Trying to bridge the gap between engineering classrooms and eventual workplaces is Lab Electronics, a company that manufactures educational electronics training devices and simulators

As soon as the engineering college results are declared, we hear the refrain from recruiters and HR groups: Some 85 per cent of our fresh engineering graduates are unemployable. The toppers will catch flights to overseas universities for graduate degrees, and eventually land jobs of their choice. About others, we don’t get to hear much. Engineering students ending their lives because they can’t cope with courses is a tragic dimension to the story.

Trying to fix the gap between engineering classrooms and eventual workplaces since 1985 is Lab Electronics, an ISO 9001:2000 certified company that manufactures educational electronics training devices and simulators. “This annual migration to the West for higher studies bothered my father K.V. Sastry, faculty member in the Electronics Engineering Department at MIT Chromepet,” says Director K Udayashankar at his 10000 sq. ft. Ashok Nagar facility. “He taught from batches 2-27, and often talked of making educational models in India that our students could use for hands-on learning, for understanding concepts in electronics.” He wanted lab equipment designed for our student needs, not those made for a different set of brains.

“Take electromagnetic waves, for example,” Udayashankar explains. “They’re not seen, but our device can demonstrate their travel.” The deflection you see when force from a transmitting antenna acts on a receiving antenna is the EM wave travelling in the atmosphere. “The thousand types of training equipment and simulators we make cover topics from Diode to Robotics. They establish relationships between cause and effect in electronics, communication and instrumentation.”

Inspired by books

Where did the designs come from? In those pre-Internet days, “I used to import technical books and journals on how to assemble everything. I learnt how to design, experiment, make things. I have more than 5000 books in my collection.” Of course, having a degree in Electronics and Communication helps, and being married to Electrical-Electronics engineer Vijayasree is a double dip. Their products go to technical institutions in India and abroad, says Udayashankar.

While his training devices meet international standards, many of the engineering college labs do not, he rues. “By equipping them with the right training models and instruments our colleges can make their labs top class, help our students learn through practical work.”

He has expanded his base to the industrial side. Since 2010 he has been providing to defence establishments indigenously designed and manufactured devices for electro-optical tracking systems, pan-and-tilt systems and antenna positioning units. “For civilian and defence applications we have developed a micro-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).” A beautifully-designed gadget, “the UAV takes off vertically and using guided navigation and GPS, it can gather intelligence, do surveillance from an altitude of 500 metres, covering a radius of 3-5 metres with an endurance of 30 minutes.”

Adding spark to teaching in the chemical and mechanical engineering sections are products from BS Pyromatic India. “My first educational segment client was IIT Madras,” says Sridhar, Founder/CEO, describing the company’s interesting take-off. “In 1986 Dr. K. K. Balasubramaniam, Chemical Engineering Department, showed us an analytical instrument (Screw-Cap Bomb Reactor/Miniclave) imported from the U.K. He asked us to develop one with additional features.” Sridhar did and charged a fraction of the actual cost. “Our profit calculation policy was all wrong he said, and helped us sell it at a higher margin to Spic Science Foundation, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and others.”

Educational instruments

Starting with temperature instruments, he has scaled up his educational instruments to over 17 lab verticals. “We are now a “practical engineering knowledge management company,” he says proudly. Students handle his instruments to make sense of principles behind Mechanical/Chemical/ Aeronautical/ Marine/Civil engineering, Material Science and Biotechnology. “Colleges should come to us for the 500+ training models — from Microscopic Image Analyser to computerised Engine Data Loggers.” Some, including IIT Madras/Guwahati, Madras/SRM/Sathyabama universities, NITs, do.

“Our real-time Digital Engineering lab equipment (RTDELS) focusses on enhancing employability and increasing skill-sets of students,” he says. “After training with these, why would they need a bridge course or long training stints in industry verticals?”

“Virtual engineering cannot give you the understanding you get by touching, operating and calculating the algorithms on our own. The memory of these experiences will never fade. Will engineering colleges and curriculum designers do a re-think on this?”

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Keywords: Lab Electronics


MetroplusJune 28, 2012