MUMBAI: The 58th convocation at IIT-Bombay on Sunday was all ceremonial. A stage was set and the convocation procession of the 58 senate members took place. They then participated in the two-hour ceremony sitting next to each other without face masks, seemingly violating the social-distancing norms amid the pandemic.
Albeit all this happened in virtual reality. Even professor Duncan Haldane, co-recipient of the 2016 Nobel prize for physics who was the chief guest, and Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of Blackstone who was the guest of honour, participated in the event “virtually”. Schwarzman said “of the 72 Indian-origin engineers who have founded unicorns across the world, 50% are IIT alumni”.
For students, IIT-B went a step ahead to virtually connect them with friends and organised viewing of hostel videos—a night before the institute’s first ever ‘virtual’ convocation.
Right from the virtual avatars of graduating students getting their medals and degrees, to the procession and the ceremony was put together by a team of around 20 people over two months. Interestingly, post convocation, IIT-B sent a link to all students, where they could access the campus’ map, walk through their departments and loiter in the corridors.
“A web application automatically connected us to people (their 2D cartoons) who were in close proximity on the map, through video calls. On Saturday, we were given access to our hostels’ maps, and on Sunday evening, we could virtually roam on the campus and video chat with friends and faculty. I may have connected to more than 50 people through video calls,” said Sahil Shah from the computer science and engineering department. Shah was the recipient of the ‘President of India’ medal for his exemplary performance.
P Sunthar, co-convenor of the ceremony, said the most difficult part was to put together the scene where the entire delegation of 58 members had to sit or stand together for the national anthem. “The individual videos were shot with professors over five days and then they were put together to give that collective representation… Each professor was called separately and was asked to walk to the dais and then take their positions on stage. All Covid norms were strictly followed,” he said.
IIT-B director Subhasis Chaudhari said the team managed it so well that they got messages from people asking why social-distancing norms were violated.
IIT-B saw a rise in the numbers of patents filed and granted this year. The number of Ph D students went up too, indicating that research is on the rise.