ANI Photo | IIT Delhi faculty combines technology with art forms to offer holistic educational experience

In the pursuit of innovative pedagogy, a professor from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) at IIT Delhi has taken a step in transforming technical education by marrying technical papers with art forms.
Prof. R. Lakshmi Narayan from the DMSE experimented with his third-year undergraduate students by dividing them into six teams of six members each. Each team was required to read a technical paper from the journal Acta Materialia and explain it using art forms like plays, music, interpretative dance shows, memes, etc.
His recent initiative, combining art, technology, and soft skills, builds on a series of experiments aimed at infusing vitality into the traditionally perceived ‘research-heavy’ field of materials engineering.
“This unlocks a creative mindset more easily than routine training. I was amazed to see that each team produced a technically brilliant performance and developed songs as well. The added advantage of this is that these performances cannot be plagiarised or generated by chatGPT,” said Prof. R. Lakshmi Narayan, DMSE, IIT Delhi.
Importantly, these performances were made a part of the course curriculum and students were scored out of 20, which was then added to the grades for the course ‘Mechanical Behaviour of Materials’.
The main challenge in imparting technical education in fields like materials engineering is to sustain interest in academics. While the primary solution is to generate more jobs in the field, it also becomes important to create job creators. This, in turn, requires imagination, creativity and intuition. Recognising the challenge of sustaining interest in technical education, Prof. Narayan drew inspiration from the unique nature of materials science.
“Materials science is more than just equations and formulas; it involves understanding materials as if they have character, much like human beings. To convey this essence, I previously tasked my students with choosing any topic and performing based on it. The idea was to humanise materials and make the subject matter more relatable,” explained Prof. Narayan.
The latest experiment is a testament to the department’s commitment to offering students a holistic educational experience. In addition to Prof. Narayan’s endeavours, the department boasts a cadre of faculty members exploring diverse and innovative teaching methods.
Some faculty members encourage students to explore any topic of interest and perform, while others, like Prof. Nirat Ray, adopt a unique approach by asking students to prepare short pitches on materials. Similarly, Prof. Rajesh Prasad uses springs and balloons to introduce ideas on the deformation and failure of materials.
“The varied teaching methods within the department aim to break away from the stereotypical image of technical education. By embracing creativity, soft skills, and diverse perspectives, we are preparing our students not only to excel in their field but also to adapt and innovate in an ever-changing professional landscape. I would like to add here that six faculty members of the department have already been recognised by the teaching excellence awards of the Institute,” said Prof. Rajesh Prasad, HoD, DMSE, IIT Delhi.
The collaborative efforts of the faculty at the Institute’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering showcase a multifaceted approach to technical education, challenging conventional norms and fostering a culture of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking

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