Then I have a course to recommend.
Real-life problems are often not domain specific. Every problem has a different dimension to it and needs to be analysed in totality while engaging with all the possible stakeholders. We often see technology failing at the ground level, and some technology makes a remarkable success. We have to analyse every phase of its development, whether it has failed in designing, fabricating, implementing or at the usage stage. We have to see the interaction of the technology with the user or society. Sometimes, we see that technology is designed and deployed for solving a problem, but it ends with another societal problem which was not thought of in the development phase. For example, the use of ultrasound for gender determination.
We are facing severe problems as a society and global community, and people are looking at engineers to bring about solutions as we were the ones who probably created the problem in the first place. Global Warming, pollution etc. are some of the biggest threats to our planet and how can we combat these challenges for a better future? We should be able to analyse all these factors/impacts to make an informed and well-studied choice while proposing a solution.
We could narrow down the problems and look at the lowest possible administrative body of a country (In India, it is a Gram Panchayat) and try to analyse the issues at this level. We could probably be able to solve the problems from their roots and showcase some models of an ideal society. The most common issues faced by the people, in general, is about their basic needs such as water, electricity, education, health, and justice.
One’s work as an engineer should be focusing on the issues which matter to the society the most and solving these issues are not as simple as they may appear. We should have proper training and tools to start with. We need specific resources to transform from an “engineer” to a “sensitive engineer” or a “developmental engineer”. I want to introduce you to a course which is doing exactly that.
A Masters course, M. Tech in “Technology and Development” offered by the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) is an interdisciplinary course for two years. This is structured in such a way that a fresh graduate can join this program and learn all those tools and go through a rigorous training to become a “developmental professional”. The master’s degree programme is divided into three parts.
The 1st year of the M.Tech is all about the courses from various sectors where you learn about water management, energy resource utilisation, soil and agriculture, development theories, public policy, research methods, and statistics. You also learn some technique and tools in these courses which come handy when you go to the field and analyse a real-life situation. The courses are coupled with compulsory field visits to see on the ground what you studied in the classroom. Here you get the opportunity to meet and interact with the people who have been working in the field for years, and you get the first-hand experience of “technology relation with people”. You meet people from NGOs, social enterprises, industries and civil society representatives (MLA, MLC etc.)
The 2nd part of the M.Tech is 2-month structured rural field stay. After completion of 1st year (2nd semester) and before starting the 2nd year (3rd semester), the student has to stay in a village for two months with the villagers. This is the highlight of the M.Tech course where you also carry out your study.
The goal of the stay is to understand the functioning of a village and working of Gram Panchayat and its various bodies.
Components of the stay:
a) Village Level Analysis includes a study of the Village Profile, Livelihoods, Demographics, Natural Resources, Roads and Public Transport, Food Security, Water Resources, Education, Water Supply, Public Health, Sanitation and MSW, Public Infrastructure, Energy, Committees, Agriculture, Financials etc.
b) Household Level Analysis: Household Information, Residential and General Information, Water and Sanitation, Household Health, Livelihood, Household Amenities, Migration etc.
c) Scheme Analysis Detail analyses any two govt. schemes running in the village.
d) Directed Research Projects: The students work on two live projects on the issues being faced by the villagers.
The third part of the course starts when the student comes back after the two months of rural field stay. Now, the student has to choose the masters project which is typically divided into two semesters. The master’s project is the opportunity where you could choose or propose projects from any area and choose a real-life problem to work on. This is where you get the chance to integrate your parent academic background (e.g. Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engg, Chemical Engg etc.) with your learning from this programme. You will have the liberty to switch to another area and learn new things. E.g. a mechanical engineer doing a project will have the opportunity to design a water and sanitation policy etc. Masters projects involve a critical thinking and the skill to analyse a problem from all possible aspects. It is possible that you could work on making a policy, making a product, process improvement and evaluation of a govt. scheme etc. as your M. Tech project.
After completion of the master’s project, you get the degree of M.Tech in Technology and Development.
This is not the end of the story. Now, your journey starts as a ‘developmental professional’.
Find out more about the course here. Stay happy and be the reason for someone’s smile 🙂
Hitesh Mahawar is an M.Tech student at Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), IIT Bombay and Project Research Assistant, Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG), IIT Bombay.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.