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Pragyan Tech Fest, NIT Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India, March 2017

I was invited to give a talk at the 'Pragyan' festival, which is a student-run science and technology festival at the National Institute of Technology in Tiruchirappalli (usually 'Trichy', thankfully). This was a three-day event with a bunch of fantastic speakers (one Nobel chemist, a medival linguist, a global warming scientist, an Indian Mars mission director...), as well as dozens of competitions and exhibitions. Everything is student-run -- they recruit speakers, ask corporate sponsors for donation, do publicity, and drive people around. Trichy is in the heart of S. India -- state of Tamil Nadu. The students are progressive and sweet and hard-working, and I loved coming down there for the weekend to be with them. And thank you Heidi for taking care of the kids so I could be gone one more weekend!

NB: These are all iPhone photos since I accidentally left my big Nikon at the security checkpoint when leaving Mumbai! But sure enough, I e-mailed the aiport lost & found when I was on the trip, and it was waiting for me when I came back.

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A small fraction of the group that puts on this festival every year. There are about 600 total students involved in putting on the festival -- this is just a few I worked with.
Check out that lineup of speakers! I flew at the end of the first day, so I sadly missed the talk by linguist David Peterson -- students loved him and I heard a ton about it.
I gave a talk on New Horizons.
Check out that Pluto! Photo by the NIT photo club ('Pixelbug').
Talking New Horizons! Photo by the NIT photo club.
Standing-room for New Horizons!
After my New Horizons talk, with some of the organizers.
There were many competitions and contests. Here's one Rube Goldberg machine.
Food court at night!
The crowd waiting for Berkeley physics prof Richard Muller to sign a poster. He gave a great talk ranging from global warming, to the nature of time.
As I walked past, I heard someone else asking my question: What happens here? Answer: no one knows.
I talked for most of an hour with the astronomy club at NIT. It's a terrific group -- nice people, and they peppered me with questions that I had to work hard to answer.
This guy (Raj, I think) is an insane drone pilot. I first saw him flying an obstacle course inside. "Oh, that was nothing compared to the FPV flying. Come outside and I'll show you." He built the drone himself (as do many members of the aero modeling club), and flies six batteries a day to keep in shape. That drone there is crazy fast, and he had it going all over campus... well out of view, though visible to him through a link on his headset.
And he's initializing that drone for some FPV flying...
Aero Modeling club at NIT. They build their own drones and fixed-wing planes, and fly them. Totally amazing...NB: overall gender ratio at NIT is around 5:1. Mechanical engineering is 120:0. Other departments, like CS and Metallurgy, are much better balanced.
A short break -- speed competition to build a flip-flop.
Wow! Check it out - that's Dr. Nandini Harinath, ISRO's Deputy Director of Operations for the Mars Orbiter Mission. Super amazing project and she gave a great talk, which was hugely popular.
Touring one of the local temples with Pranav and Reshma.
This area is just known as 'The Big Temple'... for obvious reasons. It's in Thanjavur, just outside of Trichy. ..And get this: the whole thing was built in the year 1010 (just took five years). Those top blocks are 10 tons a piece. How did they get up there? The tower was apparently built by constructing a spiral scaffolding, and coaxing elephants to walk up to the top, hauling blocks.
Common in India but rarely seen in the US: drinking water stations often come with a cup! (And Indians have a well-practiced technique of drinking from cups and bottles without making any contact -- hold it high and aim well.)
I will never tire of staring at airport destination displays! This one is in Chennai, and that script is Tamil.


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Henry Throop

Last modified Fri Mar 10 23:28:58 2017