The terms “joy” and “engineering” may be mutually exclusive for some. However, for second-year student Twinkle Arora and some 200 others, their engineering course promises a combination of these and much more.
Advocates of new-age engineering call our traditional methods of teaching outdated. And, that was one of the issues that professors at Gurgaon’s BML Munjal University wanted to address while designing courses for engineers in the making. Their efforts were also at making student enjoy while learning.
While enrolling students, they noticed that most were low-on-morale IIT aspirants and the college needed to get down to serious business to reignite their passion for learning. So, they came up with innovative learning environment and research techniques. The institution introduced a mandatory course, ‘Joy of Engineering’, two semesters ago for first-year students where they work in teams to identify a problem and present and defend the prototype.
The college’s dean, Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra, says engineering education today needs to become more relevant, hands-on and rigorous. Arora, who finished her schooling from Welham Girls’ School in Dehradun, picked the course because the programme caught her attention.
In her first year, the class was given a basic topic for product designing to come up with solutions to develop toys for children. This included a wooden toy, a mechanical one and a programmable one. “We learnt from scratch, how things are made and that really helped clear the basics for us since we had to come up with solutions to make these products usable,” said the 20-yearold. Students even create such things in the workshop using 3D printers. The next stages are being designed as ‘Spirit of Engineering’, in the second year. It focuses on critical reasoning and systems thinking with the theme of “improve, improvise”, followed by ‘Magic of Engineering’.
They calculated that 37% of a student’s time should be spent outside the classroom. This meant they had to go more hands-on. “Today, we’re even teaching calculus and differential equations through Angry Birds,” said Mitra, the dean of the School of Engineering and Technology. The course has had some learnings for the faculty as well.
At the course level, the college says it requires openness of thinking on the part of the faculty as well as students. “There’s not much difference in terms of content that we teach from the IITs, but we differ in the way we handle credits. We tackle courses practically initially,” added Mitra.
Experts point out that a shortage of nearly 40% educators at IITs is letting private universities catch up. “The primary focus and the effort that needs to be put into engineering in the first two years of teaching are lacking. I think this step will help students who are losing interest in the field back,” said Rohin Kapoor, director at consultancy firm Deloitte in India.
According to him, institutes like the IITs are unable to register trademarks and patents – India files for just a third of what China does. “We must let students play with science to be able to bring about more research,” he added. For this institute, since everything was so new – it was founded in 2014 – it didn’t want students and parents to feel like guinea pigs as to how the course was being conducted.
The college took online feedback from students at the end of each semester. The second time around when the course was taught, they found that feedback increased by 15% and students were taking well to the holistic approach of problem solving.
The institute is preparing its newest third- and fourth-year course, ‘Magic of Engineering’. This will be the last stage and that will be in their third and fourth years including a final semester where they go to industry for 20 weeks of the third practice school course.
By Varuni Khosla, ET
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