Saturday, October 5, 2013

B Tech Projects - Are they serving the purpose

Engineering colleges sprang up in every nook and corner of Kerala, following the foot steps of our neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
This course is slowly becoming an automatic choice for students many of them who has no genuine interests in the subject.

The B Tech course curriculum has been designed with a certain objective. Each subject, the labs, the mini project, the seminar, the industrial visits and the final year project each has its own objective.
When we evaluate students who completed B Tech, some of them with very high marks, we find that 95% of the students has done not done justice to the project work or is completely ignorant on the work they claim to have done.
Here I am trying to do a retrospection on why this is happening. 

1. Spoon feedingEvery kid likes spoon feeding. It makes their life easy. They are accustomed to study the notes given by their teacher and  write their exams. Even if it is a school project, it is the parent or tuition teacher who does the project on behalf of kids. Creativity takes a beating here. They want the BTech project also to be done this way.
2. B Tech project guidance institutesLots of institutes are available which offer BTech projects to final year students. Their modus operandi is as follows
Students approach the institute for guidance
Institute gives a list of projects to chose from.
Student choses one project
The project work is already available in the institute.
Student goes their for training during which time they help them prepare for the viva.
The entire code listing, PCB assembly etc are handed over to the student.
In some cases, even the final presentation material is handed over with notes for students to study.

3. Lack of inspiration and guidance from the lecturersLecturers should be able to motivate and guide the students to think creatively and should be able to make them understand the importance of doing something their own, however small the work may be. The lecturers themselves might have followed the same pattern, then how can they inspire. This is fast becoming part of the system.
How it should be done?
The BTech project is supposed to be done in the last semester. That is a duration of 6 months. But we all know that 6 months is not enough for this.
Ideally by the time the student enters the 7th semester, he should start research for an apt topic. The research should not be based on googling alone. Choosing the project title by self itself is a great start.
While choosing the project title by self, he is sure to go through lots of materials and related matter which enables him to do his work easily once he starts implementing it.
The seminar chosen also should be related to the project work he do
The student should ask himself a question - What is the skill set that I am going to project as my Unique Selling Point after I complete my B Tech degree?
Identify this skill set and select a project work which will horne this skill set.
Discuss about this project with people who is already working in similar areas in other organisations. Finding such people is easy now a days, thanks to the social networking sites.
Appraise the college guide in one on one meetings about the project progress.
College guide should not discourage the student, if he/she finds that the student will be not be able to complete the work taken up. Instead he/she should evaluate whether the student is really spending time on the subject, whether he is learning some new tools, software, thinking creatively and judge him based on these aspects. The motivation of the lecturers is utmost important.

I don't claim that all my observations are correct. But the fact is that the current method of doing the project should change.
The change should start from the lecturer. If any practicing lecturer happens to read this, please post your views as comments.
We have to improve the quality of technical education in Kerala and bring out students who possess skill set to do the job and not students who just have high marks!!

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