There has been a phenomenal rise in the number of engineering colleges in India over the past decade or so. Most of these institutions offer undergraduate programs in Information Technology, Computer Science/Engineering, and Electronics and Communication, apart from the traditional engineering disciplines.
The increase in the number of available seats for engineering has not been matched by a parallel enhancement of efficient educational infrastructure and resources. A consequence of this situation is that students from many of these colleges find it difficult to fulfill basic requirements of their curriculum, such as the final year project. Also, a significant number of talented students, faculty and professionals are struggling with challenges of mastering the ever-changing technology.
Final year students in underdeveloped parts of the country often have little understanding of real life problems. Though talented, they lack experience and exposure, and their skills are often inadequate. They are capable of producing excellent work but lack able guidance. These students are like the 'Ekalavya' of Indian mythology who wished to hone his talent to perfection but did not have a 'Guru' to lead the way.
These were some of the findings of Prof. D. B. Phatak, Subrao Nilekani Chair Professor, of Department Of Computer Science & Engineering, IIT Bombay, who undertook a study of the state of Engineering education in the country during his sabbatical year in 2003-2004.
Prof. Phatak returned to IITB with dreams of a better educational order and facilities. Subsequent discussions with Institute colleagues and with Indian industry and academia brought out a larger and a more alarming dimension of the problem, that of knowledge dissemination to the future citizens of India. This aspect of the problem applies not only to engineering education in the country, but also to almost all disciplines. The brainstorming sessions led to the resolution that more innovative channels of knowledge dissipation were necessary to combat the problem, in addition to the existing traditional methods.
IIT Bombay has significant experience of providing assistance to needy students over several years. The Affordable Solutions Laboratory (ASL) in CSE has been offering such project guidance to final year students from colleges in the Mumbai region. The work done by ASL is primarily targeted for release in the Open Source. Encouraged by the response to this enterprise, and taking the legend of Ekalavya as inspiration, the ASL launched Project ekalavya on 26th Dec. 2004.
The ekalavya portal is an attempt to generate an interactive platform for the creation, absorption, dissemination and usage of knowledge for the well being of the individual and the society.
It is a significant step forward to bring together students, teachers, and working professionals to meaningfully enhance the productivity of the group and spread knowledge.
The ekalavya portal aims at a free exchange of knowledge and ideas, by placing all the relevant academic material in the Open Source, thus making considerable contribution to society.
It is envisaged that the ekalavya project will become an all-encompassing activity over the years, using IT effectively for education. It aspires to build large collaborative communities where seekers are matched by the givers.