Earlier this year ARPool and myself were invited to India to give a demonstration at IIT Kanpur for their Techkriti ‘13 festival. After arranging our travel with students from IIT Kanpur we were also invited to demonstrate the following week at BITS Pilani for their festival APOGEE ‘13. I’d been very busy with my thesis and First Robotics so I hardly noticed this trip creeping up on me when suddenly I was boarding a flight to India, or rather a flight to Chicago, then to Heathrow and finally to Delhi!
I really had no idea what I was getting into or what to expect from the festival when I arrived and to be honest even now that the festival is wrapping up I’m still not really sure what I got into 😂!
I got to meet and present along side Marshall Strabala architect of the Burj Khalifa and 2 more of the world’s ten tallest buildings, Boaz Almog quantum researcher, TED speaker, and inventor of quantum levitation, Michael J. Foreman a NASA astronaut and Trace Bundy the acoustic ninja along with several others with less impressive titles or nicknames who were none the less just as interesting to spend the festival with. Only here at this festival do I get to be placed in a group with these impressive individuals; craziness!
The ARPool demo itself was a great success!
The festival itself was quite interesting, we never really knew exactly what all was going on. Undergraduate students from IIT Kanpur would sort of just come collect us when we were supposed to do something or be somewhere. Talking with the other presenters this seemed to be just how things run here. Definitely an experience. I really have no idea how things get done in India but they do get done! It’s very different from events in Canada there wasn’t really a schedule posted but somehow it all just happened - amazing! Just like driving on the roads here, they don’t really have rules and the lines might as well not be there but somehow it just works and people get around without a bazillion accidents. I just can’t understand it!
Another thing I really couldn’t get over is people wanting to have their picture taken with me, that and being called “sir” - it was too weird!!
All in all we had a great time at Techkriti ‘13 and IIT Kanpur! The following week we were off to our second festival at BITS Pilani.
Overall I had a better time at this second festival, I think this was probably mainly due to having a better idea of what to expect and a better understanding of how things work in India. This festival was also smaller so we got to know the students more closely. Since this stop was added fairly last minute there was also less pressure on us with the demonstration and it was more of a collaborative effort to figure out how we could get everything setup for the festival which was nice.
We’ve never really come up with a standard way in which we mount the projector above the table for ARPool which has led to some “interesting” setups but I have to say what we rigged up at BITS Pilani is probably my favourite, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Awesome, for reference compare this to our setup in London!
During the setup we were introduced to a very appropriate Hindi word / saying jugard which roughly means “hack it together” or “as long as it works”. A lot of India runs on jugard!
The demo was again a huge success - probably less people overall than Techkriti as it was near the end of the festival but those that came out were very interested which made it a joy to present. The students here are very sharp - I mean very sharp - and most of the students we talked to were only first or second year. I really think they are getting something right with their “general” first year here at BITS as it is much more broad and deep than ours at Queen’s. I can’t tell you the number of times I asked someone what they were studying after talking in depth about ARPool for 10 minutes expecting to hear computer engineering or computer science to find out that they were in first year civil engineering (sorry civil engineers back home). Also they have a mandatory course in Linux for all engineers :)
I briefly mentioned it earlier but another thing that made it really awesome was all the help we had setting up. At Pilani, and in retrospect a bit at IIT Kanpur as well, it really felt like we (being us and the students) were setting up together rather than us setting up for them. We all wanted the demo to be a success! We actually trained a few local students on how to run the demo on their own so that we could keep it running while we went and grabbed dinner (and a nap)!
At BITS because the festival was smaller we were able to better interact with the students and learn more about their college, life etc. Here is a picture of one of our friends Mayank in his dorm room:
On one of the evenings we were invited to Mithali where the BITS Music, Dance and Mime clubs performed for everyone’s entertainment. The Mime club was mainly in Hindi but it was still entertaining and judging by the audience’s reaction it must have been very funny. The Dance club was probably the most impressive, it’s pretty hard to reduce their performance to words but it was awesome! The music club performed a variety of traditional, hindi rock and classic rock songs all of which were really well done. The students at BITS are very talented both technically and in the arts!
I really liked presenting at the festivals and it is something I would definitely consider doing again. Big shout out to all the people that helped make this happen! Now it’s time for a bit of vacationing in India!