Archive for June, 2010

Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Engineers

Innovation and Entrepreneurship seem like alien words in the world of College of E&ME, where walking on the layed out (SOP certified) line is “siraat-e-mustakeem”. The lack of appreciation for different personalities and their ideas, coupled with the sole benchmarking based on GPA has turned it into a stagnant system. The immediate and evident consequences of this being that the top notch students of nation coming to this college are provided with a mindset (by default) to seek jobs. Starting a new business or a venture is out of their books! Or at least a lowest grade back up. Students would even prefer low income research jobs (even though they don’t have research aptitude). A brief study of stats shows that it was not until the recession hit market cut down vacancies, that the students started thinking of doing something of their own, otherwise doing own business is out of question. Not that the students aren’t capable enough or worst non-innovative, it’s the general mindset of society, educational institute and the family that first goal set for fresh grads is to find some “cool” job – which necessarily entails some famous multinational or a permanent government job.

Breaking this ice of stagnation, Society of ICTs arranged a lecture on “Innovation and Entrepreneurship for engineers”. The guest speaker was the well-known, Mr. Adnan Shahid (president EME Alumni Association, De 14EE Graduate, Director post paid solutions at Mobilink and an MBA from MIT). The speaker had a solid IT background polished by the studies at MIT. He has been lately talking to the college administration to promote new ideas and concepts in a bit to foster entrepreneurial ventures by EMEnets. These are the earliest attempts of shifting the excessive academic focus of the college administration though. It might take much time to develop an atmosphere conducive to innovative minds to break the conventions and take up new challenges – eventually to get spin out companies formed by college graduates.

Though the lecture was held at a very short notice, the simplistic yet inspirational speaking skills of the guest kept the audience alive, interested and at the same time calling their pals to come to ECR (through SMS). Sir Adnan presented several examples of small ideas which later on changed the technology or the lives of people. Through the brilliant examples and news report clippings (from Pakistani newspapers) he explained the terms Innovation and invention as well as their link. He presented several case studies to students e.g. Facebook, his target of research, and presented his analysis of the marketing techniques Facebook guys implemented to make it such a huge success. Mr. Adnan challenged the students to come up with ideas along with their business proposals and start their own ventures. He presented the examples of content development (applications, wallpapers, ringtones etc.) for Mobilink itself. The students look forward to more of such lectures by alumni to guide them and inspire them J Society of ICTs will be working with the Alumni Liaison Committee to hold more of such lectures. Next semester a series of lectures on software development are also planned with the alumni owning software houses.


Let’s do the MTC!

A tale of five ambitious girls

Sidra, Amber, Tehreem, Hafsah and Zainab Sukhera are the ambitious girls studying in APS Quetta who, after completion of their metric exams, got a brilliant idea to use their time, ambition and intellect to use by making a difference in the society. They thought of making donations in SOS village but since there were summer vacations they couldn’t do much. They didn’t have a hefty saving of pocket money, nor were they inspired by teachers towards social work. Still they had a simple idea of establishing a Mini Tuition Club (MTC). The idea seems pretty old and banal, yet there it provides us with a food for thought! MTC is a remarkable example of the penetration power of media and advertisements. Telenor’s Karo Mumkin project with its simple yet emphatic advertisements aired on all TV channels relating to some (hypothetical) Baluchistan university making it compulsory for students to teach other students as a degree requirement to change Pakistan, might seem like a cliché’ at first (even I thought of it as a cliché’ till I got to see its impact through MTC), yet it does stimulate the thoughts of our youth to direct their energies towards bringing a change. Another example of a similar project is the “Kal ke liye aaj badlo” by Mobilink with their inspirational advertisement.

Getting back to our story of MTC, it’s not a matter of debate if these ambitious students got their inspiration from these advertisements or not, the only thing that matters is the inspiration from these advertisements coupled with their ambition led them to set up a simple tuition club. MTC was setup in C.M.H. Quetta (Baluchistan), utilizing the existing resources. The target students were those female students of mediocre families who aren’t that fortunate enough to get good teachers (as their schools aren’t that great). Since it was summer vacations, 11 students signed up for the club, due to transportation problems. The unique aspect of the club was the level of effort that was put into preparation of the lectures by the teachers (metric students).

 The teachers belong to the era of technology, it is the generation that has actually been using technology for getting education out of it, and they prepared the lectures through all sorts of online tutorials and didn’t resort to the text bookish lectures. They copied the elaborate diagrams on paper from their Google search results and gave the hand outs to the students. The administration of the hospital also provided the students with some computers to utilize them for learning. Using ICTs to improve the teaching methods (even in an indirect manner) is a success story of the technology. The students were mostly from urdu medium schools and therefore they couldn’t really get hold of the superb lectures on various science topics at online resources like Khan Academy. No worries, our crafty teachers were smart! They themselves listened to the online lectures and then compiled their handouts and lectures in accordance with it, translated into urdu, for easy comprehension of the students. The teachers also consulted various text books of O levels to use the illustrious pictures in those books for explanation, not to mention the detailed descriptions in theses better compiled books.

What these ambitious students did might not be truly ‘innovative venture’; however, they did make us realize that there are no barriers to people who want to make a change. They can bridge the digital divide by serving as a link between technology and the non computer literate student to bring the immense educational content, available online, to use.

What did these students have? They had an encouragement from their parents, knowledge of ICTs through the generation above them (brothers and sisters), an ambition to bring a change and an inspiration from TV Ads which presented to them the bigger dimension of small steps towards bringing a change and to make dreams a reality. These students have also given us a clear message that the ideas projected in TV advertisements aren’t a farfetched dream but in fact quite practical if implemented at grass root levels. They have a simple question to all readers…. “its summer vacations… Why don’t you too do the MTC”?

Author’s note: This simplistic idea is very replicable and workable. We can all really join hands to bring many new and interesting things to complement it. To teach the computer literacy the young students can be put onto the typing tutor, which will give them a leap start into the world of ICTs. It will prevent them from jumping into computer games (that might actually backfire and create problems for their parents if they insist on buying computers for themselves, which parents can’t afford). Competitions of typing can be held in students too! Next step can be to provide them with encyclopedias like Britannica etc on CDs for learning. Students of higher grade can be provided access to internet to learn and explore Wikipedia and other educational content in supervision. Every institute has some old PCs like Pentium 2 or 3s which can be given to the children for experimentation. Let us equip and teach our children to use ICTs to their learning and education.

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