NAGPUR: More than ten lakh final year engineering students across the country come up with innovative projects and at least half that number from healthcare and pharmacy colleges as well. However, most of these projects remain on paper despite their huge commercial and social prospects.

This is what prompted Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad’s professor Anil Gupta to come up with the idea of assimilating all these projects and ideas on a virtual platform. Thus was born Techpedia, an open source portal much like the one it gets its name from, where anybody can put up information, edit it or even ask for help on some problem. The site, in fact, lists various problems from fields as diverse as agriculture and hotel management to which anybody can post a solution. The portal, that has been active since 2008, was presented to the engineers from NITs at the NIT conclave being hosted by the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) in city. 

Speaking to the students through video chat, Gupta expressed a desire to improve the society through engineering. He also stressed that these students could help spread education and knowledge to the underprivileged children in vernacular languages to help them come up with their own innovations.

Hiranmaya Mahantha, a former student of NIT Surat who played a key role in building Techpedia, calls the portal as a national laboratory that uses the students for social transformation and forms clusters of innovators. “A majority of the one lakh projects posted on the site are contributed by students from IITs and NITs. However, even students who cannot afford to or cannot get into these colleges have benefitted from the portal,” he said.

The technical universities of states like Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra also support theforum, having sent circulars to their respective colleges to list the projects that their students work on on the website.

Giving examples of how the site can be useful, Techpedia co-ordinator Yash Saxena said, “most Indian farmers have small land holdings and so cannot afford to use tractors. In 1994, an innovator built a bullock-based tractor to solve this problem. For 18 years now, there has been no improvement on the design and capacity of its engine. Another person from Biharcame up with the idea of improving the pressure cooker to use as an espresso machine. These innovations have only been known in the areas they were developed, though popularizing them would benefit millions of farmers and tea sellers.” This bridge between innovations and its popularization is filled by Techpedia, he said. It also opens the city-bred youngsters to the problems being faced by the rural and poor people of the country, he said.

The site also allows people to pose a new problems that the members can rack their brains to solve. Several companies have sought help of the young engineers for their unique problems.No doubt, then, that professor Gupta calls Techpedia “a breeding ground for generating ideas of future”.