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Saji Thomas: Can’t speak or hear. Can fly

The Times of India | Sujit Chandrakumar |  Oct 24, 2017 | Kerala |

Saji Thomas

To describe the life of Saji Thomas, 48, a speech and hearing-impaired man who dropped out of special school after his seventh standard but went on to design, create and fly an ultra-light aircraft, as ‘filmy’ would be an understatement. One film (Aby) loosely based on his life has already come out while another (Vimanam) that is expected to be a more authentic portrayal is almost ready for release. But the facts are so incredible that any filmmaker would struggle to portray the tale convincingly.  Even as a child, Saji used to make models of cars and planes with cardboard but no one took any special notice. But the desire to fly and the dream to create an aircraft took wings one day when his brother brought his attention to two helicopters that hovered over a nearby rubber estate to spray pesticide. All the children in Velliyamattom — a hamlet in Idukki where his family lived before moving to Thattakuzha — were excited but none more than Saji who decided to make a model of the chopper. A year later, when the Sardarji pilots returned, Saji surprised them by presenting his model, not a table top one, but a life size replica. Impressed, they gave him a ride in the helicopter as well as their visiting cards.

After Saji’s education at a special school in Thalayolaparambu came to an abrupt halt — his father, a stern military man, didn’t see much point in continuing with it as there were many practical difficulties – he had been doing all kinds of mechanical work and photography to earn some pennies. He had a way with machines, though nobody ever taught him how to repair them. “He once dismantled a TV set to see what was wrong with it, rectified it and then reassembled it. That was how he learnt TV repairing,” says Mariya, his wife.  The boy of 18 collected some money and took a train to Mumbai. Yes, Mumbai, all alone, in search of the Sikh pilots he had met to procure, if possible, the vital parts to put together his own flying machine. It may seem straight out of a fairy tale but the boy who could neither speak nor hear did meet the pilots, stayed there for a few days and brought back a discarded propeller, nuts and bolts and some user manuals, not to mention a copy of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1981-88. They politely refused his request for an engine, however, but supplied him with details of aviation companies. A few more trips to Mumbai and Delhi — from where another team had come to Muttam to spray pesticides — and a few years of struggle later, he built his first aircraft with a Yamaha bike engine and a frame made of metal sheets and pipes. This one could taxi on the ground but did not have the power to take off.

When former president APJ Abdul Kalam came to Thodupuzha, Saji wanted to show his creation to him but could not get past the secrurity. But Kalam, who came to know about his interest, suggested that he take part in an air show in Gujarat and he did so to win the second prize. Saji had also contacted Rajiv Gandhi, who sent him an encouraging reply. But not long afterwards, the leader was assassinated, dashing the hopes of Saji, who almost gave up his dream of making a ‘plane’ that could fly. Meanwhile, his marriage with Mariya happened. “As a person from the neighbourhood, I knew Saji and his interests. But when I married him, I did not know that he was still pursuing his aim of building an aircraft,” says Mariya. What perhaps refuelled the dream was when an engineering college that teaches aircraft maintenance bought his first aircraft for `1.5 lakh to use it as a model for their students.  Saji used the money to procure a 65 HP German engine from Bengaluru and started making the different parts on his own including the wings with mahagony wood. What followed were five to six years of struggle, when nearly everyone including his dad dubbed him ‘crazy’.   Finally, when his aircraft, which he christened Saji-X-Air-S was ready, there was no place or personnel to fly it. They contacted a retired air force wing commander, SKJ Nair, who had a private flying yard in Manimuttar near Ambasamudram in Tamil Nadu. Off they went to that alien place, hot as a furnace, carrying their aircraft in a lorry.  “That journey in April 2014 was so tough that I asked midway if we should go back. And finally, after reaching, we were so tense. I asked Saji, ‘Will it fly?’ He was confident that it will,” says Mariya. As Nair took off smoothly like a bird, they recorded the unforgettable sight with their mobile phone. After the successful flight, Nair hugged Saji with tears in his eyes and told him, “Saji, you did it.” The aircraft remained in Manimuttar till recently and not only the wing commander but Saji too used it to experience the thrill of air travel.- Courtesy


Kolkata-based engineering college IEMS develops mobile app to detect malaria

Hindustan Times, Kolkata | Oct 19, 2017  |  Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri |

For the diagnosis an individual has to purchase the device and download the app in the mobile phone.

Representational Image

A Kolkata-based engineering college has claimed to have developed a smartphone application and a device that will detect malaria within seconds at a much lower price than the charges of conventional pathological tests. Researchers and professors of the Institute of Engineering and Management, Salt Lake (IEMS) have now approached the Union health ministry for recognition of the device-cum-app. The Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur, near Kolkata, has provided the technical support for the development of the app-cum-device.  To detect malaria, a life-threatening endemic disease, an individual has to purchase the device that will be priced about Rs 70 and download the app in the mobile phone.  The device that contains a micro camera, has to be connected with the camera of the phone. A drop of blood pricked from the finger of the infected person has to be placed on a dice attached to the device.

“The camera will take the picture of the drop of blood. The picture will have to be uploaded on the app. The remote testing facility will need only 10 seconds to send an accurate result informing the person whether he has malaria or not,” claimed IEMS professor Nilanjana Dutta Roy.  Dutta Roy and her fellow researchers, Nilanjan Daw and Debapriya Paul, are now waiting for the approval of the ministry.  “We are expecting the approval soon since the initial reaction from the ministry was extremely positive,” she said. Each device will be able to conduct multiple tests that will help an infected person to regularly monitor the response of the medication.  “In conventional pathological tests, it takes almost seven to eight hours to get the blood report and it costs about Rs 200. The device will bring down the cost to about Rs 10 per test and the result will be available in seconds,” she claimed.  “We want to train social workers in remote villages so that they can conduct door-to-door blood tests using this device-cum-app,” she said. – Courtesy

IIT Kharagpur partners with Samsung for Digital Academy

Press Trust of India | Kolkata, 10 October 2017 |  PTI |

Samsung Digital Academy

Kolkata, Oct 10 (PTI) IIT-Kharagpur has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Samsung India for the setting up of a digital academy on the institute’s campus.  The Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the institute would host the Samsung Innovation Lab and train students on the Internet of Things (IoT) through Tizen-based operating systems, commonly used by the company for its mobile phones and home appliances.  IoT is a network of computing devices embedded in objects of everyday use for storage and exchange of information.  The training would help students acquire industry-relevant skills and “become job ready”, an IIT-KGP statement said today. The academy was a part of the company’s corporate social initiative that aims at bridging the digital divide in the country by imparting skills to students on cutting-edge technology, the statement said. Through this partnership with IIT-KGP, the academy planned to train over 100 students in the next three years, it added. After signing the MoU yesterday, the managing director of Samsung Research & Development Institute, Delhi, YoungKi Byun, said, “Samsung is happy to partner with IIT-Kharagpur to help students leverage the growing digital technology market, especially Internet of things (IoT), the future of connectivity”.
The company was committed to work in the field of next-generation technology development, he said.  Echoing similar sentiments, IIT-KGP Director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti said, “The partnership will help our students in developing their skills on the emerging areas of IoT and Artificial Intelligence.”  The curriculum at the Samsung Digital Academy included the basics of web application development on Tizen, app testing and debugging.  The course would be taught over 14 weeks through classroom lectures, assignments, lab room sessions, self-study and mini projects.  “This (IoT) lab will enable our students to have hands-on experience with the Tizen operating system as well as facilitate research and app development on IoT platforms,” the head of the department of Computer Science and Engineering, Sudeshna Sarkar, said. – Courtesy

IIT Gandhinagar team develops system to monitor drought in South Asia

The Hindu | R. Prasad |  Chennai, October 05, 2017 |

Precipitation and temperature data provided at finer resolution than before

Saran Aadhar, left, and Vimal Mishra at Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar.

Near real-time monitoring of drought at a 5-km scale that will help policy makers in water management at a district level is now possible, thanks to tools developed and made available online by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar. The researchers offer precipitation and temperature datasets and drought indicators available from 1980 to April 2017 covering the entire South Asian region. The data will be updated weekly. Besides drought, the datasets can also be used for monitoring heat and cold waves in South Asia. “We don’t know whether a particular region is in drought as we don’t have real-time rainfall and temperature data at appropriate scale. IMD [Indian Meteorology Department] provides daily rainfall data mainly during the monsoon season. There’s no real-time information at high-resolution about drought after the monsoon season,” says Prof. Vimal Mishra from the Civil Engineering department at IIT Gandhinagar and one of the two researchers who developed the dataset. Also, IMD’s drought information is based only on rainfall data and does not incorporate the role of air temperature. But higher temperature after the monsoon season can cause drought-like situation due to increased evaporation and transpiration losses.

At the district level

The team wanted to provide information in near real-time on whether a region of interest is under drought and what part of a district or sub-basin is under drought. The emphasis was to develop a dataset at a finer resolution (5 km) as the data provided by IMD and other agencies is coarse (resolution of 25 km). The researchers used CHIRPS global rainfall data which are available at 5 km resolution and corrected the data for bias and errors. CHIRPS stands for Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station. “The corrected data compares well with the IMD data once we aggregate our data to the IMD scale,” says Prof. Mishra. The precipitation dataset at a finer resolution of 5 km over the entire South Asian region was evaluated against a standard rainfall database (APHRODITE) that is available for South Asia and satellite-based information. Earlier studies have shown that the Aphrodite database matches the IMD rainfall data quite well. The results were published in the journal Scientific Data.

“The drought indices — standardised precipitation index and standardised precipitation evapotranspiration index — were estimated using the bias-corrected, high-resolution data and evaluated against satellite-based drought products. The validation gives us the confidence that our dataset can indicate the severity and extent of drought at a district and sub-basin level in south Asia,” says Saran Aadhar from the Civil Engineering department at IIT Gandhinagar and the first author. The researchers used the drought indices to assess severity and extent of drought in 2015 for a four-month period from June to September. “The developed dataset and drought indicators performed well over the South Asian region. Apart from IMD, this is an additional effort to provide more real-time information on drought that can be used for decision-making,” says Prof. Mishra. – Courtesy

There’s an internet of things blueprint for a clean river Ganga by IET

The Economic Times | Aritra Sarkhel | 26 September 2017 |

Representational Image

BENGALURU: Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), a non-profit engineering organisation, has created a blueprint through their IoT India panel to implement internet of things devices and related technology for curbing pollution and improving water flow for the 2,525-km long river Ganga . Vivek Mehrotra, chairman of IET India IoT Panel. Ganga Rejuvenation says that Ganga as a river has been neglected for a long time. There are a lot of local industries which allow chemicals to flow unprocessed along with sewage which is dumped into the river. There are laws in place to check pollution but most of these industries are unregulated in terms of the chemicals released into the river. Then you have human and industrial waste along with excessive fertilisers which are not used by farmers, which is released into Ganga.  Moreover, he points out that diverting the course of river and construction near banks have depleted the river bed. Keeping these issues in mind, Mehrotra says that IoT India panel plans to work collaboratively with technology companies, universities and the government to implement IoT-based devices across Varanasi to check pollution and based on the data collected, the government can act accordingly.

IoT is just not for collecting data but about analysing the data and give aforesaid results. Our devices can monitor the situation across the length of the river and then share the data with local authorities and universities to work on it. But a clean Ganga has been far from reality so far. ET had earlier reported that the National Green Tribunal directed many states in India through which the river flows to rejuvenate Ganga by declaring it as a ˜No-Development Zone. However, due to inaction, the NGT issued warrants against Haryana and Rajasthan governments. Mehrotra says that they will run a POC in Varanasi for six months and take note of the progress and act accordingly. We have created a framework, technology will follow and now we are looking forward to procuring such devices with the help of universities.  – Courtesy

REVA University students’ innovation to end manual scavenging?

The Times of India | Dhwani Desai | TNN | Sep 17, 2017 | Bangalore |

There is no doubt that Bengaluru is the hub of innovations, and a team of students from REVA University has proved this once again with an innovation that will hopefully help put an end to manual scavenging.  Students of REVA University’s School of Mechanical Engineering — Suraj N, Santhosh Reddy KV and Vinay Kumar P — won a national-level award by IIT Bombay, e-Yantra, in April 2017 for Best Demonstration and Presentation for their project, Sewage Blockage Removal Robot. The students were guided by Dr Jagadeeswaran N, associate professor, School of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Veena KN, associate professor, School of Electronics and Communication Engineering. The inter-disciplinary team of faculty members and students also includes Praveen V Vijapur, assistant professor, School of ECE; Spoorthi KB, Srinivas HA and SV Ullas Kumar, students of the School of ECE; and Harshit M and Akshay GV, students of the School of C&IT.


The students have developed a robot that will clear sewage blockages. Advanced technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Computational Intelligence (CI) and Internet of Things (IOT) have been utilized in this project. The robot is placed in drainages, where it opens up and detects blockages. Once a blockage is detected, the material that is causing the obstruction is picked up on a tray and taken out of the manhole, thereby not requiring any human involvement.

 Manjunath M, public relations manager, REVA University, informs us that the team is currently working on the final robot, which will have advanced features. In the meantime, the team has approached MY Hanumanthraj, officer, Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), who has shown interest in testing, and possibly using the robot in the future in the city. The BWSSB has also extended support towards the building of the final, updated version. A patent has been filed and the Prime Minister’s office has also been informed, since the project is in line with national initiatives such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Digital India and the Smart Cities project. – Courtesy

Saint Gits College Team wins QuEST Ingenium 2017

Technology | Thiruvananthapuram | Kerala |

Jobby George and Jose Tom

Thiruvananthapuram: Two Mechanical Engineering students, who graduated from Saint Gits College of Engineering, Kottayam won the QuEST Ingenium 2017 finals here on Friday. Jobby George and Jose Tom won the top honours for their project – “Electricity Generation Using Speed Breakers.” The winners will get a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a trip to the Airbus facility in Germany, where they will be given an exclusive tour of the facility. Park College of Engineering & Technology from Tamil Nadu for their project “Design and fabrication of a fighter aircraft with yawing wing,” and Vellore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu for “Hi-Tech bionic prosthetic legs” have been declared first and second runners up respectively. The seventh edition of QuEST Ingenium received more than 7,500 applications from 650 engineering colleges across India.

The top 10 teams were invited to present their projects to a panel of judges and eminent personalities from the industry in the final. Nidhi Mathur, Co-Founder of Niramai, was the chief guest of the event. Burkhard H.R. Heinke, Project Leader, Airbus Cabin Electronics Buxtehude Pre-development, delivered a keynote address. The students of MVJ College of Engineering (MVJCE), Karnataka received Special Jury mention for their project “Advanced prosthetic hand for handicapped.” The Most Popular Project Award, a special category of award selected by the public by voting on social media, was bagged by Sri Sairam Engineering College, Tamil Nadu for their project “MOBSCOPE.” Airbus, Siemens, Qatar Airways and MSC Software were the major sponsors of the competition this year. – Courtesy

Niti Aayog invites applications for Mentor India

NITI Aayog calls for applications for ‘Mentor India’

NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Government of India’s flagship program to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, is inviting applications for ‘Mentor India’. Mentor India is as a strategic nation building initiative to engage leaders who can guide and mentor schools students in 900+ Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) established by AIM in schools across India. Through Mentor India, AIM is looking to engage leaders who can dedicate 1 – 2 hours every week in one or more such labs and enable school students to experience, learn and practice future skills such as design and computational thinking. Envisaged to be the largest formal volunteer mentor network, it is aimed at maximizing the impact of ATLs. AIM is looking for corporates / professionals / academicians / students etc. who are keen to contribute to this strategic nation building initiative. ATLs are dedicated works spaces where students (from Class 6th to Class 12th) learn innovation skills and develop ideas that will go on to transform India. The labs are powered to acquaint students with state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D printers, robotics & electronics development tools, IoT & sensors etc. With 900+ labs already identified, AIM will establish 2,000 such labs by end of 2017. The labs are designed to spur the spark of creativity, and go beyond regular curriculum and text book learning. The labs will let students explore skills of future such as design and computational thinking, adaptive learning and artificial intelligence.

Mentor India has already received strong support from Corporate India. More than 30 of India’s top thought leaders have signed up as Brand Ambassadors for the initiative. More than 90 ATLs in schools across India have been adopted and are being supported by various corporations / institutions from multiple sectors. AIM is actively looking to engage with more corporations / institutions to adopt ATLs and enable their employees to join Mentor India as volunteers. Furthermore, AIM has signed a SoI with AICTE to provide mentorship support of affiliated colleges for 366 ATLs.

Possible areas of contribution from mentors include technical knowhow, innovation and design, inspirational, and business and entrepreneurship. Mentors are expected to discuss with students the various problems our Indian society is facing across multiple themes, and motivate students to develop solutions to these community problems. Mentor India program will be further extended to provide support to Atal Incubation Centres and Existing Incubation Centres as well. Proposed recognition for mentors include digital certificate of recognition, honour board for top mentors, meet and greet with prominent dignitaries and invites to Government of India events. The deadline for submission of applications to join Mentor India is 30 Sep 2017. The applications can be submitted online at: http://aim.gov.in/mentor.php          /      More Details …http://niti.gov.in/content/atal-innovation-mission-aim

India Innovation Initiative 2017 (i3)

India Innovation Initiative or i3 is one of India’s largest and most-awaited innovation challenges jointly-promoted by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to identify, reward and recognize the top innovators from across the country and to enable commercialisation of the best, home-grown innovations through incubation support, mentorship, investor and industry connect. Now in its 9th edition, the focus of i3 2017 is on identifying high-potential innovators who have developed innovations with high-impact, and orienting and training them to become entrepreneurs. This year, the focus is on the human aspect, developing key entrepreneurship skills of innovators for maximum impact.


India Innovation Initiative (i3) is one of India’s most prestigious and most-awaited national innovation challenges promoted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) that aims to encourage, enable and provide support to the development of home-grown, high-impact science & technology-based innovations and their transformation into viable and scalable commercial and social ventures.

Since its inception in 2009, it has been connecting original innovations having high social or industrial impact with the start-up ecosystem of business incubators, angel investors, venture capitalists and mentors at different stages of the innovation or business cycle, after they undergo a highly- competitive selection-process.

Benefits for Innovators

There are lots of reasons, but most importantly because..

  • The top 100 will get the opportunity to present their innovations in front of a Jury in the Regional Fairs
  • Top 100 innovators selected will get exclusive pre-incubation entrepreneurship training as part of the Regional Fairs
  • The Top 20 innovators selected from the regional fairs will get to present their innovations at the i3 National Fair live in front of a Grand Jury for the i3 Top Awards.
  • The winners of the i3 Top Awards will be recognized and awarded at the Awards function.
  • Get access to incubation and connect to investor network
  • Opportunity to receive mentorship support from serial entrepreneurs, investors and senior corporate professionals
  • Networking with start-up ecosystem experts – incubator and accelerators, investors , mentors, senior corporates, academia and government officials. AICTE Notification –   Programme Details…Click here  http://www.i3.ciiinnovation.in/noc-programme-details-2017.php       /      http://www.i3.ciiinnovation.in/

Soon, a Student Satellite (STUDSAT-2) that tracks ships

Students of the consortium of colleges at work in their laboratory

Students belonging to engineering colleges in the city and state are developing a satellite which can track ship movements and prevent collision of ships. The Student Satellite (STUDSAT-2) which is currently being developed by a consortium of colleges and to be launched by ISRO will carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for ship tracking payload. “One of the payloads which will be onboard the STUDSAT-2 is an AIS for ship-tracking. So far, AISes have been ground-based and for the first time, a nano satellite will be carrying an AIS for ship tracking,” said STUDSAT-2 project director Dr S Sandhya. AISes can track ships, avoid collision of ships and also help in the smooth movement of vessels in the deep seas. In 2011, ISRO had launched RESOURCESAT-2 which carried an AIS payload from COMDEV, Canada, which provides ship surveillance in VHF band.

Also onboard the STUDSAT-2 will be a HAM radio payload. “We will have another payload to help the HAM community connect with each other and help in communication during times of disasters and natural calamities,” Sandhya said. She added that the team of students who have been working on the development of the satellite have already completed the design flow. “The design stage has been completed the components have been selected and the first cut has been made. The mission is in progress very well and we are waiting for ISRO which is coming out with new guidelines for student satellites,” she added.

A team of more than 150 students is involved in the STUDSAT-2 project, which is likely to be launched by 2019. STUDSAT-2 is a successor of India’s first pico (miniature) satellite- STUDSAT, which was launched in 2010 by ISRO. It is being developed by students of seven colleges, namely: Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology, NMAM Institute of Technology, MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Sri Siddhartha Institute of Technology, RNS Institute of Technology and Nagarjuna College of Engineering and Technology. – Courtesy