Shaastra is the annual technical festival of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), Chennai, India. The Sanskrit word ‘Shaastra’ means science and the festival accordingly consists of various engineering, science and technology competitions, summits, 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 fifteen 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Events: An Overview
- 3 Lectures and Video Conferences
- 4 Shaastra Sampark
- 5 Shaastra 2016
- 6 Previous Editions
- 7 The Shaastra Logo
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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 is still used 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 sponsorship agreements. The first edition was thus planned and took place starting 9 March 2000.
Events: An Overview
A variety of entertaining technical events are held during the four days of Shaastra. For Shaastra 2016, the events are listed under the following categories:
Aerofest comprises of events in the fields of aeromodelling, aviation, and aerospace. The highlight event is the Boeing Aeromodelling Competition - conducted as a collaboration between Boeing, IIT Madras, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur.
Data analytics contests, case studies and entrepreneurship events are part of B-Events.
As part of the Coding Event category, the following events are held: Online Programming Competition, Reverse Coding, Triathalon, Tidbits, Crypto and Foster, among others.
Design and Build:
A very popular category, some of the events of Design and Build are Fire N Ice, RoboWars, Manual Robotics, Robo Oceana, Ultimate Engineer and Desmod.
Some events in this category - ElecKart, PCB Design, Fun with Oscilloscopes, Cypress, Arduino Programming and Circuit Design.
Involve includes puzzle solving competitions like Sudoku and Speed Chess.
The famous quizzing community of IIT Madras presents the Shaastra Main Quiz, the Science and Entertainment Quiz, the Junior Quiz and How Things Work.
Lectures and Video Conferences
Many eminent academics, industry leaders, scientists and innovators visit Shaastra to deliver lectures as part of a Lecture Series. These lectures 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.
- Dr. Kamlesh Lulla, Director of University Research, Collaboration and Partnership office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
- Udaya Kumar Dharmalingam, the designer of the new Indian Rupee symbol
- Vinita Bali, former Managing Director, Britannia Industries
- Dr. Deepak Bafna, Vice President, Technology, VISA
- Kris Gopalakrishnan, executive Vice Chairman, Infosys
- Rajiv Lochan, MD & CEO, The Hindu
- Anand Rajaraman, web & technology entrepreneur
- Sunil Handa, visiting faculty at IIM Ahmedabad and Founder of Eklavya Education Foundation
- Richard Stallman, American software freedom activist and Founder - GNU Project.
- John Adler, American Neurosurgeon and Inventor - CyberKnife.
- Manoj Pant, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University Centre for International Trade and Development.
- Anant Agarwal, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Bikash Sinha, Indian Physicist.
- S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan, Indian American Mathematician
- Sharmila Bhattacharya, Head of the Biomodel Performance and Behavior laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center
- 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
Formerly known as Sparsh, Sampark is a miniature version of Shaastra, conducted by IIT Madras students at various cities in India. Numerous events, workshops and exhibitions take place at Samparks every year. Sampark was founded and is conducted so that those who cannot visit Chennai for Shaastra, may experience it from their home cities.
Editions of Sampark have been conducted at Chennai, Bangalore, Surat, Hyderabad, Madurai, Pune, Trichy, Vizag and Cochin.
Shaastra 2016 was scheduled to happen from January 2 to January 5, 2016. The dire state of the IIT campus and the city of Chennai, still reeling from the effects of the 2015 South Indian Floods of November and December 2015, forced the organizers to reschedule Shaastra to January 23. The fest will now be held from January 23 to January 26.
Noteworthy new additions to Shaastra 2016 include:
- Pledge A Book 2.0: The Pledge-A-Book campaign, jointly founded and supported by IIT students and Shaastra in 2014, now reaches out to a large number of poor communities through new partnerships with NGOs, stores, transportation companies and book stores. Pledge-A-Book has received support from eminent global leaders, sportsmen, and politicians. The campaign is now active in Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore.
- Shaastra IITM Summer Fellowship: Starting from Shaastra 2016, winners of specific events at Shaastra will be awarded an opportunity to work as summer researcher interns at IIT Madras.
- The Makers Summit; The Summit is a potpourri of events including lectures, a panel discussion, unique workshops and a product design challenge. It is a unique opportunity to interact and learn from like-minded individuals and field experts.
Specific additions to the general set of events mentioned above and certain memorable achievements of the previous editions are listed below:
New additions to the events of Shaastra that took place at Shaastra 2015:
- Entrepreneurship Confluence :
- The confluence addressed some of the most common problems faced by entrepreneurs today. Shaastra brought together distinguished personalities like Kris Gopalakrishnan, Rajiv Lochan, Anand Rajaraman under one roof to discuss the same.
- Startup Hive :
- At the Hive, Shaastra brought together seasoned entrepreneurs, freshman entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and experienced personnel so they could interact and network with one another.
- International Healthcare Symposium :
- The influence, technology and big data have on healthcare, the policy changes India would need to implement in order to improve the healthcare scenario and the large widening disparity that exists in the healthcare industry today was discussed at this event.
- Research Expo :
- Shaastra’s Research Expo demonstrated research carried out by our students, it was an interactive event with prototypes and setups being displayed while the researchers explain their work to the attendees.
- Envisage 3.0 & Laser Show :
- Envisage is India’s largest student-organised techno-cultural show. This edition of Envisage also had a Laser Show which left all those present speechless.
With the theme Breaking Boundaries, Shaastra 2014 returned in its 15th edition, bringing it with an experience of innovation, competition and learning that has become its hallmark over the years. The 15th edition of Shaastra took place from 4 January to 7 January giving rise to a grander show than the previous years, with 52 events spread across four days.
- Lunar Rover Challenge
- The challenge was to build an all terrain capable of traversing on moon's surface. The winner's rover design at Shaastra 2014 got an opportunity to go the moon as a rover design of Team Indus that is taking part in an International Google Lunar X prize competition.
- Pan-IIT Research Expo:
- A confluence of the best minds from industry, academicians and students participated in this expo, which showcased the best research from across the various IITs. In a world driven by new and innovative research, this revolutionary initiative contributed to changing the face of research in India.
- Limca Records:
- True to its theme, Shaastra broke several Limca World records, an Asia record this year and many more national records in varied fields-Rubik’s Cube solving, quadrotor with maximum flight time, first virtual band and for the largest hologram. In fact, Shaastra Cube Open was declared the largest Cubing event in Asia by WCA(World Cube Association)
- Envisage :
- The first-ever fully student-run technical show in India returned bigger and better. Envisage 2.0 wowed packed audiences who were spellbound by the wonderful amalgamation of technology and art that showed that science can be entertaining as well.
- Research Confluence:
- It acted as a common platform for the industry, academia and students to interact, learn and be inspired, followed by the launch of the second edition of IIT Madras Research Magazine "Immerse". The event had the unique distinction of bringing undergraduates and postgraduates together through panel discussions, lectures followed by networking session with stalwarts of various industries like Mr. Ananth Krishnan, CTO of Tata Consultancy Services and Bala Bhardwaj, MD of Boeing(India) etc.
- Lecture Series :
- Boasting some of the finest minds from across the world, the lecture series at Shaastra was a truly unparalleled experience for many. Among the luminaries speaking at Shaastra were Richard Stallman, John Adler, Manoj Pant, Anant Agarwal, Dr.J.V.Yakhmi, Amitabh Shah - CEO of Yuva Unstoppable, Bikash Sinha, S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan, Rajamanohar, Ajit Narayanan, Dave Lavery, Mr. Narsing Rao, Sharmila Bhattacharya, Gautam Narang and many more industrial lectures from General Electric, Eaton Corporation, IBM etc.
- Shaastra Junior Quiz:
- Being one of the largest School quiz in the country, Shaastra Junior Quiz is for everyone who has a basic knowledge of science. The aim of this event is to develop a quizzing culture at school level. The School quiz prelims were conducted in 15 cities of the country primarily targeting students from 8-12 grades, the winners of which competed against each other in the finals held during Shaastra 2014.
Shaastra 2013 was held from 5 January to 8 January.
Shaastra 2011 was held from 28 September to 2 October.
Shaastra 2010 was held from 29 September to 3 October.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second edition of Shaastra was held from 21 February to 25 February 2001.
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. The number two on each face of the die was derived from Albert Einstein's quote "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." 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."
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