IIT Madras’ Annual Tech Festival Shaastra goes online this year

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, Nobel Laureates Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank, Dr. Barry Barish, physicist, and Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, Former Chairman of Space Commission, are scheduled to address the Students

 Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ Annual Tech Festival Shaastra is going to be conducted entirely online this year from 25th to 28th February 2021. This is the first time this tech-festival, which is one of the largest student-run events in the country, is going completely virtual.

One of the unique features of Shaastra 2021 will be the creation of a Virtual Rendering of the important sites of IIT Madras Campus. This will enable a viewer to virtually walk through a location in IIT Madras and provide as close to a real-life experience as possible.  All the events will be available to the public free of cost. The total prize money for the contests will be worth around Rs. 17 lakh.

Several eminent dignitaries are scheduled to address the ‘Spotlight Lecture’ Series, which brings in some of the most influential people in the world from diverse fields ranging from business magnates and successful entrepreneurs to Nobel Laureates.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization, Nobel Laureates Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank, Dr. Barry Barish, American experimental physicist, Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, Former Chairman, Space Commission/Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, ISRO, are among those scheduled to address the students this year.

Lauding the initiatives of the students in coming up with innovative events, Prof. Nilesh J. Vasa, Dean (Students), IIT Madras, said, “The novel edition of technical festival Shaastra will certainly be an important step forward towards realizing student participation from anywhere in India.”

Shaastra, which was among the first-of-its-kind festival to be awarded the ISO 9001:2015 certification, usually attracts more than 50,000 people every year from diverse backgrounds to join the celebration of technology through many events.

Shaastra ‘Summit’ focuses on a unique and relevant theme every year to integrate technology into that sphere.  With this year’s theme being ‘Archi-Tech,’ which brings together the fields of architecture and technology, the students aim to highlight the growing opportunities that technology possesses in the field of architecture and design.

Elaborating on the unique aspects of Shaastra 2021, Dr. Shaikh Faruque Ali., Faculty Advisor, Shaastra 2021, IIT Madras, said, “The pandemic though has had a severe hit on the plans of the team but certainly not their efforts, energy and enthusiasm. With the team’s unique effort to recreate the overall IITM for an overall immersive experience, I’m really certain that this first ever virtual edition is definitely going to be a benchmark with lots of opportunities and enriching initiatives. Shaastra 2021 will not be any less attractive, educational and entertaining than its previous years. The team has mapped everything we had on ground to online space. I would like to invite everyone to participate and experience Shaastra in a unique environment from the comfort of your homes.

Exhibitions are the heart and soul of Shaastra and this year is no exception. A virtual exhibition will be held online this year, in which participants from across the country will get to showcase innovative and resourceful ideas from technologically feasible perspectives. The audience gets to witness first-hand the futuristic, creative and ingenious applications of science and technology in real life and proudly stand as a window into what the future holds.

With the overall theme for Shaastra 2021 being ‘Schrödinger’s Realms,’ the IIT Madras students plan to host events that showcase infinite possibilities through their fascinating set of workshops, hackathons, competitions and Spotlight lectures. The Shaastra Workshops are a unique series of online workshops conducted by technically-skilled people from the industry and IIT Madras community who would be sharing their knowledge through live interactions on a range of topics from technology to development to design.

Sharing their experience on organizing the tech festival completely online for the first time, Mr. Mukund Khandelwal, Student Co-curricular Affairs Secretary, Shaastra 2021, IIT Madras, said, “This first-of-its-kind edition of virtual Shaastra will provide a customized experience and a curated opportunity to them to learn, interact, grow and enter higher leagues. The success of every edition of Shaastra till date would not have been possible without the steady support from various corporate firms. This year, we are proud to have had the able backing up powered by MTX and presented by Atthah. The major sponsors include Wells Fargo, Atlassian, Subex and Boeing, with UNESCO and Startup India being our patrons for this year.”

Workshops are being held on various topics such as 3D modelling with hands-on implementation in Fusion 360 software, Reinforcement Learning (RL).

Every year Shaastra rolls out unique, impactful and lasting social campaigns to better the lives of common people. This year the students launched ‘SHE CAN’ campaign, aimed at empowering women with an elevated platform for their education, upskilling, awareness about opportunities, and financial literacy.

Shaastra 2021 also features various competitions such as the Boeing National Aeromodelling Competition, The Drone Applications Hackathon 2021, exclusive All-Women's Hackathon called ‘She Hacks’ in collaboration with Wells Fargo, an American multinational financial services company, and the MTX HackOlympics to flaunt the participants' skills in cloud computing.

Shaastra will host an open house, in which research laboratories, department infrastructure, and projects will be showcased to the public. Virtual interactions in the open house will highlight the research projects and expertise available at the departments where members of the public can also interact with the researchers.

Student Projects will be on display as part of Centre for Innovation (CFI) Open House, where student innovators will showcase their recent work and achievements; including presentations by Team Anveshak, Avishkaar Hyperloop, and Raftaar Formula Racing which have consistently improved their performance in international competitions in the last few years.

The flagship event of Shaastra is the ‘Shaastra Nights,’ which provides a platform for performers to display their artistic prowess while providing the audience with an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a confluence of technology and culture. This year will see stand-up comedian Mr. Kenny Sebastian perform on 27th February 2021.