Gandhinagar: Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) has launched ‘Project Isaac’ 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.
‘Project Isaac’ by IIT Gandhinagar strives to motivate IITGN students to dream ambitiously to achieve wondrous and ambitious things. They are also encouraged to cultivate new skills in writing, painting, coding, music, creative expression, and so on, which are increasingly critical skills for professional success. Nearly 40 percent of IITGN students are already participating in various activities, which are entirely voluntary.
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, 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 this period.
Project Isaac is a model for academic institutions worldwide to explore ways to engage students in the midst of the pandemic. Infact, many IITGN alumni and people from academic institutions from all over the world have expressed enthusiasm about this inspirational project and are following some of the contests, such as the Quarantine Reviews. IITGN have even created a contest on the Project Isaac Showcase for its alumni.
The initial contests include:
1) 12 Days of Code, in which students work for 24 hours on new coding problems released daily.
2) Leadership Video Challenge, in which students watch handpicked Ted/TedX talks on leadership.
3) ‘Don’t Quarantine Your Cornea!’, in which students write reviews of TV shows episode/movie/documentary/web series of their choice.
4) 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, shared his thoughts about the initiative and 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 utilise 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. Each problem develops fresh concepts and techniques that motivates me to solve more and more problems. Project Issac is an excellent initiative by IIT Gandhinagar because what’s better than earning rewards and prizes, along with enhancing your skills and pursuing your interest.”
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 and 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. I have also participated in another contest called ‘Don’t Quarantine Your Cornea’, a fun competition where students share movie and book reviews. By participating in such contests, we not only improve our writing skills but we also become aware of other inspiring books and movies. IIT Gandhinagar has offered us the best way to hone our writing and communication skills by actually putting them in practice. 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 and said, “Project Isaac is a commendable initiative taken by IITGN so as to let the students optimise 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, seldom do I find so much of time without any other commitments. Project Isaac is absolutely focused on skills like coding, leadership development, and creative ideation, which are essential enough to have a successful professional career in the long run.”