Open House 2017: When excellence meets innovation

The 13th edition of Open House at IIT Delhi on April 22 had myriad reflections of creativity, innovation and academic excellence.

The sprawling campus mirrored a multi-hued vibrancy even as parents, teachers, students and professionals walked in, braving scorching heat, to get a taste of the latest innovations from the labs of one of the premier institutes of the country.

Twinkle and Manpreet Sehgal have been regular visitors to the Open House for the last few years. The academician couple came from Gurgaon, this time with their two kids, especially to acclimatize themselves with the latest in the field of computer technology.

"We both have a computer background and make it a point to visit the Open House every year. This helps us broaden our own horizon and also keeps us updated in our teaching profession," Manpreet says.

Likewise Kunal Srivastava, a builder, had come to see the new projects in the civil engineering department to improve his acumen. "Some of the projects are very useful and can curtail expenses by a handsome amount."

For some it was a Saturday outing, a selfie opportunity. But for most this was something more serious, a platform to dig out the science behind the innovations and a learning experience.

Naman and Harshvardhan, both class 11 students are taking coaching for the IIT exam. They got to know about the Open House from the media.

"We wanted to get a flavour of this institute. It is my dream to study here and I wanted to have a glimpse of the labs. I am enthralled by the plethora of innovations that have been placed," Naman says.

The day long programme took the visitors on a multi-dimensional ride dotted with exhibits, projects and stimulating interactions. But what stood apart was the exhibition on the innovations that IIT Delhi has fleshed out for the visually impaired. Aptly called as Avalokan -- the exhibits showcased all the assistive technology for the Visually Impaired by ASSISTECH. The Refreshable Braille Display which allows one to read digital text through tactile interface is ready for commercialisation and should be in the market by the year end. Priced at one-tenth of the device currently in the market, this has an array of refreshable Braille cells which provide a line by line output of the textual content fed into it.

Ishika, a class 10 visually impaired student from Greenfield School is visibly excited on using the prototype. " It must a great challenge to build this at such an affordable cost," she says. Agrees her father Sanjay Agarwal . " The traditional modes like Screen Radar can cause fatigue. This is more energising and affordable. I will be happy to have one for my daughter."

Then there was Mavi--Mobility Assistant For Visually Impaired -- a mobile based device that allows visually impaired to navigate easily while keeping all safety considerations in mind. This also has an Android version.

"This is an android based mobile app that helps people by making them aware of the signboards," says Nikhil Kumar a B.Tech student.

Other exhibits on the platter included a free and open source screen reader, a smart cane device, a bus identification and homing system, an audio tactile story book , an audio tactile tablet and depth based pothole detectors for the visually impaired.

"It is a creative amalgamation and extremely useful. But if all these could be absorbed in a single tool, it would be even more effective and cost friendly," maintains Tarun Khatri, who was visiting the Open House with his son Meher.

Earlier while inaugurating the Open House institute director Prof V Ramgopal Rao stressed on the need to weave science with engineering. "The differentiation between science and engineering has vanished. It is not essential that you have to take up computer science or electrical engineering only. You need to have a bigger picture," he advised to the packed audience of students seated at Dogra Hall.

Delivering his plenary talk on Get in Touch With Learning, Prof PV Madhusudhan Rao emphasised on the technological interventions made at IIT Delhi for making learning easier for the visually impaired.

Anita Jain, a teacher who accompanied her students was impressed with the directors message on not giving importance to a particular discipline. " He had conveyed such a strong message in such simple words. The students should refrain from chasing very ambitious goals and should instead focus on what they are good at."

Other highlights of the day long programme were interactive sessions with CEOs of some of the leading start-ups and industry veterans. Bhawna Agarwal, Chief Executive Office, stressed on the need to have a right attitude. " Besides a proper contingency plan, there is a need to have agility, patience and perseverance."

The Boeing-IIT Delhi National Aero Modelling Competition at the Hockey Ground was another crowd puller.