Student mentorship Program, IIT Delhi

What do we do as MRC?

At IITD, my tenure as a mentorship coordinator is nearing its end. And now, our team is faced with the task of selecting the next MRC. I have a very mixed feeling about this. I loved working with my team. At the same time, it has been very challenging. I remember the night-outs, being sleepless during mentor allotment, freshmen orientation, while designing the survey, prolonged and heated discussions on what to do next and how. I have absolutely no idea how our team pulled it off.

And now when the time comes to select the next MRC, we realized that many are unaware of our activities. Many had queries on what we do, and how. I will make an attempt at answering those questions.

Prince Dhawan, our super senior, called together a bunch of his friends, and convinced the then president of BSW, Prof. G.S. Visweswaran, that IIT Delhi is in need of a structured student mentorship program. A team of students, hand-picked by him, formed the first Mentorship Review Committee. They selected mentors, assigned them to incoming freshmen, and tried to make a dent in the universe, so to say. That was the birth of SMP at IITD. Atleast that is what I consider it to be.

Three years down the line, I applied to be a student mentor. Deepak Vasisht and his team was the incoming MRC that year. In these few years, MRC has established itself as a recognized student body and it retained complete autonomous control over all its decisions. One fellow mentor, Sidhant Sachdeva found the existing orientation boring. A proposal for redesigning the freshmen orientation was put forward. It took a lot of effort, but we made it.

The freshmen orientation was redesigned, from boring lectures in our iconic Dogra Hall that I don’t think many paid any attention to, to be a tour of stalls that introduce freshmen to all student activities at IITD. I worked closely with the MRC during the orientation and throughout the year. That year, I was overjoyed to receive awards for the best student mentor and outstanding contribution to the program. Sidhant was awarded outstanding contribution to the program, for his efforts in redesigning the orientation. MRC had its constitution inked out, added as an annexure to BSW constitution. We got a faculty coordinator. In other words, the institute acknowledged the MRC.

And I made it into the next MRC. Vatsal, Isha, Sidhant, Tapas, Rohit, and myself. MRC 2013-14.

Also, Mentorship Review Committee was renamed to Mentorship Committee. But we stuck to the abbreviation MRC because MC in a Hindi-speaking community would have been slightly awkward.

Activities of MRC

We had some initial wave of meetings, and we got down to work.

We had to select our team. One mentorship secretary, and about 150 mentors. It was about two weeks before majors. I have absolutely no idea how we managed that. But after two rounds of interviews, and an intermediate round of peer review and background checking, and a final heated discussion that lasted an entire night – no breaks – we selected Ankit to be our mentorship secretary. Once we narrowed down the choice to last three, we had absolutely no way of picking one among them. Finally, sinceit is a purely managerial role, and this guy is known to have tricks up his sleeve that can get work done in our tight deadlines, we picked him.

We had to interview mentors, about 400 applications were received, and we interviewed every single one of them. Then did a background check on every potential candidate. We came out with a short list. The majors were near. Very near. And we had night-outs every day. It was when I invited people for a party, on my own, perhaps for the first time in my life. On a friend’s birthday.

We had estimates of how many students are going to be admitted, and what the hostel distribution is roughly going to be. And we spent about a month allocating mentors. And then the institute bombed us. Almost literally, with the actual allocation. More than 150 students in two new hostels, where there are no senior undergraduates. Our plans were screwed up, and we had to redo it all. And this was a bigger challenge. Cross hostel mentoring is known to be very tough. It had terrible feedback in all previous years. Isha managed to do a good job, though. Both while allocating, and in the previous year as a cross hostel mentor.

I set up a freshmen forum at our then-active domain discourse.smpiitd.org. It received an overwhelming response, and I was billed Rs.4000 for the server utilisation. I found it too heavy for my pocket with zero income, and so had to take the service down after orientation. I have later added it to our group expenses, and we are yet to settle it among ourselves, by the way.

Who is better suited at handling the orientation than its architect? Sidhant was the unspoken incharge of the team during the orientation. We had rains, unexpected delays, tight deadlines, and I have no idea how we managed it. Sidhant did an excellent job. We had tour of stalls, street play, and departmental Q&A sessions. And we had to handle parents who were angry at the infrastructure, who were angry at us, student volunteers. Oh and I got calls from parents asking which gate to use to enter IIT. You know what? Publishing your mobile number as a first point of contact has its perks. (Hope you get the sarcasm.)

Isha and Tapas worked on mentorship code of conduct and mentoring handbook. Rohit worked with Mrs. Rupa Murghai, our student counselor, and designed the mentor orientation and training. It was good, but in hindsight, the process should have been actively extended throughout the year. The initial sessions were not totally enough in my opinion.

Our team visited all hostels to meet with freshers and identify any potential issues. We conveyed the messages to the respective channels, and they were dealt with appropriately.

Language sessions were organised. Tapas handled english classes. An instructor was appointed by the institute for the classes, and they received a good response. I handled hindi classes, and that wasn’t as good. When the winter chills set in, all of them being new to such weather, completely bailed out.

We collected mid semester and end semester feedback. And I had to replace a couple of mentors who weren’t doing their job well.

Whoa! I barely covered major events of first semester. And people ask, what does MRC do at all? Maybe we should do better publicity.

Then we had a curious case of mass copying. I really don’t want to discuss it, but it should suffice to say that almost all of us spent a lot of time on that. We had another round of mentor self evaluation and feedback. It is being analysed. We had organised an all day long gender sensitisation event titled Jamaavda, followed by a discussion on the same. We had also organised a couple of career talks.

I personally toured all hostels with BSW secys and SAC and CAIC Gsecs, to discuss code of conduct and the general outline for the meeting with director. It was postponed due to an unfortunate accident that claimed the lives of four of our final year students.

Vatsal got a initial draft of survey questions designed, and myself and Vatsal worked for a couple of days and nights and published our annual assessment and feedback. Responses are being collected as I write this. We will analyse the results and present them as a part of our annual report. The anonymised responses will be made available for the entire IITD community to analyse for themselves.

We are still working on our recommendations to the institute, which will be included as the final section to our annual report. It is going to be slightly bulky. Just a review of our activities is upwards of 50 pages as of now.

We still have to select the next MRC, and join the advisory board of MRC. I just made that name up. All past members of MRC are still in contact with each other through a online community, and we regularly discuss our plans and ask for advice when necessary. Why not give it a good sounding name as well?

About the team:

The team consists of six coordinators, one of whom will act as the overall coordinator. We have a very flat structure, everyone is an equal. The OC is a little shiny tag that carries the massive responsibility of representing MRC to the institute. Also, an unwritten rule states that OC pays for all parties. By the way, MRC runs on a strict zero budget. We handle not a single rupee from the institute. We don’t want to.

Everyone takes up responsibility for some specific task they are good at. I was already moderately famous (infamous?) at IITD, and I managed to do a hopefully-not-so-bad-job of interacting with freshmen batch of 2012, so I took up outreach as my primary responsibility.

Primarily, Isha handled feedbacks, Rohit handled student counseling services, Tapas worked on language classes, Sidhant was incharge of orientation, and Vatsal managed all our activities. Most other activities were shared by two or three of us.

What do we do? We manage mentoring. And in short, if something concerns first yearites, MRC probably can do something about it. We just restrict ourselves to make the work manageable. I’m not really good at explaining stuff, but feel free to ring up any of us if you still don’t have a clear picture of what MRC does. Unless your query is “How did you manage to do all that”? For that, I have no answer. I have absolutely no idea how we made it this far. All I remember is it took us some effort.

It has been a great experience. Looking forward to the next team.

If you want to join the team and make a dent in the universe, so to speak, apply to be a part of the next team.

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Detective Case study competition by STREE, an initiative of NSS IIT Delhi

Hello everyone. Just wanted to publicise a mailer I received. Find its full text below.
Inline images 1     Inline images 3
STREE, an initiative of NSS IIT Delhi
presents
DETECTIVE Case Study Competition
On the occasion of International Women’s Day (8th March, 2014), STREE, an initiative of NSS-IIT Delhi brings to you a one-of-its-kind competition that lets you go through the complex process of analysing a case of sexual harassment. The competition aims at sensitising the participants to the subtle issue of sexual harassment at workplace through a fun-filled detective case study game.
Did you know that according to the The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013, every workplace is supposed to have a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee to handle case of harassment. Moreover, the Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days and send the report. Also, the employer or the District Officer are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
If these questions interest you, participate in the competition to explore this issue to the core.
 
Register in Teams of 3 at http://iitd.info/streecasestudy

(There are no restrictions on age, sex or institution on the team, though we prefer participation from college students)
  • Pre-seen material will be provided to the teams in bits and pieces starting from 6th March. (you may register later as well)
  • After going through the case study material, participants get an option to have a live chat with the characters in the case study with some restrictions, to be declared at the time of chat) on 8th of March. More details on this will be sent to the registered teams one day in advance.
  • The registered teams need to submit a short report of not more than 1000 words which contains their conclusion from the material and the chat session and also their recommendations.
    Deadline: 9th March, 2014 5:00 pm.
  • The participants will be judged on the basis of the way they investigate the case and also how sensitive they are towards the issue of Gender Equality and Sexual Harassment (which will be clear from the questions they ask during the chat session and also the report they submit).
Attractive Prizes to be Won
 
For more details, contact:
Stree Team
9818399544
9868857566
 —

www.nssiitd.in | nssinbox@gmail.com | www.facebook.com/NSSIITDelhi

Because we did the same

Did you ever look at something that made you pause a moment and think “what the hell was that?” If your answer is no, please stop reading here. You do not belong in my target audience.

Something may elicit such a response in two cases. Either it is extremely good or extremely bad, good and bad being defined subjectively. Mediocrity doesn’t stand out from the crowd. It is the extremes that demand attention. It is thus extremes that I am interested in.

This is my personal rant. I was asked to do a shitty job, and I can not escape it because it is a part of a core course, which needs to be completed for me to obtain my degree, and I need my degree. Not really. People think I need a degree, and people think it reflects my competence, which I assure you it can not. Anyone who thinks GPA and certifications mean anything more than a belief in the system, is delusive. Back to the point. When I requested that I be allowed to do the same job in an alternate way, it was denied. I will now detail the incident and my thoughts on it. Feel free to abandon this post and move on if that doesn’t sound exciting.

What happened?

I am undertaking a course titled ‘Software Lab’, which requires me to work on one assignment per week. This week, the problem statement is to make a Ubuntu app that displays weather information. So far so good. I am required to learn Tcl/Tk, and no, GTK/QT are not allowed. I need to version control with cvs, and no, git/hg are not allowed. I need to use a database to store last 30 days’ weather information, and it needs to be mysql. It is actually laughable to require RDBMS for such trivial task, where a csv sheet does the job.

Why am I angry with this?

A new set of tools every week demands my time. I have to postpone a lot of my tasks to make space for learning them. (Actually until this week, I was teaching people, since I was already well versed with the tools.) When I invest time, I expect them to be of use.

  • I will not program ever in TCL/Tk after this assignment. Because I know GTK and QT, and they are far superior for creating a GUI. Also I am not a Tcl fan boy who loves the weakly typed dynamic language with everything being a string.
  • I will never use cvs again, because I work primarily with git, it does everything I need, and hg can handle those few exotic cases where git doesn’t quite fit in. Cvs sucks.

To most of my classmates, a 2 credit course demanding entire week, every week is unfair, and has severe effects on other courses. For me, having to work with outdated tools is the bigger problem. If you are a developer, you should probably be able to understand why.

I requested the teaching assistant (TA) and he refused any alternatives. The professor-in-charge says if the TA is familiar with something, it can be used. And the TAs draw a blank on hearing RDBMS, DVCS, git, mercurial, Gtk, QT, or pretty much anything under the sun. I will label them illiterate in programming. When one of my friends commented the alternatives are better, so why can’t they be used, I hear the beautiful reply that prompted this post.

We did this course this way. You have to do the same.

Wait, let’s back up. When was the last time you saw a developer choosing Tk or cvs out of his/her own will, given the alternatives? Probably a decade has passed since such an event happened. And so, atleast since a decade, while the real technology has progressed much, the academic machinery has preserved its notion of what is to be taught, unscathed, to the point where it diverged from what is usable in reality to a horrible extent.

Thanks for reading this far.

This entire article can be distilled into this. Classrooms and labs must do a reality check of what is relevant, and must incorporate those changes into the curriculum, and this must be a continuous process. Teaching assistants must be trained well. And get some literate folks in there, please!

You may suggest that I explain the situation to the professor. I was hoping I could do that, but today evening while I was in a meeting with some other professor, the entire situation worsened, and I do not think I would be able to convey my message now. I am still unaware of the discussion that happened between my friends and the professor, but it must have hinged on the course demanding too much of their time, as it was decided that the relevant links will be provided a week early, and the actual coding has to be done in the four hours allotted to the lab. It definitely wasn’t the right approach.

Screw everyone, because that means the lab starts at 1 and I can not have lunch that day. The problem remains unsolved. And screw everyone again, because the information is being as abstract as it can get. “The next week’s work will require Object Oriented Programming in C++/Java.” Along with links to C++/Java tutorials probably grabbed off the first page on Google. Essentially I see zero profit and a net loss.

Last week required us to do a multi threaded implementation of matching two strings. In shell and C. If the aim is to frustrate people like me, job well done. But if it is something that was designed to teach multi threading, give a problem statement that makes sense. Multi threaded search does not make any sense when the input sizes are small, as in less than 10 characters. It may make sense in the case of a short string being searched inside a very long one. Evaluation plays an important role. If I see evaluation that does not reward work, that doesn’t even make sense because essentially the TAs are illiterate, I feel justified in losing interest in any learning opportunity that the course may provide. I am a normal human being ape, and I am affected by these.

There is a reason I am beginning to consider any parent who wants to send their kid to school, mentally retarded. More on that later. If you are offended by any of the above statements, you are welcome. I don’t give a shit.

Project Aanch

Preface:

(Verbatim from http://www.enactusiitd.org )
ENACTUS is an international organization that brings together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better and more sustainable world through the positive power of business. Enactus operates in the form of student teams on campuses around the world, working on sustainable projects with the objective of creating economic opportunity for others.

Every Enactus project has the following three components:

  • Entrepreneurial: Having the perspective to see an opportunity and the talent to create value from that opportunity;
  • Action: The willingness to do something and commitment to see it through even when the outcome is not guaranteed;
  • Us: A group of people who see themselves connected in some important way; people who are part of a greater whole.

Enactus IIT Delhi is the IIT Delhi student chapter of Enactus.

What is Project Aanch?

TL;DR: A project to manufacture and sell smokeless stoves.

Residents of Bhatti Mines rely on firewood and use extremely inefficient ‘stove’ that is typical to the rural India. A crude structure with one or more sides open for insertion of firewood, that can hold a small vessel. An estimated 826 million Indians depend on these simple cook stoves that burn solid fuel, mainly fuelwood or coal. (Source)

These stoves are extremely energy inefficient, result in a lot of Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monooxide, Black carbon (soot) emissions. All of these contribute to global warming, and with over 800 million users on a daily basis, the issue demands attention. Estimated 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxie equivalent gases can be avoided by using better stoves. It would also reduce the deaths from respiratory infections, heart disease, bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis. When you are talking about changing India, numbers are your enemy. A statistician will understand.

But it all begins with a small effort. Many such efforts have been made. Project Aanch is yet another efficient stove campaign.

What makes Project Aanch different?

It is not a campaign distributing/selling stoves. It is an attempt at making entrepreneurs. Enactus IITD will train women from Bhatti Mines to make smokeless stoves, and assist in establishing a business.

What can I do to help?

What will the money be used for?

(Verbatim from project page on wishberry)

  1. To buy two more Philips cook-stove mould that would enable us to double the rate of production of cook-stoves and expand in other communities. One mould costs Rs 26500 approximately.
  2. As we are serving customers at Bottom of the Pyramid, the relatively limited buying capacity of the poor makes it tougher for us to generate profits for the women. Thus, to expand the market and increase the adoption rate, we would be testing two models:
    • Selling stoves through EMI: We need money to maintain the buffer amount needed to sustain the installment plan.
    • Subsidizing Stoves: The current selling price of Rs 1200 is out of range for the community. We will subsidize this by Rs 500 so that they can afford it.

I will receive my first salary today. I will do my part.

Related links

Credit the source, Please!

I got a call this morning.

It was an angry Robo, angry at me that I’ve publicized his story on facebook. He said “The writing style, its undoubtedly you.” I’m out of facebook since long. I’ve never even asked anyone to do it on my behalf either. Someone copied my blog post verbatim, and posted it. They got to my blog by searching “funny incident iit delhi” in Google. ( Looking at the analytics, I am about 99% sure that thats the one. )

Now, It is kind of fun, I don’t have any issues with him copying and publicizing it, and now that its done, Robo can not do anything either, we don’t have any issues, but something bothers me.

That someone who copied my post verbatim did not care to cite the source! Yeah, I know, its common for people to steal content these days. Mind you, common but not legal.

I have stopped playing many games since I am against piracy. I do not go about pirating stuff since that goes against my ideals. I respect intellectual rights. I go to great lengths and even request permission to make copies of publicly-available material. ( Not many realize that the right to make copies is not granted when the content is made publicly available. ) And I try to license my works under a open license.

When some of my peers freely copy content verbatim from sources ranging from blogs to publications, without citing them, I have a reason to be angry.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not really blaming anyone. I am just worried that not many are aware. I request you all to take time to spread the word.

If you can not afford to buy a Windows License, please do not pirate it. There are over a thousand options available for an operating system. If you can not afford a Microsoft Office license, do not pirate it. Use open office or Libre office. If you can not afford a game, do not use a crack for it. Either save money and buy it, may be as a group, or do not play it.

IF X IS NOT PROVIDED GRATIS, IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD X, DO NOT USE X. IF YOU CAN, BUY X BEFORE USING.

IF YOU USE A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF X, CITE X. AND BEFORE YOU USE, MAKE SURE YOU ARE PERMITTED TO.

Pardon me for the all caps. I know it hurts the eyes, (mine actually bleed looking at all caps) but I want to make it clear. Not many consider it emphasized enough unless they bold and all caps and underline and use a repulsive color scheme. Not many understand that italics is the proper way to emphasis. and that a normal word in a italicized text means emphasis. Well, writing etiquette can take an entire post by itself, and it doesn’t really belong here.

Content creators deserve respect. If you do not understand this, you will, once you create something putting hours of hard work, time and money into it, and when someone copies it without even attributing it, or when someone steals it from you, you will then understand.

P.S : Besides that, I am also angry at whoever copied my post for not linking since that would’ve been some good amount of traffic. I do not earn by advertising on this blog, but still, its good to have some traffic 😛

Monkey see, Monkey Do – IITian monkeys

Let me start by clarifying that I am an Ape, not a monkey. Monkey see, Monkey do – To quote Wikipedia, it refers to learning of a process without an understanding of why it works. It can also imply the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge and/or concern of the consequences.

What has this to do with IITians? I assume you have guessed it by now. This article is a comment on my own family. The IITian family. Continue Reading