Science is about knowledge and engineering about invention. Both Engineers and Scientists will have a strong knowledge of science, mathematics and technology, but engineering students will learn to apply these principles to designing creative solutions to engineering challenges. In the beginning, it is a tough time for engineering students as the school education in India emphasize on theories rather than practical knowledge. This has resulted in some worst statistics regarding the number of first year students passing their university exams, which is just above 50 percent on an average. When compared to the huge number of engineering colleges in India, RV College of Engineering (RVCE), Bangalore, has stellar results to display. At RV College, over 90 percent of first year students make the transition to second year, with over 80 percent of them without a backlog subject. The reason behind this glittering consistent performance of students is nothing but the underlying curriculum of the institute, which is focused on experiential and immersive learning.
Most engineering colleges force the students to follow the traditional engineering curriculum, which is filled with assignments and students toil to pass the final exam. However, RVCE has a different approach to teach their students and it became prominent four years ago when the management decided to revamp the pedagogy. "Four years ago, we looked at all of our engineering education processes and decided that we wanted to transform from being a good teaching institution to become an international class institution that engages in knowledge creation, comprehension and dissemination and not just advocacy as most of the Indian institutions are doing," says Prof. B.S. Satyanarayana, Principal, RV College of Engineering. The decision to restructure the learning process made positive results for the students as well as management. A giant leap in external funded research activities was only one among them.
Bringing the Investment through Interdisciplinary Research
Established in 1963, RVCE had only received 5 crores of external funding for the research activities till 2009. "While, revamping the curriculum, our focus was on conveying the interdisciplinary nature of today's technology and giving more importance to experiential learning and by doing so every subject that the students learn, they can link it with a latest product or solution to see how it is relevant," claims Satyanaranayana. It resulted in more participation in research activities even from the fresh batch of engineering students and a fast paced growth in external funding from various agencies. At present, the funding for ongoing research and industry based activities with have crossed Rs. 60 crores. Labs and courses are offered in collaboration with more than 50 companies. "The key is to make the education experiential and immersive, so that the students actually understand and enjoy their learning and not to do it as drudgery for passing examinations," says Satyanarayana. The whole teaching learning process has been designed to enable the teacher to carry out research even from the inputs of the first year students.
However, the institute's research activities are not isolated in the respective branch of studies as today's technology developments are not sticking to one single turf. "Today everything around us is interdisciplinary. Companies are looking for people who are masters in multiple subjects," says Satyanarayana. For instance, in the first semester, if the students have five subjects then they do not do independent assignments for each subject like a traditional way of engineering learning methodology. Instead, the institute has made a provision to do a single assignment for the whole class, where students can bring in major concepts of various subjects to find a solution for the given problem. At RVCE, students can see such gathering of knowledge from first year till the end of their final year projects. The institute gives the liberty to the final year students to work on a project, which is not necessarily related to their core subjects. "By linking various subjects, we are making learning more enjoyable and discovering the student's individual passion for technology," says Satyanarayana.
By merging disciplines and encouraging students to concentrate on experiential learning, the institute is now on the verge of achieving complete sustainability with respect to energy, water, and waste. Today, RVCE is harvesting annually over 12 Million litres of water, has facility to treat 2.5 Lakh litres of water, and generates close to 200 KW power in the campus with huge participation from its students and faculty members. With these kinds of efforts, Indian Ministry of HRD nominated chose RVCE as one the colleges to showcase India's new accreditation process in front of international observers, for India's entry into the Washington Accord as a full fledge member. It is an international accreditation agreement for professional engineering academic degrees, between the bodies responsible for accreditation in its signatory countries. "We have set a vision to become the leader of technology education, inter disciplinary research and innovations with a focus on sustainable and inclusive technology. When people from industry and education sector are appreciating our efforts, we believe that we are in the right direction," concludes Satyanarayana.
Prof. B.S. Satyanarayana
He is the first PhD holder in the area of Vacuum Nanoelectronics at Cambridge University, UK. With 29 years in India and abroad, in Industry, R& D labs, Academics and Government agencies, he is currently heading R. V. College of Engineering (RVCE), Bangalore.