Home Within Our Home: Tinkerers' Laboratory
Under the unrelenting death of a dream, she wakes up disoriented. It takes her a moment to gather her senses and she dislikes what she sees. It’s the summer of 2018 and the glorious sun has already risen and is having a quick cadenced march along the day arc. With the sweltering heat hitting her face, the girl gets off her bed and wonders how the sun is unbiased and impartial in its objective to irradiate the planet and if that would mean that the sun is cold. The Phoenix gets ready for the day, blares some music through the earphones she made herself and sets off from her hostel toward the one sanctum in the campus of IIT-Bombay. She chortles on realising that no one would deny calling her Tinkerers’ Laboratory cold during the summer.
It wasn’t long ago when the Indian engineering education wasn’t facile or deft with everyday life devices and objects when compared with the models of developed nations. It was to provide this ‘hands-on’ ingredient that the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay established the Tinkerers’ Laboratory which would serve as a platform for students to express their innovative and creative selves. This Legacy Project of the 1975 batch of the institute’s Alumni, who pledged a ? 2 crore sum towards it, was inaugurated on March 19, 2014 by Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Indian Government, in the presence of Prof. Devang Khakhar, Director, IIT Bombay, and Deans, Students Affairs and Alumni & Corporate Relations among others. The '75 batch alumni team has moreover promised to provide mentoring, run workshops and help organize lectures by famous innovators from India and abroad, for the benefit of IIT Bombay students.
Today is a good day; the girl has reached early to find her perfect corner. She pulls out a chair and settles down comfortably. Within the next few minutes, the room fills up with other students, all working on different projects and ideas yet paradoxically in sync when it comes to sharing soldering irons and searching for resistors and capacitors. Tinkerers' Laboratory has become a second home for every Techie at IIT Bombay. The Laboratory would’ve been packed much more densely if it weren’t for its expansion. With generous donations from the batch of 1966 and great help from the institute, especially Department of Electrical Engineering, the lab has finally got a much bigger area letting more students get their hands dirty. The Inauguration ceremony for the same was held on March 11th 2017. The class of 1966 inaugurated the facility in presence of Prof. Devang Khakhar, Director IIT Bombay. Apart from the Director, the function was attended by many dignitaries of academia, Alumni of Classes 1966 and 1975 and students of IIT Bombay.
The girl is currently working on building a self stabilizing quadcopter, an idea she was inspired from one of the ‘How Things Work’ sessions Tinkerers’ Laboratory arranges periodically. Even with her earphones on, she can blushingly hear two boys behind her discussing the copter and complementing the person who was working on it. When done with her coding, she gets up and stretches a little. The code was written for the arduino that she learnt to use in one of the workshops arranged by the Laboratory. The girl finds a known face and ambles toward her friend for a break. They talk on the coming semester and share some food. Since its inception the 700 Square foot lab has seen huge participation across all departments, year of study or academic program, for very diverse projects - from course projects, B-Tech Projects, Hobby projects, DIYs to Start-ups. When relaxed, she gets back to work; the next step is building the chassis. She could’ve purchased it from the market but where would be the fun in that? She sees that the 3D printer is being used currently so she patiently waits for the student ahead to be done. There are so many equipments around her. The lab inventory includes CNC Machines, 3D Printer, Heavy Machines like Lathe, Milling, Drill, necessary Electronics equipment and the software assistance.
The girl perks up on finding the 3D printer available for use. This wouldn’t be the first time she will use the device. The girl reminisces that joyous day when she learnt how to use the printer in the Tinkerers’ Laboratory Bootcamp. Done with giving the inputs, the girl waits for a few moments to see the device initiating the work and later finds a chair to sit beside it. She looks around to find happiness, curiosity, competitiveness, and so many more emotions pervading the air of the laboratory. What would her summer be like if the Tinkerers’ Laboratory didn’t exist? She rests her head on the table and closes her eyes to tinker on this thought. The lab has had impact not only on the IIT Bombay students who use it but also beyond the walls of the campus. In 49th IIT Council Meet, the Council agreed to the proposal for establishment of Tinkerers’ Lab at all IITs on the lines of IIT Bombay. NITI Aayog has decided on setting up of Tinkering Laboratories in 500 schools, based on IIT-B’s Lab. Such is the grandeur of the Tinkerers’ Laboratory; why else would it be the prime centre of attraction for visitors from BARC, Honda Japan, World Bank, Nik Powells, GoI delegates etc?
There sounds some beep somewhere that registers. It’s the 3D printer’s beep, heralding the symphony of success. Under the unrelenting death of a dream, she wakes up disoriented. It takes her a moment to gather her senses and she likes what she sees.