IIT Kharagpur, through the Innovation Challenge Grant, is motivating its students to take up research to make the campus cleaner and greener
IIT Kharagpur’s 2,100 acre campus is the largest among the IITs and is the second largest campus in India. In the recent years, the institution has reaffirmed its commitment to a clean and green campus, and to promote eco-friendly behaviour among campus residents. IIT Kharagpur banned the use of plastic cups and plastic packets on the campus in 2008. Last year, it banned the use of motor bikes on the campus as their increasing number was causing a lot of noise and adding to the pollution.
These stiff bans are tough to impose on 10,000 students aged between 18 and 30 and are working only partially. Approximately 20,000 people live on the campus. Students are now being made aware of the pressing need for corrective action and that these eco-friendly measures are the only way to preserve a large and considerably populated campus.
Awareness does help but involvement is more effective. “Getting students involved in green campus initiatives works better than enforcing discipline—after all, how much can you dictate to young adults? Hands-on involvement becomes a learning for life,” says Professor Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, Director of IIT Kharagpur, who is leading the institutions’ green initiatives.
Need for greater student involvement
Despite the ban on plastic cups and packets, IIT Kharagpur is struggling to contain the plastic waste that is being generated from residences, hostels, etc. It is also facing water and energy shortages.
The institute saw a need to step up student involvement in making the campus environment- friendly and hence introduced the ‘Innovation Challenge Grant’, a research initiative under its Vision 2020 programme. Vision 2020 is a wider initiative which aims at catapulting IIT Kharagur to the league of the world’s top 20 science and technology institutions in the next 20 years. Professor Chakrabarti explains that the grant fits in the Research Excellence theme, one of the six transformational themes identified to achieve Vision 2020. Globally, institutes like Harvard University and Colorado State University have also implemented transformational green initiatives.
The Innovation Challenge Grant aims at fostering and supporting innovative green technological solutions for problems ailing the IIT Kharagpur campus. The research challenge has been thrown open to both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Getting students onboard
Here are the steps IIT-KGP is taking to implement the Innovation Challenge Grant.
Allocate Funding: Rs 1.45 crore has been set aside for Innovation Challenge Grant for the current fiscal year from the Vision 2020 fund. Of this, Rs 45 lakh is for a faculty-led water project.
DESIGNING THE INITIATIVE: The Grant’s rules stipulate that each chosen green project will be funded for a maximum period of three years (in three stages). Proposals that get past the first evaluation round will receive seed money. With this, students must come up with working models of their ideas in six months. A second round of evaluation will be held after this. Selected projects will be funded so they can move to the prototype level.
The last round of evaluation takes place after that. Prototypes that enter the final stage will become full-fledged research projects and funded for field implementation. In 2013-14, up to Rs 1 crore was proposed to be allocated as seed money to 50 projects. Further budgetary provisions will be made in this fiscal year. Innovation Challenge Grant is an ongoing project under Vision 2020 and calls for proposals will be made every year.
IDENTIFYING THE CAMPUS’ PROBLEM AREAS: A list of the major environmental issues in the campus has been charted out for students to choose an area to work on. “To point students in the right direction, the list also has details of theorotical technological solutions,” says Professor Chakrabati.
A few of the areas are utilising plastic waste in road construction; using hostel kitchen waste for biogas generation and installing solar energy panels in hostels to save energy. Other areas of concern are reducing the water used in hostels; cutting down the electricity usage in the library; planning a chemical waste collection system; planning for groundwater pollution control; improving the design of garbage bins; improving the handling, utilisation and disposal of electronic waste; evaluating and reducing the campus’ carbon footprint; designing and planning a street lighting system; and other such.
SET GUIDELINES: Innovation Challenge Grant requires students to get completely involved in the area they choose to work on. If the preferred subject is biogas generation through hostel kitchen waste, then the first step is to quantify the waste being generated in different hostels and examine the feasibility of converting it into biogas. The research will not stop at the point where biogas is generated but will also have to determine how it will be used and distributed.
“Back of the envelope calculations or theoretical solutions will not work. Students must get fully immersed in the problem they are addressing and visualize the usage of the solution,” explains Professor Chakrabarti.
Innovation Challenge Grant guidelines allow students to form groups to compete and to take the support of a faculty member of their choice. According to Professor Chakrabarti, “The idea is to get students and faculty to work together to research ways to make the campus greener, cleaner and more energy-efficient.”
DEFINE THE CRITERIA FOR SELECTING PROJECT S: Student groups and their mentors will jointly formulate and submit project proposals for evaluation. The best proposals will be chosen based on practicality, feasibility and the review by subject experts.
CREATE A CREDIT AWARD SYSTEM:
As incentives to make more students participate, the academic committee is working on devising a system where participating students can earn academic credits for their research work. Students’ Innovation Challenge Grant work may also count towards their independent/courselinked/ final year project work. All students who can take their ideas to the final stage will receive project performance awards—a certificate and a prize.
Research for the greater good
Although the bans on plastic and the use of motor bikes have made the IIT Kharagpur campus cleaner and less polluted, the grant will take the initiative further. Through the Innovation Challenge Grant, the institute expects students and faculty to identify innovative technological solutions for water, energy and environment- related problems that the campus faces, within a reasonable time