October 14, 2022

Young Innovators' Program - How It Came to Be...

 

Manpreet Dash, Former General Secretary (2016-17), Branding and Relations Cell, IIT Kharagpur

Email: mdmanpreetdash@gmail.com

 

It all started in 2015. We were a bunch of passionate students of the newly formed “Branding and Relations Cell (BARC)”. Shivashish and Vyom had brought us together as a team and were our advisors. Rahul and I (Manpreet) were the General Secretaries, and Souvik, Debanjan, Sonal and Shubhangi were the Senior Coordinators. Our seniors mentored us, made our team stronger, and gave us the confidence and motivation to go do something big. We had our ultra-seniors, Atal – our then VP, and Anubhav, Keerthana, Subhadeep, and Vinit who was our all-time supporters and guiding lights whenever we faced any challenges. 

By early 2016, we had already built an extremely capable team from our junior batch with a vision to impart what we had gotten from our seniors and continue BARC’s activities. We aspired to do something bigger. We had regular meetings of brainstorming and constant thinking about ways in which we can help the Branding and Relations Cell make an impact in the institute and live up to its charter. One fine night in about August 2016, we came up with a mission to enable our younger friends in high schools with a knack and love for science, technology, or innovation to truly experience the spirit and essence of IIT Kharagpur. We wanted to call it the IIT Kharagpur Young Innovators’ Program (IITKGP YIP) and aspired to reach as many students as possible across the globe. Simran, Piyush, Aman, Swadha, and Vaibhav were key members in our junior batch and they showcased their prowess in executing some of our big projects – publishing in media, doing outreach, institute branding activities, students counseling, guest lectures, and conclaves. We then recruited a team of 40+ students from our junior classes, who could champion something as big as IIT KGP YIP in their regions and make it a success.

We sat nights together to brainstorm and come up with a proposal for the program. The then Associate Dean, Prof. Baidurya Bhattacharya, scrutinized and worked with us to ensure we delivered a proposal that was robust, implementable, and successful. I still imbibe upon what I learned from him those days and I cannot thank him enough for that. With a tight schedule, Prof. Baidurya Bhattacharya would be setting meetings for YIP with us at about 11 PM on some days. He would hear us, question us, and ultimately force us to think about how we can make our program robust and practical. Shreyoshi Ghosh, our then executive at the Office of Alumni Affairs and International Relations (AA & IR), would constantly help us formalize our proposal, pitch deck, and sponsorship letters, review the financial plans, contact alumni, and convince stakeholders and the administration. We worked on any idea that came to our minds on August 2016 for about 10 months, constantly being updated, deliberated and improved, and polished. It was finally approved by the institute administration in April 2017 and we were beyond ecstatic. It was a dream come true for us. We happily cried the day we got the nod - finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel!

We ran the program successfully in the following months, with a footprint of 1000+ students across more than 20 cities, and ultimately invited the finalists to our campus. To see that passion, that thrill, and that motivation to come up with fantastic solutions to some of the most complicated technical problems, and then discuss the same with IIT KGP faculty and get their feedback, was truly satisfying. Prof. Anandaroop Bhattacharya was centrally responsible and led the jurists of the final round of YIP. He said that the young kids exceeded his expectations by miles and I was thrilled! For me, it was the joy and hope in the eyes of those kids, explaining their ideas, why they picked that problem, and how it impacted them or their families or their friends, that made me realize what this program was truly capable of. YIP received special acclaim from the President of India and the Director of IIT Kharagpur in the convocation ceremonies, which gave us one more reason to be happy. All I wanted was for this program to continue every year and expand further. And, it did for the next few years that we were in college. And, it is still happening in 2022. And, we are mighty proud of it.

Well, to be honest, it was very hard to launch and execute the YIP. We, as a team, went through some of our toughest phases. We’ve fought hard, argued endlessly, laughed in joy and we’ve cried in sadness – but we were always together. This has been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster – but it did teach us all so many things for life – leadership, team, discipline, empathy, responsibility, and hunger. YIP was a team effort, and at every stage, a few of the team members demonstrated leadership and made sure what was needed was delivered. We may have had differing opinions, but we were united by one thing – we wanted the Young Innovators’ Program to happen and succeed. We wanted it to be our legacy and a part of IIT KGP’s history and future. 

I have been working on emerging and deep technology and innovation projects since 2017 and have never looked back since then. I am very proud to have done something significant to foster an innovation mindset in young children and give them a platform to showcase and grow, and ultimately contribute to IIT KGP being a proponent of motivating and supporting innovation-minded students. All the support that the Branding and Relations Cell got from the Office of AA & IR, Ms. Shreyoshi Ghosh in particular, and from our deans and associate deans Prof. Baidurya Bhattacharya, Prof. Anandaroop Bhattacharya, and Prof. Siddhartha Mukhopadhyay, and our then director Prof. Partha Pratim Chakraborty made YIP possible. I will be forever indebted to my alma mater IIT Kharagpur for giving me an opportunity and a platform to build, shape and launch the IIT Kharagpur Young Innovators’ Program and deeply impact young students globally.