An idea, by itself cannot bring about a transformation in the way we live. It has to translate into a product through a series of innovations combined with a committed research and development (R&D) effort. In the four years of engineering curriculum, first students begin by applying the concept of basic science in conducting simple experiments, then as they progress, they begin to acquire skills to design, fabricate and integrate systems, be it mechanical, electrical or computer controlled systems.
In the process, creative ideas begin to crystallise, motivating the young minds to translate them into tangible products. This is where true innovation begins! In the process, students not only learn how new products are made by large multi-national companies, they also begin to appreciate the importance of innovation and R&D. Not all innovations will lead to a radical change in the way we live, like what mobile phones have done to today’s world; there are lesser known innovations, which are clean and green and which can convert waste to wealth.
At RV College of Engineering, we have established a bio-fuel processing facility. Farmers from nearby areas bring in seeds of specific species which are converted into bio-diesel for our college vehicles. At the bio-fuel processing facility, students are also engaged in developing new processing methods and machines to efficiently extract fuel from seeds, developing new blends of fuels and re-cycling of used cooking oil from restaurants. Through this centre, students get an opportunity to work with local farmers and artisans. Cycle-operated wood turning lathe and wood profiling machines are some of the other equipment that were ‘ideated,’ researched and developed in our college.
Ideas have to be incubated, nurtured and developed into products, this needs time, patience and money. In today’s world, these three resources are difficult to find; so the biggest challenge is to create an atmosphere where these resources are available and in addition, people with necessary knowledge and skillsets are there to guide and groom these young minds. The present structure of engineering curriculum does not provide the students with sufficient mental and physical space to dive deep into R&D activities and to allow them to create new devices. The administrators of engineering education have to bring in radical changes to facilitate students to actively involve and pursue research. Heads of engineering institutes must provide broad vision and mission for the faculty and students, ensure sustainable activity by motivating and rewarding them and create necessary atmosphere and provide for necessary resources.
Kulkarni is professor and head, department of mechanical engineering, RV College of Engineering, Bangalore; and Krupashankara, is professor, in the same department