Synthesis, not analysis, is the future

Prof. Sanjay Dhande, former Director of IIT Kanpur and the Founder-Director of the Mahindra Ecole Centrale, speaks to BINCY MATHEW about training engineers in a holistic manner.

August 01, 2015 05:45 pm | Updated March 29, 2016 12:32 pm IST

Photo:P.V.Sivakumar

Photo:P.V.Sivakumar

Please tell us about the vision of the Mahindra Ecole Centrale College of Engineering?

At MEC, “Our Vision is to train engineers, both men and women, to be entrepreneurial and innovative as well as technically trained, so that they are capable of meeting the greatest challenges of their era, globally.”

We firmly believe that the future of engineering is not simply in analysis, the future is in synthesis. The engineers of today have to be creative. A simple mathematical or physics input requires analysis and now that the sector is moving away from pure mechanics, we require more rounded engineers. We call them the “new Engineers” — those who are equipped with not just analytical skills but those who also know how to look at a problem holistically and come up with creative workable solutions. When you synthesise something you require a creative mind. At MEC, our focus is on a unique pedagogical model, which is a blend of Fundamental Sciences, Engineering Science, Social and Human Sciences. At MEC, the emphasis is on a 360-degree education.

How was the curriculum designed for various courses? Could you comment on the collaboration with École Centrale Paris and its engagement with the college?

MEC uses an interdisciplinary model of education that trains three dimensional engineers: high level scientific and technical generalists, experts in initiating and piloting innovative projects, and well-rounded experts with a strong international culture. The curriculum incorporates the latest in engineering based on global needs and has a strong “soft-skills” development focus. MEC’s ambition is to develop engineering graduates into leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. To ensure that the students are more equipped to handle the needs of the future, MEC focuses on an integrated curriculum that ensures that the student is privy to the best practices, learns through “doing” and has the best of the industry to mentor him. In addition, we focus on opening up or broadening their horizons by ensuring that they learn before they enter the classroom. Our education delivery is more interaction-oriented and less discourse- oriented. We aim at providing the students with a basic knowledge of the scientific-technological-social-business environment they are going to work in as practitioners. We provide our students with methods and skills that they need for working as global engineers: analytical, critical, design thinking, experimental approaches, project management and communication skills. The coming together of Mahindra Group and Ecole Centrale saw the creation of Mahindra Ecole Centrale, an Indo-French Engineering School.

Could you comment on the faculty, infrastructure and other facilities available? Also, research seems to be a strong focus…

MEC is a high-tech facility replete with most advanced scientific infrastructure, spread over a campus of around 126 acres, which also houses Tech Mahindra. It is set in a predominantly green campus with state-of-the-art infrastructure. MEC’s faculty is a mix of accomplished Indian and international academicians, all Ph.Ds with a high degree of emphasis on research. We also attract a steady stream of international visiting faculty from Ecole Centrale and other partner institutions.

What about the industry-college interface with respect to MEC?

MEC is a unique coming together of the industry and academia. The MEC campus is situated adjacent to the Tech Mahindra Centre which enables interaction with working professionals and ensures that students have a much better understanding of the latest that is on offer. From the second year onwards, the students will work on live projects with the industry and this will help them understand the workings of a formal work atmosphere as well as get a better learning atmosphere. In addition, at MEC we focus on continuous mentorship with not only Mahindra Group, but also with other leading names in the industry, who are leaders in their own right. The senior management of Tech Mahindra are regular visitors to the campus and hold talks, seminars as well as smaller group interactions with students.

There seems to be strong focus on subjects from the social sciences and the humanities. How these subjects were designed to contribute to a holistic education for students?

Our curriculum has been designed keeping in mind the ground realities. We enumerated the most important ingredients for the new engineer and found that these were analytical skills, effective communication and creative thinking. Additionally, we need to develop the leadership potential of our engineers and encourage them to ‘patent and prosper’ not ‘publish and perish’. To ensure that the students are more equipped to handle the needs of the future, MEC focuses on an integrated curriculum that ensures that the student is privy to the best practices, learns through “doing” and has the best of the industry to mentor him. In addition, we focus on opening up or broadening their horizons by ensuring that they learn before they enter the classroom. Our education delivery is more interaction- oriented and less discourse-oriented. Our blended curriculum with around 14 per cent of the course focused on humanities and creative sciences will go a long way in addressing the issues of “social and communication skills” and will help the students develop a more “whole-brained” approach to engineering.

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