SkyFi Labs aims at imparting practical training to engineering students to improve their employability skills.
µTextbooks offer a useful way to gain a thorough theoretical understanding of any field. “But that’s not enough in the field of engineering,” says Pavan Ponnaganti. “Most institutes especially those in tier two cities don’t offer much to students by ways of practically using concepts. That why when fresh graduates are interviewed for jobs they come up with perfect theoretical answers, but have little practical knowledge of translating them into workable ideas.”
It was to address this deficit in engineering education that he set up SkyFi Labs. SkyFi Labs aims to “improve the skills and employability of Indian engineering students and help companies recruit skilled graduates.” At the moment they have three modules: Civil Simplified which covers engineering concepts and skills needed for a career in Civil Engineering; AerotriX for the Mechanical, Aerospace, Automotive and Manufacturing industries and Roboversity which deals with Robotics and Embedded Systems domains with programmes on sensor Guided Autonomous Robot, Mobile Operated Robotics and Swarm Robotics. Each course is designed to give the participant a hands-on experience and involves understanding concepts, designing a product, developing and testing it.
“We do training workshops in different colleges which cover a day or two days of intensive sessions. Each meeting starts with an understanding of the theories and science behind the concept, for example, building airplanes and then with our customised algorithms the participants make x their own models and test it,” says Ponnaganti, CEO, SkyFi Labs. Colleges sign up using the registration form on the website.
Abhishek Uplaonkar, a student of the seventh Semester (ECE), at Pesit Bangalore South Campus is an enthusiastic aero-modeler with a keen interest in flight aerodynamics and stability.
“Although I had prior experience of aero-modelling, the training helped me understand in depth efficient methods of building an airplane, flight dynamics, stability and performance in a short span of time,” he says.
He signed up for the Skyfi Labs programme because he believed that their AerotriX programme would provide an excellent opportunity to learn and understand the complete science that makes an airplane fly, in an easy and exciting way.
“We aim to let the students try out ideas and concepts in our sessions,” says Ponnaganti. “Once they realise that their ideas are workable, they get enormous boost in confidence. It’s a combination of confidence and workable ideas that create employable engineers or even entrepreneurs.”
Shalini Das, a fifth semester student at IIST Trivandrum agrees. She says, “I learn theory in my classes but I wanted to understand practical applications as well. Any amount of theoretical knowledge is useless unless I can use it practically.”
The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in a 2011 report said that 75 per cent of Indian engineering students are not fit to be employed. These are the numbers that SkyFi Labs aim to change. That’s why they want to add more engineering modules and gain a footing in more cities. The team at SkyFi Labs is clear that their workshops are not for the IITs or institutions in that league but rather for those colleges and training centres that can’t afford to set up labs where students can practice. Ponnaganti, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur, says, “Our prices aren’t very high. Our modules range from Rs. 600 to Rs. 2,500.”
SkyFi Labs is two years old and while the company has reached out to nearly 20,000 students, finding the right experts is often a problem in such a business. The experts who finally take the modules to students have to simply be the “best”. Skyfi Labs built up a core team of six graduates from IIT Kanpur with strong technical expertise in each of the areas in which they work to make sure that their modules offer the best training to the students.
As Shalini Das says, while “it was a fun and enriching experience to build an aero plane and fly it”, it was the highly interactive and informative lectures and patient teachers she liked. “They would never get fed up with students asking questions,” she says.
At the moment the company is focusing on adding more engineering topics to their repertoire. “If we can address even one tenth of the engineering colleges in India, we will consider our work done,” says Ponnaganti.
Skyfi Labs also bagged The 2nd Best Business Venture Award at Ideas, IIT Kanpur and were in the 30 Most Promising startups at Next Big Idea, IIM Bangalore.