Tuesday, February 27, 2024

“Electronics Students Need To Learn How To Program The Hardware Using The Software”

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Established in 1916, SNDT Women’s University has been a pioneer in women’s education. The University founded the Premlila Vithaldas Polytechnic in 1976, which offers a wide array of job-oriented technical and vocational courses related to administration, design, engineering, science and paramedics. Yashasvini Razdan from Electronics For You spoke to Prof. Dinesh Girap, Head of Department (HOD), Electronics, PVP SNDT and got interesting insights into the university’s strategy to make their electronics graduates more employable…

Dinesh Girap, Head of Department (HOD), Electronics, PVP SNDT WU

Q. What is the difference between a polytechnic engineering course and a BTech/BE graduate?

A. Polytechnic institutions were established as there was a need for technicians in supervisory roles. There is a vertical movement given by the Department of Technical Education, which allows polytechnic graduates to gain admission directly into the second year of a degree college. This vertical transition equips graduates with good hands-on skills during the polytechnic years, and the degree course allows them to build more analytical skills. The polytechnic curriculum is 50% practical and 50% theory. As students progress to degree-level engineering, the percentage of theory increases slightly, and the number of hours dedicated to practical lessons decrease. Degree-level engineering courses, place more emphasis on designing and research, resulting in a difference in the curriculum design as well. 

Q. What kind of graduates do you aim to develop at your institution?

A. At SNDT Women’s University, located on the Juhu campus, we have a polytechnic and engineering college. Students can enroll right after Class 10 in the polytechnic and continue their studies up to the doctorate level from the same campus. As a constituent college of the University we have the autonomy of designing our curriculum. In the polytechnic electronics stream, we offer the only four-year course in Maharashtra and probably in India which is exclusively for girls. We provide in-plant training/internship opportunities to our students in the fifth and eighth semesters. Our curriculum mainly focuses on developing skilled industry individuals in embedded electronics and Internet-of-Things (IoT). Our graduates acquire expertise in the fields of embedded electronics and IoT. The curriculum also emphasises grassroots innovation, and environmental science. Through student’s participation in activities related to NSS, community development and school connect, we aim to develop responsible citizens. Our collaborations with idea labs, fab labs, technology incubators, and entrepreneurs help students develop skills such as innovation, critical thinking, and creativity.  

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Q. How do you develop and evolve the curriculum to stay in tune with technological advancements?

A. Lately in the past few years, I have witnessed rapid advancements in electronics and technology. In order to keep pace with this change and to make our students industry ready we implemented a 48-week in-plant training internship programs for. We are associated with 25 companies in and around Mumbai and we send students for in-plant training, where they interact with experts and get hands-on training on the latest technologies. Industry experts serve as mentors to our interns, providing inputs on what topics should be included in our curriculum and suggesting necessary changes. 

We regularly revise our curriculum based on validated inputs from experts. Our latest curriculum is focused on IoT and embedded systems while retaining core components. We revise the application component, including elective subjects offered in the higher semesters. The National Education Policy has provided added flexibility to incorporate additional credits from different disciplines. We have also aligned our in-plant training with the National Skills Qualification Framework.

Q. What kind of sectors do you see the students gravitating towards the most in the ESDM segment?

A. Currently, our curriculum focuses heavily on embedded systems and IoT. We are also planning to offer additional optional credits in the sector of Integrated Circuit Design. 

Q. What kind of skills do you impart to the students to make them industry-employable?

A. Our students are well-versed in coding. Earlier, students would all get placed in IT companies because hardly any core company would come for recruitment to the campus.

With our focus on system-level programming things have changed. We start with a single-board computer such as an Arduino or Raspberry in the second year. If students want to later on migrate to IT they can do so as their programming fundamentals and basic computational thinking abilities are developed.

So, they have multiple domains to venture into — hardware and software in both embedded and IoT. They can move on to application programming if the opportunities are available.

Q. What programming languages do you focus on and why?

A. Since it’s an electronics course, we focus on hardware as well as software programming. Earlier, the focus was only on software programming languages such as C, which required a compiler on the PC. We focus on embedded C, which doesn’t use the C compiler on the PC, but instead, we use a microcontroller such as 8051 or an Arduino system.

To teach Python we use Raspberry Pi as the hardware platform. Students learn how to interface sensors, process the data, and put it in a cloud. So now, when you learn programming in this way, you’re learning how to program the hardware using the software, which is what electronics students need to study.

Q. Do you believe that we have enough academicians who can aid in creating skilled graduates?

A. Yes, we do have enough academicians, but these people should be given opportunities. We have a very flexible work culture in my department. The faculty is free to collaborate with the industry, spend time there and keep themselves updated.

If this kind of flexibility is given, teachers can create wonders, and the students taught by them will create wonders! To empower academia, these government policies even encourage faculty members to open their startups.

Being a polytechnic college, we would find it very difficult to get the industry to collaborate with our faculty members. But that has improved, and industry folks are open to giving us projects where we can work and deliver. The only way to grow the electronics industry and ensure the development of academia is if they work in tandem.

I was happy to see that the EFY Expo in Pune gave special privileges to people from academia. I see that you’re trying to fill this gap as well and create a common platform. I’m a part of multiple groups created by EFY, and I get a lot of input from simple and informative discussions in the groups. Even the seminars and talks provide valuable input from academia to the industry, and vice versa. We need more such platforms.

Q. What kind of jobs are available for polytechnic graduates and what does the job market look like currently?

A. We have an intake of 40 for the electronics polytechnic stream, out of which 10 to 12 students go for a job. The rest of the students go for higher studies. We’re able to place all those students who are willing to work.

Our course is industry-integrated. We have around 25 companies associated with us, which are mainly SMEs. They always need trained people and we don’t find any difficulty placing our students.

Recruiters in SMEs have always said that they have a lot of vacancies, but they need competent  candidates. Unfortunately, they do not get such candidates. If students are trained well at the diploma level, there are ample opportunities available in the industries.

While there are ample jobs in SMEs, if we talk about the opportunities in multinational companies, they are relatively lesser. On the bright side, there are plenty of startups and SMEs which are operating in and around Mumbai. We have also seen the job market evolve after the introduction of all of Make-in-India policies and startup culture after 2014.

Q. Does the dearth of good candidates create a gap between industry and academia? How is your institution contributing towards the solution to this issue?

A. The industry-academia gap exists because industries expect freshers to have basic industrial skills and a certain level of capability which is not met by the graduates. If the capabilities are met, the gap is taken care of.

To counter that at SNDTWU, we have changed our curriculum to project-based learning. We use this methodology of project-based learning. Students should know basic things such as where to use a particular component, why to use a particular component, or how to read data sheets.

Even the coursework for all the subjects and the minor/major project is designed to make the students solve problems that prepare them for the industry. For their final year projects, we make the students interact with industry experts to get valuable input. This is how industry and academia can go hand-in-hand.

Q. What kind of support does SNDT provide to students who wish to build their startups?

A. At SNDT, we have the Institute Innovation Council, mandated by the AICTE to support entrepreneurship and innovation. Additionally, our university-level entrepreneurship cell has been fostering entrepreneurial spirit even before the establishment of the Institute Innovation Council. 

We have an Incubation Centre located at Juhu, Mumbai which receives funding from the Maharashtra State Innovation Society. Furthermore, various departments conduct their annual programs, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship or product development. 

Over the years, our students have participated in SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) Summer School for inclusive innovation. In the past, students have also collaborated with the Gujarat Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) Incubation Centre, which provides comprehensive facilities to support students throughout the entire prototype development process.

Q. What are the novel research projects and innovations that are currently ongoing at SNDT in the ESDM sector?

A. At the degree level, we have courses related to computer science and data science as well. We have collaborated with a public university in New York that has a weather station installed which collects weather-related data. Our students utilise this data for analytics and are coming up with interesting projects. Our faculty members are involved in different projects related to power electronics, IoT, and communication networks.


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