How Next Tech Lab of SRM AP University is enabling innovation for students



How Next Tech Lab of SRM AP University is enabling innovation for students

What is common to the following- Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Biology, Electrical Systems, Cryptocurrency (leveraging blockchain technology and cryptography), Internet of things (IOT), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Other than they being cutting edge technologies and/or tech applications, what is common across them is that those are some of the areas that students of SRM University-AP work on as part of the Next Tech Lab that is present in the university.

What is Next Tech Lab?

Next Tech Lab is a first-of-its-kind, student-run, multi-disciplinary lab by SRM University. SRM offers a rich selection of  graduate and undergraduate programmes in Engineering, Liberal Arts and Business Management.It is housed at two locations: SRM University- AP and SRM IST. The NextTechlab has a board of advisors that includes professors and researchers from academia and industry. The organisations they have been part of include MIT, Google, Cambridge University, Harvard University etc.

The Next Tech Lab was first started at the SRM University in the town of Kattankulathur, in the Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu, close to Chennai and it has proven itself to be a very successful student-led innovation.

A feather in the cap of SRM University was when Next Tech Lab became the only organisation from India to participate in and win the QS Reimagine Education 2018 award for its work in pioneering the student-led innovation lab model in India. This prestigious award was presented to the student founders of Next Tech Lab by Nunzio Quacquarelli at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School.

How is Next Tech Lab different from labs present in other colleges in India?

The other interesting aspect of Next Tech Lab is that it is a student led initiative and has no faculty in charge of it. It is heartening to see students take the lead in exploring these technologies of the future by working on prototypes that use these bleeding edge technologies.

The Next Tech Lab also allows students to work on projects that use multiple technologies thus mimicking how technology is used in the real world, as opposed to theoretical experience that is usually limited to one technological discipline only,e.g.- a college course will only focus on machine learning (ML) so that the student understands the fundamentals of machine learning, but may not allow a student to work on, say, a crypto application that uses ML to detect fraud. Next Tech Lab is able to bridge that gap between only theoretical knowledge and practical work experience.

How did Next Tech Lab come into existence?

Some students from SRM University had gone to the USA for their internship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. While at MIT, Anshuman Pandey and Adithya Ramakrishnan were very intrigued by the deep research culture followed there by the students. They were inspired by a conversation with Ghanaian diplomat and former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan about his hope for a reverse braindrain for developing countries. A few months later, Anshuman and Adithya penned down the initial concept of Next Tech Lab for the Indian academic environment.

What are some of the activities that students at Next Tech Lab have participated in?

Students who are a part of the Next Tech Lab in SRM University-AP have participated in numerous hackathons and research activities. Students from SRM University have also won hackathons (best way to showcase your tech and coding credentials), have published an article in top journals, prototyped interesting ideas and receiving guidance and various validations from the top professors in the world.

Next Tech Lab encourages students to participate in conferences and technical seminars around the world. Here are some of the past conferences and seminars that SRM University students participated in:

Student Members from Next Tech Lab’s Pauch, Extended Reality Lab attended the India HCI 2019 Conference held at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad on the 3rd & 4th of November 2019. The student’s projects were shown under the category of ‘Late Breaking Work’at the prestigious conference.

In May 2019, SRM University student and Next Tech Lab member,Aakanksha Chouhan, gave atalk at the PyCon Italia conference in Florence, Italy.

In March 2019, student members of the Next Tech Labhad been invited to participate in the 'TensorFlowDevSummit' at Google, USA. This two day conference had technical discussions, product demos, and deep conversations with the TensorFlow team and extended community.

Student members interacted with Mr Rajat Monga, who is the Director of TensorFlow, Mr François Cholletthe Creator of Keras and Mr Jeremy Howard, Founder at fast.ai among many other highly distinguished experts.

The Next Tech Lab at the SRM AP University provides an extensive platform for students of technology to deeply learn and widely research their ideas. If the ideas are found feasible, then the students can also implement them and gain practical experience that helps them in their technical careers or their further studiesin their chosen technical fields.

Author Bio:

I am Surbhi, in my twenties and based in Hyderabad, India, with interests across industries. Writing for me, I believe, relieves stress, helps me concentrate better, and let me reinvent myself. Over the past decade, I have written for big publications such as ElephantJournal, yoganonymous, SiteProNews, Jewellerista etc. Since completing my higher education, I am exploring more in business-related topics of start-ups. Diversity across various categories helps broadens my vision and make me learn more about my writing.