Published: 04th July 2018
Kochi colleges reject robotics, hell-bent on traditional engineering curriculum
Every change is being torpedoed. We can manage political opposition from outside, but what if the changes are resisted from within, says a prof who thinks changes are important
Dashing the hopes of thousands of students from landing cutting-edge technological jobs, a bunch of professors have decreed that they will not allow their wards to pursue manufacturing world’s game changers, be it robotics, 3D printing or machine making. Instead, the mandarins at the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University seem to be hell-bent on retaining the status quo in the state’s engineering college curriculum where plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry still rule the roost.
“It’s a sad reality. Every new change is being torpedoed. We can manage political opposition from outside, but what if the changes are resisted from within, by your own subordinates,” asked Kuncheria P Isaac, a former vice-chancellor of the varsity, which was then Kerala Technological University (KTU). He had tried to bring fresh concepts and changes in the engineering-course curriculum, before quitting in dejection last November.
An ambitious plan to establish 50 mini-fab labs, along with Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which were to come up in June last year, is more or less a non-starter due to the resistance from KTU’s top officers, sources said.
Though 20 mini-fab labs were set up in as many engineering colleges in the state, in the first phase, its implementation is being scuttled or its full potential is not yet extracted in some government engineering colleges. This is in contrast to the big success of the fab labs project in several private colleges such as Federal Institute of Science and Technology, which are fully capitalising its advantages, much to the benefit of students.
Jiby Varghese, head of science and technology park and research centre at FISAT, said “Mini-fab labs is an excellent project. Through mini-fab labs, we have set up our own mobile fab labs, perhaps a first in India. We are also doing various projects for schools and hospitals, including a neonatal ICU for Little Flower Hospital, Angamaly,” he said. Kuncheria, while at KTU, introduced a concept of ‘honors’ degree for intellectually higher-level students.
However, his another concept, a ‘minor’ degree, is yet to see the light of the day.
“Fresh ideas are resisted tooth and nail,” he said. When contacted, Vrinda V Nair, dean (research) at APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, said she wanted to see the progress of the mini-fab lab in 20 colleges, before giving the green signal for its introduction in 50 more colleges. “I’ve asked for a report from the KSUM,” she said, adding the Rs 50-lakh cost, which will be fully borne by the state for government colleges, is also too steep and it needs to be brought down.
“We are answerable,” she said. KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath, however, pointed out the entire plan has the backing of the state government, and it is up to the KTU to check the status of the implementation if it wants to.
“The colleges are under the KTU, and it would be better for the university to check the status itself. Our role is to provide students an opportunity to get themselves skilled in the latest technologies,” he said.
Gopinath, however, added KSUM, on its own, is also trying to bring down the cost of the project so that it is within the reach of more engineering colleges.