ERODE: When D. Loftin Rayen, a third year mechanical engineering student of the Kongu Engineering College (KEC), Perundurai, walked on the stage for a paper presentation for the first time in his first year, he decided to make it neat.
"I had a clean shave, applied loads of fairness cream, and went in a suit ," he said. But it was not long before he realised that there was much more to presenting a paper. "I fumbled, found it difficult to tackle a question," recollected the lad who is on his way to Italy to present a paper at an international conference. He has 21 papers against his name. Mr. Rayen's story applies to most engineering students, for whom paper presentations have become an integral part of their academic life. Most of them are vying with one another to top the list of paper presenters.
Students point out that by presenting technical papers they are learning beyond curriculum, developing communication skills and increasing confidence levels. V. Sriram, a KEC student who has 27 papers and several prizes to his credit, says, "Undoubtedly, it helps me widen my knowledge base, go beyond the curriculum, and update myself on the latest developments in my area of interest." He feels that it has helped improve the level of confidence and develop communication skills as well.
The other advantages the students cite are getting to know experts in their fields, meeting other college professors, learning from fellow competitors, and improving on their performance. The students are very clear in one aspect though: to put in some contribution to make the paper an original one and not go in for a cut and paste work. It only brings in disrepute, they point out.
The college managements are only encouraging the students. Take the KEC management, which organises an annual open house exhibition where students are welcomed to display their innovative projects - workable models of machines or equipments or gadgets, upon which paper presentations are made. "There is tremendous response and intense competition for this. The management allocates Rs. 10 lakh a year to fund students' projects,"says A. M. Natarajan, Principal.
The other benefit is better placement opportunities. "Number of presentations and topics distinguishes a student. It has a definitive role in placement," feels PSS. Srinivasan, Principal, K.S. Rangasamy College of Technology, Tiruchengode. His college is helping students by subscribing to 700 e-journals at a cost of Rs. 4 lakhs. The principal of Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, A. Shanmugam, endorses the view. And, the prize money comes as a bonus to the students.