Visit to Upalada Tribal School
My visit to Orissa had a triple-fold objective. I gave invited technical lectures at NIT Rourkela, UCE Burla and JITM Gajapati which followed with faculty discussion/workshop on topics such as VLSI, Processor/Circuit Design, and Computer-aided Design .
My second objective was related to an earlier proposal I had made to Intel HigherEd for a socially-conscious program of technical excellence by setting up “Centers of Excellence” in VLSI/CAD area at some of the academic institutes. This holds out a promise of long term benefits to Intel, India’s tertiary education and the community. I and my colleagues also think that we should proactively drive up the demand side of the quality education equation throughout -- via interesting “discovery and wonder” projects such as “Computing for Masses” mentioned below, faculty-development workshops, targeted curricula improvement, and distant lectures by world-wide experts, etc. Thus I had discussions with several department heads and director/principals of the institutes of interest regarding few foundational approaches to a center of excellence: how to prepare and apply for starting such programs with the help of concerned Industry.
The third objective was to locate some socially-conscious professors in these institutions to further our “education” cause. I met a couple of socially-conscious academics such as Prof. Turuk of NIT Rourkela who hails from Koraput, and Prof. Acharya of Baragarh Engg. College who is making strides to spread “scientific temperament” among people.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspect of my visit to Jagannath Inst. Of Technology and Management (JITM) is the Computing for the Masses (CFM) prototype which we are help build at their Computer Science department. After a seminar talk on VLSI, and a faculty round-table discussion, I turned my focus to the CFM project. I met with the engineering students and the Lab Technician (Prabhat babu) who are technically shepherding this project, and our contacts Dr. Dhanada Mishra (Principal) and Dr. Sujata Dash (HoD). I saw the working prototype with a server powering 5 diskless thin clients. It needed a specific boot-rom to further save on costs, and I just heard they got it installed!. We have allocated $100 as an award for the students who show leadership in collaborating with the highschool counterparts, and in establishing community technology “self-help groups” and “training camps” to make the Computing for the Masses projects effective, productive and sustainable.
I also visited the nearby Upalada tribal high-school where the prototype will be installed to provide the first “computing network for the masses” based on our socio-economic and technological vision for the state. The following pictures are of the working model that I oversaw at JITM, and of the students/staff showing great interest, both from technical and societal standpoints, in this endeavor.
The 5 “diskless thin-clients” are shown in the left picture above and are networked with the Server on the right running an open-source Linux derivative.
Darshan is standing next to the head-of-the-dept. Dr. Sujata Dash, and several senior students and the lab instructor.
The Upalada school (near the border between Andhra Pradesh and Orissa) is the site for our first deployment of the “computing for the masses” project.
2. On the Christmas Day, I presented a talk on SEEDS at the state’s capital where I was present to speak at the “Symposium on Orissa Development” attended by several ministers and government officials.
3. I met with Mr. Subhash Choudhury, a senior commisioner in Andhra Pradesh, who has tremendous experience in the area of Rural Math Talent Search project partnered by SEEDS, and Foundation For Excellence, and spoke to the director Prof. Swadhin Pattnayak of the Institute of Mathematics and Applications which is developing under a wonderful collaboration of government, industry, and members of the civil society. I also spoke with the administrative staff of a rural Women’s College about establishing computer application courses, and about the “Computing for the Masses” project.
Priyadarsan (Darshan) Patra