to say both(Student and volunteers). I don’t mean to be interpreted as making things easy as pie for the students,but am of a firm view,that unless the industry take a step the students wont(from a fear,as pointed out before).I have seen many professionals saying they are ready to do things,but i quote here”The step should come from the other side first.”. This situation needs to be redefined.I don’t claim any success of the proposed programs,as many of the cynical here would surely point out.But do believe if there needs to be a change, this isn’t the time be cynical,this isn’t the field to be.
    Finally i would like to thank Navin to provide this platform where this topic can now be addressed and will reach out to all.

  23. Vipul says:

    A general note:The ideas i presented may seem to be off track from internship,but are the root causes of why the program doesn’t get properly rolled out.

  24. I’ll be very brief about this. I’ve been pondering over exactly this same question ever since I started working 6+ years back. I didnt have the technical finesse and expertise way back then, but I did have street smarts, and the willingness and urge to learn and grow.
    I openly approached a few people wh I knew were the best in their fields for help / mentoring. SOme turned me down, a few helped, esp. 1 person and I shall always be thankful to him for his mentoring, passing on knowledge and giving me a chance and platform to prove myself whenever he thought I could deliver. I wont take names but the essence is as follows:

    Proactive mentoring IS the mantra of the day. Someone above said that working professionals do not have the time to mentor, I’ll say the time and opportunity is always there and exists only for us to Leverage it. I’ll be announcing a Technical mentoring initiative from my end in the coming weeks, and I have a concrete plan to see it through. I personally hold a good reputation in the industry, and do not see why we shouldn’t give the students who are willing a chance to experience stuff firsthand, learn and get practical industry knowledge in the field, and then apply the same in their career. In case anyone wishes to join me in this initiative, I can always be reached at my User Group Mail ID given on my blog.
    I believe in giving the students a fair chance, which I did not get as I was not in some big shot engg. college, but yes, I am successful today with a lot of projects on hand.

    Cheers and let me know if I can chip in. I have all the time now as I’m in the process of expanding my own company :) and would willingly take proactive measures to mentor / train / teach any willing students.

  25. Abhay Shete says:

    Initiatives which have produced results
    1)From Companies: Some companies ask employees to guide bleeding edge technology projects in their area of expertise. Interaction with students begins in the third year. Have seen Calsoft do this really well. They guided a team which developed some modules for a distributed file system[Lustre in its early stages]. Calsoft also got a project from Lustre because of this team.Am not sure of the situation now, but around 2001/2002 students knew that Calsoft was the best place to work in systems software.

    2) Alumni groups: Some alumni groups are actively involved in exposing students to a wide range of projects and helping them find the right mentor. e.g “Dreamz” from PICT has guided students in system software, students implemented Tux3 de-duplication. More details at http://tux3.org/about.html

    3) Project exhibitions and competitions: Acts as an incentive for students to show-case their work to a wider audience, emphasis is naturally on innovation and pushing existing barriers.

    Other initiatives
    1) Creating a student-professional community: This has to be an active community which meets at least once a month. Students/professionals should be encouraged to create special interest groups,conduct guest lectures and share details of their work and see what contribution can be made to open source initiatives.

    To sum up, I believe that if genuinely interested students are shown the right direction and if right guidance is provided, they can produce good results. Even if one project clicks or if some students manage to win a prestigious project competition, it sets an example for successive batches and students will do their best to emulate their seniors and do better than them.

    We have a wider student base than before, many seem to have joined the stream for a well paying job.I completely agree that we need systemic changes, but till that happens, we must do everything to retain interest and foster the innovative spirit of “some” students who genuinely love technology and seem to be lost in the large crowd.

  26. navin says:

    Those following this discussion, a smaller discussion on this topic is also happening on the PuneTech linked in group. Please check it out. You’ll probably need to join that group to see the discussion – and that’s a good thing. Almost 1500 Pune Tech professionals; and the PuneTech linked-in group is the second hit on google for ‘Pune Technology’, so you better join. :-)

  27. Anand Mitra says:

    While reading Navin’s original problem statement it did not take me
    long to convince myself that the Mentor India (MI) initiative we are
    running at KQ Infotech addresses this concern in a limited form. Below
    I have outline the MI initiative we have been running and why and
    how’s for the same. MI has succeeded in getting talented students and
    industry veterans together. Secondly I propose minor additions to the
    initiative which has the potential to solve the challenges mentioned
    in the article. The interesting part is it can be rolled out
    immediately since the investment required has already been made by KQI
    over the last year and we are committed to support the MI initiative
    well into the future.

    For the uninitiated as a part of the MI initiative we take in student
    who can give a full time commitment and train them up on various
    aspects of systems programming. About 50% of the time is spent on
    training them on true practical hands on skills which the colleges
    fail to give. The rest of the time is spent working on different
    internal projects which are close to our heart but we lack the time to
    explore these ideas. Given that the project ideas are something we
    would like to see taken to fruition we do make it a point to guide the
    groups in the correct direction. The student on the other hand are
    encouraged when the find themselves building something that is more
    than a toy. In the one year that we ran this initiative we can
    corroborate Navin’s assertion that there are bright and capable
    students out there who just need direction and guidance. Leveraging
    this talent pool can be a great way to bring your project ideas to
    life.

    One of the pivotal reasons why this program works is because of the
    full time commitment. The students come to our premises and work here
    daily. This gives them an opportunity to interact with the project
    stake holders and get quick opinions on their ideas and get around
    road blocks. These might be monumental for the students but a five
    minute discussion with the mentor could solve their problem. This lack
    of this full time commitment from the BE final year project students
    is what leads to frustration. It is not possible to build anything
    significantly beyond the students abilities despite their honest
    intentions.

    In the current format the students from the MI program are consumed
    only within KQI and not the Pune Technical community in general. We
    are opening up our initiative so that anybody with an interesting Idea
    and willingness to guide and commit time will have access to the
    students within MI.

    * Commitment from Mentors
    – 4 Hours weekly commitment to the project
    – Planning management and execution of the project
    – Hold necessary classes to ramp up students on required technology
    – minimum 6 month commitment to the project
    – Since a significant investment is being made by KQI, we would want
    to protect our interests by ensuring projects are moving along
    smoothly. For this we would review the progress at a regular
    interval.
    * Commitment from KQI
    – Machine and network infrastructure for projects
    – Conf rooms and class rooms
    – Will conduct existing training part of MI for students to ramp
    them up on systems programming.
    – Currently we are planning for 6 students to be made available
    under this initiative.
    * Challenges
    – The mentors are not co-located with the students. This could be
    another BE final year project disaster in the making. By putting
    in a full time technical management person it might work. Needs to
    be debated.
    – Sustaining interest. Many mentors will have problem with time
    commitment and might back out after initial commencement. We are
    willing to take this risk.
    – Stipend for students could be paid by KQI or engaging entity
    – Ownership of the IP generated from the effort. If the mentor is
    willing to keep the project under an open license we will be more
    that glad to support the effort. The tricky part is when the
    mentor or other entity would like to retain ownership of the
    IP. Such cases have to be reviewed on a case by case basis.

    Anybody interested in giving their pet ideas a new lease of life
    please contact us at mi-mentors@kqinfotech.com.

  28. Ravi Ranjan says:

    Navin,
    Here are my suggestions, little steps which we can pursue:
    a. Give a platform to showcase/promote such collaboration, why not even convince
    “Innovation” organizers to have a track on Industry-Academia Innovations?
    Select and honor/reward best ones.

    This is late for this year but maybe next year.

    b. Create a small group of enthusiasts from Pune and visit local campuses, talk to
    faculties/students, what works, what not, how can this be improved. I can volunteer. We need to understand
    the campus more.

    c. Many local companies would have programs in place for such collaborations, we can consolidate
    these and put on punetech.com.

    d. Real benefeciary of such collaborations would be small and growing companies who do
    not have RnD setup, reach out to them and advertise the potential. I remember seeing
    an ad from a local toy company looking for innovators/designers/engineers, such companies
    could easily work with local campuses to develop toys which involves mechatronics etc.

    • navin says:

      @Ravi, I really like the idea of ‘Innovations 2011′ including a track for best Industry-Academia collaborative Innovation. In general, the idea of giving visibility to successful examples of Industry/Academia collaborations will help in increasing them, I think.

  29. Abhay Patil says:

    On behalf of IITB Alumni Association (Pune Chapter)- organizers of Innovations 2010 – let me thank PuneTech and it’s members for this set of insightful, passionate and well articulated responses. You literally made our day and have given us enough high quality stuff to digest before we plan the next edition of Innovations!

    I will share the “verdict” of the organizers with Navin shortly. You would agree that this exercise is not just a “competition”. We should/ would figure a way to move forward with these inputs. Thanks again!

    Abhay Patil,
    IITBA Pune Chapter.

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