Techfest, IIT-B’s annual and Asia’s largest Technical fest got even bigger this year, with an an increase in the number of competitions coupled with a significant increase in total prizes. Coupled with highly appreciated workshops and an excellent lecture series, Techfest more than made up for a lacklustre TechX.
Also Read: A more detailed review and a discussion of the existing problems with the Overall Co-ordinator – Anish Sankhe.
This year, Techfest conducted about 20 major tech-related competitions – officially broken down into 4 categories – Robotron (involved building machines meant for highly specific tasks), Xtreme Machines (creating slightly more involved bots), Dimensions (the not-so-tech competitions) and Code Czar (evidently, coding-based events).
[pullquote]Competitions: Survey respondents applauded both – the quality of the problem statements and the quality of bots built by their competitors …however, an overwhelming majority of contestants were dissatisfied with the organisation and management of the events and the prizes given out.[/pullquote]
An overwhelming majority of contestants were dissatisfied with the organisation and management of the events, with outstation participants complaining about the cost to quality ratio of the accommodation provided to them.
A large number of respondents applauded both – the quality of the problem statements and the quality of bots built by their competitors. Once again, the star performer was Robowars – attracting a huge audience that left the event extremely satisfied.
However, when it came to the prizes given out, dissatisfaction was a running theme. One thing Techfest could surely work on improving is the amount of prizes awarded to winners, especially keeping in mind the enormous cost of building bots for high-prep events such as Robowars and Blitzkrieg. In fact, the team that won Robowars had spent around 80 thousand in building their bot, while the prize awarded to them was only 50,000. Admittedly, anticipating the amount of money participants will spend on an open-ended problem statement beforehand is a tough task.
Workshops, an essential part of Techfest garnered over 2500 registrations this year.There were a total of 13 workshops and each consisted of 200-230 students either in teams or as individuals. The assortment varied from Twin copter and Auto writing to others like Climosignia and web development. The goal was to get students an overview of the best quality and the latest technical advances at low prices.
[pullquote]Lecture Series:Overall this year’s Lecture Series was the most highly appreciated aspect of this year’s edition of TF, receiving plaudits for a near-excellent execution from start to finish.[/pullquote]
The Twin Copter workshop (inspired from Avatar) was developed and launched for the first time in Techfest. This year, the cost of the workshops was reduced considerably and all participants were given CDs, softwares, printed notes and (in some cases) a complete technical kit. Web development and Android app making received rave reviews from several participants. The overall review of workshops turned out to be pretty good and the participants went back home as entertained as they were enlightened.
Exhibitions plays host to the technological avant-garde, bridging the gap between the technology in today’s world and the common man of India.
Automated and humanoid Robots from different countries were on display this year with the Major attractions being the HIRO robot, Nao robot from Japan, “One man one tree” from Paris and a 3D scanner from Germany. The digital art gallery and synapse art exhibits proved to be excellent amalgams of technology and art.
While the IITB’s home-bred projects displayed at Techconnect were no match for the professional ones, it was encouraging to see the best research-work in the Insitute displayed under one roof.
Techfest’s Lecture Series is a great opportunity for students to interact with renowned speakers from various fields that’s seen steady improvement every year, culminating in what proved to be the most highly appreciated aspect of this year’s edition.
[pullquote] Technoholix: Most of the performances drew major flak from senior students for being highly repetitive since they were only minor variations on acts that have already been seen at TF in the last 2-3 years. Yet, the single biggest problem with TechX was the mind-numbingly long lines visitors had to endure because the events started hours behind schedule [/pullquote]
The likes of Rakesh Sharma, Amartya Sen and P.Sainath were successful in attracting mammoth crowds with their high profiles as well as in impressing the audience with their motivational and informative lectures. Eric Giler stood out with his talk on wireless electricity while Ashok Sen’s introduction to string theory received a notable response. Sunita Narain, Osamu Hasegawa, Shahn Majid, Stepehen Cook, Michael Tiemann, Amitabha Ghosh, Lineweaver were all successful in earning plaudits from the audience of their respective fields.
On the other hand students who turned up in high numbers and great enthusiasm to listen to Jocelyn Goldfein (the Director of Engineering at Facebook) left the convocation hall disappointed with the hour long boring speech while Ei-Chi Negishi (Chemistry Nobel Laureate) ended up delivering a colorless lecture to a small audience. Despite a last-minute cancellation by Montek Singh Ahluwalia (who was supposed to be the inaugural speaker), this year’s Lecture Series received plaudits for a near-excellent execution from start to finish.
a. International Robotics Challenge
IRC was conducted this year with the aim of making Indian students realize how far behind we are at tech events, in comparison to our counterparts in other countries – and the results acutely reflect this, with Sri Lanka bagging a lot of the top spots. With one-on-one battles being the format of the finals, it was potentially a very entertaining event – but found surprisingly little audience.
[pullquote]Initiatives: While the TF National Open Quiz was not as well reviewed as its first edition last year, the TIMUN was a success due to the spectacular quality of the adjudicators. The Give a Coin initiative managed to reach 20,000 students in 18 cities.[/pullquote]
b. Techfest Green Campus Challenge
Another non-tech initiative taken up by Techfest this year was the TGCC – a program taken up to invite new ideas and implement the existing ones in campuses across India with the goal of making their campus as “green” as possible. They were graded over a period of four months based on the tasks they completed. The top 12 teams after this preliminary stage were invited to deliver presentations about the activities they conducted at Techfest.
c. Give a Coin:
Give a Coin was a public awareness campaign launched by Techfest in association with Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children (PCVC), a program run by Pratham, an NGO. The initiative, with the intent of promoting the idea of Financial Child Adoption, was fairly successful as it managed to reach around 20,000 students from 45 colleges in 18 cities all over India.
d. Techfest National Open Quiz:
TNOQ 2.0 was the second edition of an event that had proven highly successful last year. While the event saw great participation in the eliminations which were conducted in 11 zones across the country, the finals were plagued with a host of organisational issues and proved to be but a shadow of their former selves.
e. Techfest International Model United Nations:
TIMUN was the first MUN at this scale conducted at IIT Bombay, organised with significant help from the Speakers’ Club. The event consisted of 6 committees/councils – with each of them mimicking an actual Council of the United Nations. All committees were made up of around 15-20 participants from all over India. Despite a glaring lack of organisers, the MUN was an overall success primarily due to the spectacular quality of adjudicators.
Ozone, “the lighter side of Techfest” saw a large number of workshops, competitions and street artists this year too – with successful events from previous years being repeated or extended further. The flagship events including Lazertag, Paintball, Junkyard Wars and Gaming Zone received great participation. New competitions included ThinkQuest (a set of 15 quizzes over the period of 3 days), the Indian Sudoku Championship and Cube Mania (a national Rubik’s Cube Championship). ‘Share a Coke’ was cancelled due to low registrations, and Coke’s policy required that atleast 5 teams participate. Among the new events, the F1 simulator and bungee-jumping were popular but the silent disco was met with a lukewarm response. Feedback from students also suggests that the number of events conducted at the Ozone Stage should be toned down in light of the exceedingly chaotic atmosphere that prevails in the region.
Ideate was an event that invited ideas and innovations in order to solve problems that pervade society. Competitions were conducted across 5 genres – Earth (environmental), Inspire India (social issues), Umeed (child upliftment), Utkarsh (rural issues) and Vidyarth (educational reforms). The top 15-20 idea submissions in each event were shortlisted to present their ideas to experts in their respective fields at Techfest. Some of the ideas are being followed through by the participants in collaboration with their judges and mentors.
Technoholix – the night shows at Techfest aim to add the entertainment quotient to Techfest. The major attractions this year were Freestyl Air, Blacklux, Lords of Gravity and Pyroterra and Luxy Boyz. Technoholix started on a very low note on Day 1, but peaked on Day 2 thus managing to attract large crowds on Day 3 too. Zlwin Chew, initially invited a street artist, doubled as an excellent compere – being applauded for his stage presence as much as for his sleight of hand. Most of the performances drew major flak from senior students for being highly repetitive/unimaginative since they were only minor variations on acts that have already been seen at Techfest in the last 2-3 years. Even so, the single biggest problem with TechX has got to be the mind-numbingly long lines visitors have to endure simply because the event starts hours behind schedule – a problem that has persisted, despite being pointed out repeatedly.