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Learn by Doing
Story of role-model Dr S Solai Manohar
I enjoyed Maths in school. So, I joined B.Sc. Maths. I wanted to do a masters at TIFR later.
Fate saw otherwise. My father's friend had an engineering college. Between the two of them persuaded me to join engineering instead, a semester later.
I have a always out the practical application of things. For this engineering turned to be better too.
It took me 2 additional years in engineering to start understanding how electrical engineering could be practically applied. Once that happened, I began to enjoy my studies.
After graduation, I worked for a year, as testing and commissioning engineer, Here, the opportunity to understand the functioning of modern electrical switchyard equipments kindled my desire to do my Masters in Electrical Engineering.
I applied. Once selected - during those 2 years I also got an opportunity to teach.
My focus was on learning by doing and I would insist that my students dirty their hands too.
My professors saw me doing this and persuaded me to get into academics.
Initially I had planned to work in the industry but once I fell in love with teaching, I put those plans aside permanently.
What did not change was my insistence that we do not innovate into papers for the sake of doing so but to work on solving real problems. When I enrolled into a Ph D Program in 2003, I did that for my topic as well.
I had begun to teach in Anna University by then and my days were divided equally between labs and class-rooms.
I would insist my students take their labs super-seriously. 'Do a mathematical model, then a simulation and then the experiment - that is the way to make me happy!', I would say to my students often and again.
Some were reluctant to accept this rigour.
My rewards came from the likes of this student, who said, 'When I was doing my masters in the US Sir, your insistence on learning by doing, really helped me Sir!'
By 2009 my own PhD was over and teaching was a daily routine.
I began to guide aspiring PhD students and worked with 5 of them in my tenure at Anna University up to 2013.
My pre-condition was that the topic be such that something useful is accomplished out of it for the world around us.
One student came with a sensor to accurately measure the relative rotation of a steering wheel. He collaborated with a startup, for his Phd!
Another one set up a lab within the college to diagnose faults in induction motors.
I had a great learning experience at Anna University and moved to a private college in 2013.
Here also, I worked towards making engineering education more practice based.
Over the next 4 years, I urged my students to learn by doing.
For 2 successive years, my students won awards from National Instrument’s tech event and built a data logger for practical applications in dairy.
I also helped our students to receive grants from MSME for converting their Ideas to a minimum viable product.
I moved to CMRIT in ‘21 and soon after partnered with another startup to come up with an ESP32 board for experimenting IOT projects.
The 'Learning by Doing' continues.