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Shaastra is the annual technical festival of Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), Chennai, India. The Sanskrit word ‘Shaastra’ means science and the festival accordingly consists of various science and technology based competitions, symposia, lectures, video conferences, exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops. The festival is traditionally held over four days and four nights during the first week of january. It has so far seen ten editions, having started in its current avatar in the year 2000. Shaastra attracts participation from all over India, and seeks to provide collegiate students with a platform to showcase their scientific and engineering talents. Shaastra is entirely student managed and holds the distinction of being the first such event in the world to be ISO 9001:2000 certified for implementing a Quality Management System.
In 1996, Prof. R Natarajan took over as Director and instituted several committees to study several ways of improving IIT Madras. One of his committees, the Committee on new mechanisms of Teacher Learning Interactions, was tasked with coming up with ways of inspiring students. This committee, headed by Prof. Ajit Kumar Kolar, came up with a suggestion to create a technology festival in IIT Madras. Also, Prof. U R Rao, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Institute, in 1997, was impressed by the scale and ambition of the newly inaugurated Techfest at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and on his behest, several students came together and staged 'Pragmaa', a technical festival, in 1997, and then in 1999. Despite the inclusion of various technical events including tech quizzes, demonstrations and paper presentations that attempted to get participants interested in applying their technical knowledge, it remained low-key .
Following the 1999 edition, a group of individuals decided to stage a bigger technical festival that made tech cool and generated interest and enthusiasm among all IITians. This group, propelled by different motivations, took upon the title of 'Core Group' (a practice which continues till today) and engaged themselves in planning and organizing the festival. After deciding on the name Shaastra, and the events - different kinds of quizzes, demonstrations, lectures - and some food and fun, they convinced the rest of the campus that this was worth their time and they should help in the organization. They decided to have it in March, after the excitement of Saarang had died down, but before people started getting nervous about the end-semester exams .
Students applied for and took on the role of Coordinators for various events. A set of colleges around the country was targeted and the amount required to run the event was raised through sponsorships. The first edition was thus planned and took place starting 9 March 2000 .
Events: An Overview 
A large number of events aimed to cater the needs of all the participants are organized during the four days the festival is held. The events can be broadly listed under several categories:
A relatively new mini festival at Shaastra that has been introduced to celebrate the achievements of the students who have dedicated their time for designing and developing innovations in flying.
- Air Show
- It is a professionally choreographed show, wherein RC aircraft will be made to perform various aerial stunts. A few of the common exhibits include helicopter aerobatics, formation flying, 3D flying and music synchronized flying.
- This event tests participants' aeromodelling and robotics skills. The AeroClub of IIT Madras will provide the participants with limited technical support. They are expected to build an autonomous vehicle using a few principles borrowed from Robotics.
- The Wright Design
- This is a design, build and fly event. A problem statement is set every year and participants have to cater to the given challenge.
A number of events based on coding feature prominently in Shaastra. The common ones include:
- The event comprises participants getting to know the fundamentals about FOSS from students who have been contributing to Open Source projects. Dedicated hack-nights are conducted to help the participants apply the gained knowledge by hacking a variety of Open Source Software.
- The event expects the participants to write polyglots, computer programs or scripts written in a valid form for multiple programming languages, to solve simple problem statements.
This group of events involves engineering tasks that require innovative yet viable solutions. Some of the common ones are:
- It is the open hardware and software design contest at Shaastra. The event does not have a problem statement, so participants are free to come up with anything as long as it is original.
- Industry Defined Problems [IDPs]
- It is one of the most prestigious events at Shaastra, consisting of problem statements drawn up from varied engineering disciplines by major technology firms.
- Design and Build
These events test the practical skill and workmanship of the participants in addition to their theoretical knowledge and designing abilities. The common ones include:
- The event, as the name suggests, requires complicated contraptions (essentially Rube Goldberg machines) to be built to perform apparently simple tasks under given set of constraints.
- Fire N Ice
- This event focuses on the application of the principles of motors, IC engines in particular, in various given problem statements.
- Junkyard Wars
- The event tests the ability of teams to churn out great designs from heaps of scrap.
- Project X
- The event requires simple engineering products to be built using common everyday objects.
- A staple at Shaastra, it provides participants a platform to showcase their talent at robotics. Events in the past include Operation Delta, Gold Rush, Behind the Enemy Lines and more.These frequently involve real-time image processing and Automated Robotics with the use of sensors.
This is also claimed to be the biggest event of Shaastra
- Shaastra Circuit Design Challenge
- This event requires participants to come up with elegant yet meaningful circuit designs according to the problem statement.
- Lectures and Video Conferences
Shaastra draws various distinguished people in various technical fields from all over the world for making guest lectures, either in person or via video conference. These lectures and demonstrations aim to introduce students to the cutting-edge research happening in various fields, and serve as educational forums that encourage interaction between collegiate students and academia and industry.
Some notable personalities who delivered lectures at recent editions of Shaastra:
- Martin Perl, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1995
- Harold Kroto, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996
- John Mather, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 2006
- George Andrew Olah, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1994
- Arno Allan Penzias, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1978
- Shrikumar Suryanarayan, President, R&D, Biocon
- Roddam Narasimha, former Director, National Aerospace Laboratories.
- Rajagopala Chidambaram, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Atomic Energy.
- Simon Singh, popular science author.
- Stephen Wolfram, creator of Mathematica.
- Kevin Warwick, the human cyborg.
- Dilip Chhabria, automobile designer.
- Gururaj Deshpande, CEO, Sycamore Networks.
- Gene Frantz, principal Fellow, Texas Instruments.
- Krishna Bharat, principal scientist, Google Inc.
- Bob Pease, analog integrated circuit design expert and technical author.
- Hal Abelson, founding director of FSF, Creative Commons and Public Knowledge.
- Dr. Arne Christer Fuglesang, ESA astronaut.
- Dr. Thamban Meloth, Head, Ice Core Laboratory, National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research.
- Dr. Narendra Krishna Karmarkar, mathematician, known for his Karmarkar algorithm in linear programming.
- Ramanathan V. Guha, computer scientist, Google.
- Prof. V Balakrishnan, Professor, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Technology Madras.
- Dr. Apoorva D Patel, Professor, CHEPSE, IISc Bangalore.
- Prof. Raghavendra Gadagkar, Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc Bangalore.
- Tyler Cowen, economist and writer.
- Chris Adami, evolutionary theorist.
- Vinod Khosla, co-founder, Sun Microsystems.
- Atul Chitnis, founder, FOSS.IN
- Multidisciplinary Events
These events transcend conventional engineering, venturing into all branches of engineering and testing the overall skills of the participants. The staple ones are:
- Math Modelling
- The event poses complex but interesting physical phenomena which are to be modelled mathematically.
- A team based competition involving a series of five challenges which tests the team members' skill in application of engineering knowledge, simple mathematics and a lot of common sense.
- The Ultimate Engineer
- This event tests participants individually in theoretical and practical aspects of multiple branches of engineering.
- Simulation Championship
- The event is designed to test participants on their ability to simulate real world phenomena while optimizing the usage of computing resources.
- Online Events
Online counterparts of various popular events are conducted at Shaastra. This is to facilitate participation of students across the world unable to make it to the events. The common ones conducted include Online Quiz, Online Puzzle Championship, Online Programming Contest, Online Science Fiction Writing and Online Math Modelling. These generally include problem sets uploaded online and answers have to be sent in by the participants within the stipulated deadline.
- Paper Presentation
This event acts as a platform for students to present their experiments and findings in the presence of highly qualified judges. Selected presentations are published in the Shaastra journal, 'Shaastra Proceedings'.
Shaastra prominently features two (or more) popular, technical quizzes every year, drawing large participation from all over the country.
- Shaastra Main Quiz [SMQ]
- A quiz dealing with technology and science related trivia.
- How Things Work [HTW]
- The event aims to test the participants' level of understanding of the practical world.
- Unwind Events
These are events that are aimed at all general participants.
- Chemical X
- This event tests the participants' knowledge of chemistry and tests them in hands-on rounds too.
- Cube Open
- Shaastra Cube Open is one of the cubing competitions in India to be recognized by the WCA (World Cube Association). It usually gathers a sizable audience.
- Daily Events
The daily events offer a compendium of daily quizzes, cross-words and other brain games. Participants are free to pick them up from the central reception.
- Based on the famous IgNobel Prize, participants' creativity and lateral thinking are brought to the fore.
- Puzzle Championship
- Participants are required to solve a number of puzzle sets over the span of the event.
- Science Fiction Writing
- Traditional science fiction writing in two flavors.
- Warp Zone
- It is the fun centre of Shaastra where participants head to, to relax amidst the more competitive events.
Shaastra includes a large number of workshops conducted on a wide range of topics. They give the participants a working knowledge or experience of various branches of engineering. Workshops in the past have been on Cinematography, Embedded Linux, Tensegrity, Smart Materials, Ornithopter and more.
Shaastra Sampark 
Going by the name Sparsh erstwhile, Sampark is a 'mini Shaastra' that is used to publicize the fest in places where it is relatively less popular. It comprises a lot lesser events, mostly only robotics, puzzle championship, junkyard wars, and some more.
It has previously been conducted in Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and Surat.
Previous Editions 
Specific additions to the general set of events mentioned above and certain memorable achievements of the previous editions are listed below:
Shaastra 2011 
Shaastra 2011 was held from 28 September to 2 October.
Shaastra 2010 
Shaastra 2010 was held from 29 September to 3 October.
Shaastra 2009 
With the theme "Rediscover Engineering", the Shaastra 2009 was held from 30 September to 4 October. The motto was to "Adapt, Evolve, Enjoy!" and various events were planned in the same spirit. Marking two hundred years since Charles Darwin was born, it aimed to evolve into a festival that is all inclusive, budding engineers, young entrepreneurs, future policy makers and technocrats, and be more relevant to the problems faced by the society. To enable this, a new department Shaastra Evolve was created. The events under this vertical included:
- * The IIT Madras Symposium 
- The 2009 IIT Madras Symposium saw partnerships with organizations like the World Bank Urban Strategy and TERI to create a platform for students to meet like-minded individuals and engage in a dialogue with academia and industry on the themes. The participants were presented with contemporary policy challenges and asked to work on policy recommendations. The focus-areas of the inaugural symposium were energy, urbanisation and finance, and the sessions were covered by live media.
- * Start-up Showcase
- This event aimed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among students by providing them with an opportunity to seek mentorship, meet possible investors and to network. The Showcase aspired to support those with creative and practical business plans, to facilitate fresh thinking and encourage risk taking.
- * DREAM [Disseminating Real Engineering And Minds]
- This event desired to stage exciting innovations, bringing technology to the masses enabling them to encounter and experience the latest advances in varied fields of science.
- * Shaastra Vishesh
- Vishesh is the Shaastra closing ceremony and was envisaged as a platform for all Shaastra Event Winners to showcase their technical innovations and designs to the Industry and the Media.
Apart from the traditional events described above, a full-fledged Aerofest was held, as mentioned above, attracting huge audience levels. Also, a managerial event, Super Manager, where participants managed their own fictional IPL team, played consultants, hired team members, maximised assets and minimised tax returns, was held.
Shaastra 2008 
Commemorating the 50th year of the establishment of IIT Madras, the edition was labelled Golden Jubilee Shaastra 2008 and witnessed many new initiatives. With the theme "Simplify Perfection", it was held from 1 October to 5 October, on an unprecedented scale. Apart from the traditional events, the highlights included:
- * Shaastra Conclave
- This was a gala Golden Jubilee initiative intended to be a forum for the best brains from diverse fields to congregate at Shaastra and express their opinions on technology and the contribution of the IITs to India and this world. Corporates, academicians and politicians were invited to debate comprehensively on the occasion. It was held in conjunction with the inauguration ceremony and was followed by a formal banquet.
- * Shaastra Nights
- Being hosted for the first time in the history of IIT Madras, it exposed students to the entertaining technology demonstrations like a laser show and a robotic show.
- * F1 car at Shaastra
- * Golden Design Challenges
- These were envisaged to be a set of challenging socially relevant engineering problems with far-reaching implications.
- * Spirit of Engineering projects
- More than ten ambitious student-driven projects that aimed to push the limits of engineering were undertaken. Some of them were tried for the first time in India. Many of them were successfully completed and exhibited.
- * DRDO Exhibition
- Several indigenously developed state-of-the-art weaponry and defence equipment were displayed in the "Shaastra - The Defence Exhibition". 13 DRDO labs came together to showcase their technology including the battle field surveillance radar, models of Agni, Prithvi, Brahmos missiles, Nishant (unmanned air vehicle), Lakshya (pilotless target aircraft) and missile subsystems.
- * Industrial Open House
- This was a novel initiative to strengthen the industry-student interaction by providing leading companies exhibition space on-campus during Shaastra to showcase their cutting-edge technology and innovative products.
Shaastra 2007 
It attracted a lot more participation than the previous editions and claimed to be 'bigger and better'. This was the first Shaastra to have a theme, as suggested by Prof. Ashwin Mahalingam, and was based on global warming and energy. The Department Open Houses, with a mission to educate people from outside about what research and studies happen in the departments in IIT Madras, were organized for the first time in the history of Shaastra. There were many events organized for the first time in this edition, like the Rubik's Cube Workshop, the Design Challenges and others, which saw huge participation and which would become fixtures in the later editions. Thus, this edition marked a jump in the scale of the event
Shaastra 2006 
The highlights included a robot demonstrated by the team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) at the finals of the robotics championships held as part of Shaastra 2006 . Standing 50 cm tall and weighing 2.5 kg, MANUS 1 human was a biped (robot) prototype developed for the study of human gait, motion and sensing. MANUS 1 had previously won several awards including the FIRA Robot World Cup at Germany 2006, the same event in Singapore in 2005, FIRA Robot World Cup Australia 2003 and the Singapore Robotics Games 2004. Also, a new event Junkyard Wars turned out to be extremely popular among the participants and went on to become a fixture at Shaastra.
Shaastra 2005 
The highlights included a solution to the chucking problem in cricket that won acclaim from the International Cricket Council for two IIT Madras students. Christened `Xiva', the software developed by Arun Manohar and A V Varun, students of Aerospace Engineering, could detect flex action of bowlers. It was an image-based flex detection system that alerted the umpire when a bowler bent his bowling elbow at an angle greater than 15 degrees or 'chucked'. It was part of Industry Defined Problem [IDP] event.
Shaastra 2004 
This edition was held from 7 October to 10 October and got extensive media coverage for its various endeavours in robotics and Spirit of Engineering projects.
Shaastra 2003 
This edition marked a milestone in the history of Shaastra when the fest was ISO 9001:2000 certified, the only student managed festival in the world to achieve the feat.
Shaastra 2002 
The highlights of the edition was world's longest paper footbridge being constructed by the students of IIT Madras, as a part of the Spirit Of Engineering projects. The bridge with a total length of 11m and a height of 5m was made entirely out of 1800 newspapers and 250m of manila rope. The strength of the bridge was proved beyond doubt when more than 10 people with an average weight of 65kg walked over the bridge successfully.
Shaastra 2001 
The second edition of Shaastra was held from 21 February to 25 February 2001.
Shaastra 2000 
This was the first edition of Shaastra and the fest was held starting 9 March. It claimed to be a festival for the engineering and management students, a "sumptuous spread of Innovation, Competition, Live Demonstrations, Online Events and other such food for thought".
The Shaastra Logo 
The logo of the 2009 edition of Shaastra is a pair of dice having two dots on all its faces. This is a tribute to Albert Einstein's historic statement, "God does not play dice with the universe", which immortalized the concept of determinism. The logo is used by the organizers to signify that they leave nothing to chance. The dice will show the same number whichever way it is rolled. Even though the dice symbolize perfect order they don't have perfect symmetry. The two dots on the rightmost face of the right cube are not a mirror image of the same in the left cube. This is a tribute to Richard Feynman's statement, "I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about". However hard one may try to remove all uncertainty and induce perfect symmetry perfection is an impossible ideal that eludes humans. The Shaastra website says "the Shaastra logo embodies the essence of what Shaastra strives to achieve - innovation, quality and perfection."