Picture this: Nepal produces engineering graduates in droves every year on curriculum and structure that needs serious upgrades. Sometimes it takes a group of young visionaries spurred by a collective vision of fast-forwarding the ecosystem and promoting activities that bring the world to our doorsteps. One such engineer, who decided to take bolder steps forward with a team of dreamers and doers is Bikash Gurung, President at Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN).
“Engineers in Nepal don’t look at themselves as engineers. The world demands innovation and problem-solvers. These fresh graduates are forced to measure themselves against these high expectations and find themselves easily demotivated.” Bikash Gurung certainly doesn’t mince words as he starts with this. A four-year degree in a subject is supposed to validate what one has learned. Yet, the graduates are inclined to feel as though they have not been prepped enough and lack the confidence to proudly present their Er. status.
“Society respects professions like doctors and engineers but the engineering graduates, don’t seem to respect themselves as engineers.”
With RAN, Gurung draws focus to the root of engineering: learning to orient oneself with a problem and harnessing one’s skillset. Under the umbrella of Yantra 8.0, RAN has launched ‘Yantra Learning’ which is a machine learning competition as well as a ‘Robo Business Cup” which is a robotics-based business pitching competition.
The goal is to create an environment where problem-solving mindsets are nourished and encouraged.
“The goal is to create an environment where problem-solving mindsets are nourished and encouraged. Secondly, we also attempt to transfer relevant skill sets.” To accomplish this, RAN brings machine learning experts to mentor the participants. It’s a push-pull method where the mentors try to push these young minds to realize their skillsets while they pull themselves towards a solution. In a way, they are transferring this skillset where the graduates can feel empowered and truly believe in their own potential.
“Back in 2010, when we first started,” Gurung explains, “We understood that robotics needed a support system. This is why we started organizing workshops and events. We found that people were drawn to our workshops because they were searching for this relevancy which was missing in the education system.” Their events were an attempt to fulfill the academia-industry gap and not only targeted students of engineering but also management students and entrepreneurs alike. Besides, promising individuals and teams are picked up from the local level and given international exposure – case in point: last year, the winning team from Yantra was sent to the International Robot Olympics.
It is not just the students and graduates that RAN intends to encourage. It is also both the private sector and the government. “We are trying to make them realize that Nepali youth are capable and have proved their mettle at national and international platforms. He time is right to make investments in developing the ecosystem around what RAN is envisioning.
The mission is to create a robotics industry in Nepal. “There is a lack of understanding,” Gurung shrugs, “We need to look at the future from a multi-dimensional perspective. The basic infrastructures need to be developed right now so that we can reap the benefits in the future as the world evolves with it.” Speaking of the future, he talks about his goals in teaching the concepts of coding, electronics and more to students at the school level.
“The children of today need myriad exposures that challenge their capacities and resourcefulness. Basic is passé. We need to teach kids how to build solutions. This is the generation that will be building our future so we need to make them capable right from the start.”
Not just kids, but the vision also includes breaking the stereotype for females in the robotics industry. Miss Tech has been created with the powerful thought that technical talents should be given just as much priority as beauty pageants.
This strong vision is powered by a whole array of events that RAN boasts of. Whether it is the Robo Business Cup or Miss Tech, Manual Akhada or Machine Learning competitions, Gurung and his team alongside industry collaborators are ready to lead the path for a comprehensive ecosystem that will leapfrog thinking and growth.
According to the President, RAN is open to individuals and organizations that are keen on learning and collaborations. “It is very easy to come to us. If somebody wants to do their research, we will provide them with requisite infrastructure and mentors.” RAN’s effort is to fuel the fire that has already pivoted thinking among the youth. This passion to see a world of robotics and enthusiastic learners grow hand-in-hand, to make a Nepal a hub of specialized technology between the two Asian lions is what makes RAN as well as Yantra 8.0 the one-of-a-kind celebration of learning and growing that it is.
Yantra 8.0 is ongoing until February 5.
Registration for Miss tech is open till February 15.