Fun the­atre fes­ti­vals and unique stu­dent clubs make life at BITS Pi­lani vi­brant both in­side and out­side of the class­room. By Mridu Rai

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I‘m not the same per­son I was when I first joined the in­sti­tute. I’m def­i­nitely more con­fi­dent, self-as­sured and ar­tic­u­late. Be­ing part of the Hindi Drama Club has not only been fun but an ex­cel­lent groom­ing process as well,” says Ra­jat Gupta, a fifth-year stu­dent at Birla In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Sci­ence ( BITS), Pi­lani. Life at BITS Pi­lani could not have been summed up bet­ter than this. As one of the top engineering in­sti­tutes in the coun­try,

BITS’ is quickly grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. The in­sti­tute is al­ready well known for its in­ter­est­ing ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties that aim to not only keep the stu­dents en­gaged but also to help in their over­all per­son­al­ity de­vel­op­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to G. Raghu­rama, di­rec­tor BITS Pi­lani, “Learn­ing does not take place in the class­room alone. In to­day’s world, a very nar­row tech­ni­cal ex­po­sure or con­cen­tra­tion in one dis­ci­pline is not suf­fi­cient for any engineering stu­dent. Ex­po­sure to arts and hu­man­i­ties is ex­tremely es­sen­tial. There­fore, in the last two to three years we’ve gone through a mas­sive re­struc­tur­ing of our cur­ricu­lum. We’ve made it manda­tory for each stu­dent to take up an elec­tive course of­fered by the Depart­ment of Hu­man­i­ties and Lan­guages such as ap­pre­ci­a­tion in mu­sic, film­mak­ing or re­li­gion.”

It was with the ob­jec­tive, to in­tro­duce sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy stu­dents to the world of arts, that the Depart­ment of Hu­man­i­ties and Lan­guages and the Hindi Drama Club of BITS

Pi­lani hosted a three-day the­atre fes­ti­val, Melange, last month. For the first time in the his­tory of the in­sti­tute, Melange wel­comed the who’s who of pro­fes­sional the­atre in In­dia in­clud­ing Vinay Pathak, Ra­jat Kapoor, Yash­pal Sharma and Piyush Mishra.

The fes­ti­val saw a num­ber of per­for­mances from the mono­logue adap­tion of Shakespeare’s King Lear which in­cluded el­e­ments of mime, stand-up and spoof in Noth­ing Like Lear to the comic take on the im­por­tance of friend­ship in Yaar Bana Buddy. The au­di­to­rium, which was filled with over a thou­sand spec­ta­tors was proof enough that engineering stu­dents also have a knack and in­ter­est in the arts.

Stu­dents at­tend­ing the fes­ti­val not only got to watch th­ese em­i­nent the­atre per­son­al­i­ties on stage but also got a chance to get up close with them dur­ing in­ter­ac­tive ses­sions. Dur­ing Pathak and Kapoor’s ses­sion, the ques­tions ranged from the var­i­ous pro­cesses in­volved in act­ing and di­rect­ing to why In­dian films fare so poorly at the Os­cars. While all the ques­tions were an­swered pa­tiently, Pathak and Kapoor’s sharp wit and quick re­sponses kept the young au­di­ence en­ter­tained through­out.

The sec­ond in­ter­ac­tive ses­sion, on the last day, with renowned ac­tor and mu­si­cian Piyush Mishra of Gangs of Wassey­pur and

Rock­star fame, not only saw Mishra belt­ing out some of his soul­ful num­bers like O Husna and O Re Duniya, but he also kept the au­di­ence en­gaged with anec­dotes from his per­sonal life. Th­ese in­cluded tales about the strug­gles he had to face dur­ing the ini­tial days of his ca­reer.

For the stu­dents of BITS, es­pe­cially for those who are part of the Hindi Drama Club it was an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other. “Melange taught us so much right from con­cep­tu­al­is­ing the idea to get­ting renowned artists to par­tic­i­pate, find­ing spon­sors and set­ting up the stage,” says Akanksha Agarwal, a sec­ond-year civil engineering stu­dent. “I loved the ca­sual in­ter­ac­tions with the artists. It gave us an insight into their lives as nor­mal be­ings. But the best part was work­ing to­gether with the mem­bers of the club, day and night, to make our maiden ven­ture a suc­cess. This brought us much more closer,” she adds.

But Melange is not the only ac­tiv­ity that stu­dents at BITS can look for­ward to over the course of their aca­demic year. The in­sti­tute supports the for­ma­tion of var­i­ous stu­dent clubs and fes­ti­vals.

One such club is the Ra­dio-Con­trol Club ( RC), which has a team of stu­dents who de­sign model air­crafts, boats and cars, all of which are ra­dio-con­trolled. What’s re­mark­able about this club is that it is com­pletely funded by the stu­dents them­selves. “We shell out money from our own pock­ets to buy ma­te­ri­als needed to build th­ese ma­chines. Even though they are quite ex­pen­sive we don’t mind as we love what we’re do­ing,” says Kar­tik Doka­nia, a stu­dent mem­ber of RC. The club is now look­ing to build a so­lar pow­ered model air­craft. “This will al­low the air­craft to stay in the air much longer and can be used in dis­as­ter man­age­ment sit­u­a­tions,” ex­plains Alok Pa­choli, another en­thu­si­as­tic mem­ber.

Ac­com­plish­ments made by the stu­dents at BITS are not lim­ited to In­dia alone. Many have also taken their projects to var­i­ous for­eign com­pe­ti­tions. A group of seven un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents re­cently built an au­ton­o­mous soc­cer play­ing hu­manoid ro­bot named AcYut. AcYut has a vi­sion sys­tem by which it can iden­tify a ball in the play arena, au­tonomously move to­wards it, avoid ob­sta­cles on the way, po­si­tion it­self be­hind the ball and kick it to­wards the goal. The team took part in RoboCup 2013, the an­nual foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion of ro­bots in the Nether­lands. Out of the 200 teams from 60 coun­tries, AcYut was one of the only three ro­bots to have man­aged to score a goal. The team has won sev­eral other awards in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

Another stu­dent led project at BITS Pi­lani is the In­spired Karters— a team of over 50 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents who share a com­mon zeal for au­to­mo­biles. The stu­dents build two spe­cific pro­to­types— a For­mula style race car and an All- Ter­rain Ve­hi­cle. For the last six years, the team has been con­stantly work­ing on im­prov­ing the de­sign of the cars and have in­tro­duced the con­cept of tur­bocharg­ing a sin­gle cylin­der 250cc en­gine us­ing elec­tro-pneu­matic gear shift­ing in its For­mula style pro­to­type and a four-wheel steer­ing and global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem in its All-Ter­rain Ve­hi­cle, which is one of the firsts for any stu­dent au­to­mo­bile project in In­dia.

Now with their an­nual cul­tural fes­ti­val, Oa­sis, just around the cor­ner, which boasts the star at­trac­tion of ac­tor and di­rec­tor Farhan Akhtar per­form­ing with his band, life at BITS just keeps on get­ting big­ger and bet­ter.

The fa­mous Clock Tower at the BITS Pi­lani cam­pus

Vinay Pathak kept a thou­sand strong au­di­ence en­gaged with his

bril­li­nat act­ing

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