Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar’s ‘Project Isaac’ seeks to engage its students in creative projects to enhance their critical skills while they are confined to their rooms or homes because of Coronavirus.
The project is inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, who 350 years ago was similarly sent home by Trinity College, Cambridge, because of the Great Plague of London in 1665. During this year, sometimes described as his “year of wonders”, Newton, then a 22-year-old college student, developed some of his most profound discoveries, including early calculus, as well his theories of optics and gravity.
Prof Sudhir K Jain, Director, IITGN said, “Project Isaac takes inspiration from Isaac Newton’s stellar example as a student during the Great Plague of London in 1665 to motivate our students, who are today similarly confined as Newton was 355 years ago, to undertake ambitious and wondrous things even in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. We are proud that more than 40 percent of our student body jumped into these voluntary projects right out of the gate and expect the proportion will continue to grow. We want to emerge from this difficult period stronger and better both as individuals and as a community.”
Under ‘Project Isaac’, IIT Gandhinagar students are encouraged to undertake COVID-19 research and start-up projects or cultivate new skills in writing, painting, coding, music, and creative expression. Nearly 60 percent of IITGN students are participating in various activities, which are entirely voluntary.
The Institute has introduced several exciting and fun contests with daily prizes and rewards for IITGN students around leadership, coding, creative expression, and writing. The Project Isaac Showcase will culminate in a massive talent contest once students return to campus to showcase their creative work-products developed during the confinement period.
The contests are:
- 12 Days of Code, in which students work for 24 hours on new coding problems released daily;
- The COVID-19 Research Awards to encourage COVID-19 research at IIT Gandhinagar. IITGN students and faculty in any field who undertake impactful work on COVID-19 over the next three months that leads to a research publication are eligible for awards of Rs 2 lakhs each;
- The COVID-19 Innovation Awards for innovative solutions to address urgent technical, social, health or financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The awards are open to IITGN students, faculty, staff and alumni.
- Leadership Video Challenge, in which students watch handpicked Ted/TedX talks on leadership.
- ‘Don’t Quarantine Your Cornea!’, in which students write reviews of TV shows episode/movie/documentary/web series of their choice.
Project Isaac Showcase will celebrate and showcase the best and most creative work products generated by students during the extended break. The projects may be in any area such as fiction, non-fiction or poetry; sketch, cartoon, painting, digital graphics; screenplay, skit; music, video or other artistic performance; an initiative, project or research idea that demonstrates exceptional novelty or creativity; others forms of intellectual or creative expression. The Showcase will be held when normal academic activities resume at IITGN at which students will showcase their creative works and compete for attractive prizes.
Nishikant Parmar, a second-year BTech student of Computer Science and Engineering, who is participating in the ‘12 Days of Code’ contest, said, “During the COVID-19 pandemic and extended mid-semester break, I am confined at my home. But, the Project Issac opened up a whole bunch of unique opportunities to utilize my spare time by engaging in activities that I like. As I am from a Computer Science background, I enjoy solving intriguing coding problems. I have been actively participating in the ‘12 Days of Code’ contest, which hosts 3 challenging and exciting coding problems of various topics and difficulty levels that have to be solved within the given time of 24 hours.”
Esha Sharma, a student in second-year of MSc Cognitive Science and participant in ‘Leadership Video Challenge’ and other contests, described her experience of acquiring some essential soft skills while being confined to her home, said: “With the COVID-19 outbreak, I wanted to make judicious use of my time and Project Issac provided the best platform to do so. I have been participating in the ‘A video a day challenge’ since it was launched as I always wanted to watch Ted/TedX talks but was not able to do it due to lack of time. Project Issac is a reminder to each one of us to take time out to incubate, imagine, create and focus on other equally important skills as well.”
Pratyush Bhatt, a second-year BTech student of Chemical Engineering, moderator for the Leadership Video Challenge and a participant in Project Isaac Showcase shared his feedback said, “Project Isaac is a commendable initiative taken by IITGN so as to let the students optimize their time these days. I believe that this avenue provides the students with a holistic set of competitive platforms to hone their academic as well as non-academic skills. As a student, I seldom find so much time without any other commitments. Project Isaac is focused on skills like coding, leadership development, and creative ideation, which are essential enough to have a successful professional career in the long run.”