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Call for paradigm shift in engineers’ approach

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George Koshy, Project Director, PSLV, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, speaks at the valedictory session of an international conference at the Vellore Institute of Technology on Wednesday. Others in the picture (from left in front row) are VIT Vice-Chancellor P. Kothari, Central Bank of India Regional Manager C.R. Anantha Narayanan, Visiting Scientist at VSSC N. Janardhanan, and VIT Pro-Chancellor Sekar Viswanathan.
George Koshy, Project Director, PSLV, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, speaks at the valedictory session of an international conference at the Vellore Institute of Technology on Wednesday. Others in the picture (from left in front row) are VIT Vice-Chancellor P. Kothari, Central Bank of India Regional Manager C.R. Anantha Narayanan, Visiting Scientist at VSSC N. Janardhanan, and VIT Pro-Chancellor Sekar Viswanathan.

Ajai Sreevatsan

VELLORE: Citing the need to employ technology as just an enabling tool instead of surrendering our natural instincts to it, George Koshy, Project Director, PSLV, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), on Wednesday said engineers must understand the limitations of software platforms.

“Software which virtualises design environments can act only as a guidance tool. Today’s generation has taken to the idea of a comfortable, air-conditioned work environment,” he said. “When I joined the ISRO in 1972 immediately after my graduation from IIT-Bombay, I was first posted at the tooling and fabrication workshop instead of in the R&D section. The experience has been invaluable.”

“Be part of machine”

To be an engineer, one must feel the pressure, sense the temperature and depth. “Become part of the machine and undergo its stresses. You can do justice to your job only then,” he said speaking at the valedictory session of the three-day international conference on “Advances in Mechanical and Building Sciences in the 3rd Millennia” organised at the Vellore Institute of Technology here.

N. Janardhanan, Visiting Scientist, VSSC, spoke about his experience in bringing an inter-disciplinary approach to designing high precision onboard electronic equipment used in space missions.

Earlier, various guest speakers presented keynote addresses on topics ranging from nanotechnology to sustainable construction.

While Pradeep Haldar, Head of the Nanoengineering Constellation at the University at Albany in the U.S., spoke about effectively leveraging nanoscience in the field of energy and environmental engineering, E.L.C. Van, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, dealt with challenges the building sciences face in the present millennium of climate change and carbon footprints.

“There is a lot of focus on the transportation sector, but the construction industry is one of the greatest polluters in the world,” said Dr. Van. “It accounts for 50 per cent of the world’s material flows and static people inside buildings contribute to 40 per cent of all global greenhouse emissions.”

Calling for a paradigm shift in the way engineers looked at the world, she said, “We have to move towards a model where the interests of people, planet and profit are complementary.”

“Bricks haven’t stopped slums”

“Invention of bricks has not stopped the proliferation of slums. Currently technology exists only to meet the demands of a happy few,” she added.

That in many ways was the consensus by the end of the conference — the spirit of engineer is not confined to those sparks of innovation but extends to “developing a holistic idea of its outcomes,” as David Wells, Professor at the University of North Dakota, put it.

“Engineers mostly concentrate on a particular problem to the exclusion of the rest of the world. This has to change.”


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