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