Techfest 2012

The following article is based completely on audience/participant feedback.

Photo-credits: Sankalp Khandelwal, Syddharth Mate and Vikas Sharma

A) Lectures
Digital Media: The past, present and the future
Dr. Karlheinz Brandenburg
Reporter: Anubhav Mangal

Karlheinz Brandenburg, the director at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, was instrumental in the creation and subsequent popularization of the ‘.mp3’ and ‘.mpeg’ audio compression formats. His talk began by explaining the early days when digital audio compression was unheard of. He elucidated what the .mp3 format really meant and his journey (along with a colleague) as they strove to make it a popular means of audio compression for the general public. He elaborated on how their ideas were initially not embraced by the advent of CDs and how they were warned that they would effectively destroy the music industry. He then explored the future of entertainment and things we may look forward to such as home theatre systems that can play music depending upon our mood and the time of the day. He explained the difference between original and compressed audio using various ‘Listening Tests’ and how the two could be distinguished by ever so minuscule differences.These were met with much enthusiasm by the packed auditorium. Though a little technical, Mr.Brandenburg delivered a fairly engaging and informative lecture.

CSS3 and HTML5
Hakon Wium Lie
Reporter: Anubhav Mangal

Hakon Wium Lie, the CTO of the Norwegian firm Opera Software, is one of the pioneers for the concept of CSS(Cascading Style Sheets). He started off by explaining how the web came to be,  what the first web pages that used simple HTML looked like. He showed how the advent of CSS drastically changed the way web pages look, from what were initially just lines of text, to the beautiful web pages complete with menus, images and frames. He used simple demonstrations to display how CSS could be used to create complicated figures that would otherwise be very hard to replicate, and even if they were, would take up a lot more space and drastically reduce download speeds. He then introduced the newest changes in CSS and HTML, and the initiatives that are being taken today that will define the future. Fairly simple and straightforward, the lecture was pretty interesting and was well received by the crowd.

B) Technoholix
Reporters: Venktesh Pandey, Rohit Nijhawan

The concluding Techfest night welcomed one and all as a toast was raised one final time to the phenomenon that is technology. As Technoholix progressed, some of you might have noticed how the acts had transcended from the ‘geeky’ to something more ‘cultural’ every night. Though the first and second nights were a let-down only by the standards that Technoholix has set over the years, this one made up for all that with two highly energetic acts. The stage was skilfully used with the further half for the trampoline show and the nearer one for the drummers. The ‘Tramphouse’ act by the artists from Germany was the best received of all the Technoholix acts this time- their somersaults and swift bodywork engaging the crowd for the full 20 minutes it ran.After 3 days of absolute madness, this celebration of technology merited a final flurry. It deserved to end on a high. So came the winners of Denmark’s Got Talent, the Copenhagen Drummers. They aroused one and all with impeccable stick work and great coordination. Though it received widespread admiration, 38 minutes was a little too long for an act like this with an element of fatigue visible within the crowd towards the end. Their concluding act of performing the ‘Singham’ track was a treat for the audiences and exceptionally appreciated. Their ingenuity at using trash cans for drums  and experiment with water was a sight to behold and when they used their own bare hands, there was no doubt whatsoever as to why Techfest had waited its entire duration to unleash them on the crowd.

C) Exhibitions
Reporter: Rahul Pramod

Techfest’s biggest crowd puller- ‘Exhibitions’, once again saw queues extending as far as the gates of KV grounds. Management of crowds was again a concern, particularly staff members were denied special access and even the faculty and their families were made to wait a few times. Nevertheless, the quality exhibits ensured that the long wait in the queue was worth it.

Universities of Zurich, British Columbia, Adelaide and the Polytechnic University featured in the student quota of exhibits. Amongst these, the University of Adelaide product ‘Micycle’- a self balancing electric unicycle, and ‘Edward’- an electric di-cycle, consisting of two giant side-by-side wheels captured the attention of the crowd. The star of the show however was a dancing robot manufactured by a firm- Aldeberan. The robot could be programmed to do basic lab activities and has already become a part of the industry. The elegant and skilled dance moves it made ensured that the exhibit lived up to its pre-fest billing and the crowd enjoyed thoroughly, leaving with a wish  to see the wonderful sight of 100 bots dancing skilfully as seen in the pre-fest trailer. Apart from these, automated bots such as the ‘Line follower’ and a ‘Forward’ in soccer were also part of Exhibitions .

D) NCC Grounds:
Reporter: Rahul Pramod
Regal bikes were on display at the NCC grounds as bike lovers admired Royal Enfield and Ego models. A visualization of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece ‘Last Supper’ was displayed as a 3D model. Interfaced using a software known as ‘Karaima’, which was developed at UIC Chicago, this system is currently being prototyped near the present day location of the Milano Church.
It was a visual treat for all connoisseurs of  art to be able to get so close to such a masterpiece.

The much awaited crowd puller sport saw huge crowds yet again this year. Gaming Enthusiasts enjoyed thoroughly in spite of the shorter duration of play compared to last year.


Alankar Jain, Nivvedan S

The highlight of Day-2 was the Lecture Series. It started with a talk by Mr. Azhar Hussain, the founder of TTXGP, the e-GrandPrix. Though not very technical, the lecture was inspiring and motivating, describing the speaker’s struggle in forming his company and TTXGP, a zero-carbon, clean emission e-grand prix (1000 days old) that recently gained popularity and demonstrates that clean-emission technologies have matured.

This was followed by “Order or Disorder”, a lecture explaining the highly mathematical concept of entropy in layman’s terms by Dr. Mustansir Barma, the current director of TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research). He tried to bring home the point that disorder or entropy can be ‘good’ in some situations and can actually promote order. The audience response was satisfactory but could have been better had it not been for some equations and math that eventually came into picture.

Next was the highly anticipated lecture by physicist and author, Prof. David J Griffith (postponed from last year). There were numerous people standing in queues to catch a glimpse of the famous UG  electrodynamics Textbook author  but the Lecture Theatre sure wasn’t enough to accommodate all of them. Kudos to Prof. Griffith who took the lecture twice, back to back, just to cater to the huge audience. Picking up a topic as “bizarre” and “weird” (as he described it) as Quantum Mechanics and then completing it without any mathematical equations was no easy feat. With simple language and his unique style, Griffith provided novel examples to illustrate some concepts and ended the lecture with the age-old Schrodinger’s cat paradox and two questions which no physicist has the answers to! Certain audience members missed the presence of a Q and A session, which could not happen due to the lack of time.

Following Griffith’s lecture, was another highly awaited lecture by the 2009 Nobel Prize (Chemistry) winner, Venki Ramakrishnan, attended by a packed convocation hall. The topic of the lecture, “How antibiotics target the ribosome” was closely related to microbiology. One could wonder how apt it is to have such a lecture at IIT-B but with illustrative pictures and movies, Venki simplified the lecture to a large extent. The lecture moved from the history of antibiotics to the mechanism of protein synthesis in ribosomes and then ways in which antibiotics suppress protein synthesis in bacteria. Venki ended with a social concern of rational use of antibiotics and urged the students of IITs, calling them the “top 0.1% in the country” to make careers in research, and not use IITs as a stepping stone towards careers in the corporate sector. There were 2 major irritants in the lecture – bad sound quality and a badly lit stage, which hampered the audience’s view of the Nobel Laureate.

Day-2 Ozone involved the eliminations of The National Open Quiz. With a dynamic and enthusiastic quizmaster, Rohit Nair, the TNOQ was attended by a huge audience. Though the questions were on the easier side, probably to accommodate everyone from 9th class onwards, the overall response was very good. 5 teams were selected which will join 7 regional winners for semi-finals and finals, to be held on Day-3.

After the disappointment of day-1, day-2 Technoholix was a much better affair. Lichtfactor, Kagemu and Acro Angels, were all well received by the audience.  The Afternite boasted an entertaining show by David Lai, a mentalist and was attended by a packed LT. The lack of space meant very limited seats, leaving many people disappointed.


Alankar Jain, Rahul Pramod Goud

With the dawn of 6th January, commenced the eagerly awaited 3-day Techfest 2012 with a new mascot called ‘Blitz‘ and a new tagline – ‘Envision the Change’. Just like last year, this year too, TF was organised on the very first weekend of the new year.

Day-1 witnessed a packed SOM well cheering intermittently to the Robowars competition, one that has become a tradition over the years. Hard-core tech competitions such as Cricbot, Magneto, Wall-E, Indian Open of the International Robotics Challenge and competitions related to general sciences such as Hydranoid and Canyon Cross were also organised. This year saw Techfest extend its social, ecological and entrepreneurial dimensions through competitions like Social Buzz, Inspire India and Earth. For gaming and coding enthusiasts, there was Code’em poker. On the whole, competitions saw good participation from a number of colleges.

Fun games and sports like water zorbing, lazer tag, UV paintball, archery, rifle shooting, sumo suits and mechanical bull formed a large portion of Ozone, providing a second chance to everyone who missed out on some of these which were also a part of Mood Indigo 2011. Elimination stage of competitions such as Techfest’s Geekiest and Bluffmaster were also organised as a part of Ozone. The former included a written test of 30 questions based on general knowledge, logical reasoning, math puzzles, sudoku and calculus. The participation though, was low, and some also felt the 60 minutes given for the quiz were less. The first round of Bluffmaster eliminations was a 45-minute, 15 question test of logical and math puzzles, based on which 36 students were shortlisted, who then were divided into groups of 6 for the card game Bluff. Thus 6 finalists for the finals to be held on Day-2 were selected. Bluffmaster was well-organised and well-participated, though even the selected participants couldn’t help but wonder about the incongruity of a logical test-based elims for such a competition.

Day-1 Lecture Series included talks by psychologist and author Prof. Deirdre Barrett, Professor of Education Technology Sugata Mitra, INK on campus and author of the popular book ‘Fermat’s Last theorem’, Simon Singh, among others. All the lectures were well attended. The venue of the lectures were LT and Kresit, which almost always fell short of seats for audience.

Prof. Barrett’s was the very first lecture of Techfest 2012, attended by scores of people despite being early in the day. Lucid Dreaming- being able to dream what you want, is an exciting and intriguing idea, but the lecture itself garnered lukewarm response from the audience. A workshop about lucid dreaming was also organised.

On the other hand, Prof. Sugata Mitra’s lecture was widely appreciated. He narrated the story of the “Hole in the Wall” experiment conducted by him, in which he had installed a PC in a wall on a street in Delhi and after some days, even 8-12 year olds were accessing the system easily and learnt English. Through various further experiments, he concluded that children when left in groups and with enough technical access can learn and understand stuff on their own, even without the support of an intellectually superior person.

INK on campus had an element of surprise. And so expectedly, it started with explaining what INK stood for – Intelligence and Knowledge. The talk was given by 5 innovators, all from different fields and underlined the importance of ideas and their role in creating a better future.

Simon Singh, author of books exploring mathematical and scientific topics, gave a talk on Fermat’s Last theorem, its history and the attempts that have been made to prove it and again. The lecture lived up to the audience expectations.

Nostalgia returned to Technoholix with the “Dream On” track and huge crowds cheering, but as it turned out, most of them were left disappointed towards the end. 3-D projection mapping, tried in previous editions of TF failed to impress this year too, resulting in a rare sight of audience booing TF. Apex Parkour, the acrobat team from UK, fared better, but eventually became repetitive. The show lasted for a total of 40 minutes, not proving its worth in terms of the long wait in the badly managed queues outside SAC.

Pep Bou’s brilliant bubble show as a part of Afternite kept the convocation hall captivated and was a redeeming factor.