Aurora’23-ISTE Techweek

Advanced 3D Printing Workshop
Shivani Seshadri Iyer | Staff Writer

Imagine a sci-fi movie where a herb that isn’t produced in nature is designed by technology and is 3D printed. Scriptwriters would be at a loss for words if they discover that the technology they envisioned to satisfy the imaginations of fanatics exists in real life. This was a two-day Advanced 3D Printing Workshop by IE Mechatronics in collaboration with ISTE. In 3D Printing, objects are designed on software such as Fusion 360 and Solidbox and a real-life 3D replica was printed. Such processes are additive and are added layer by layer.

Siddhant Sinha, the President of IE Mechatronics, said they would be briefing participants on parameters required while 3D Printing an object. He hoped that it would be a memorable event, a significant interaction and experience for the participants since most of them are first and second-year engineering students and don’t have much experience handling 3D printers. At the end of the workshop, each of the participants got a souvenir with the club’s logo.

The organisers started by laying the grounding for their citadel—the definition and history of 3D Printing. Different technologies in 3D Printing were also discussed, such as Fused Deposit Moulding, where a filament is heated and moulded into a 3D shape, SLS (metal powder fuses due to heat), and SLA (resin is treated with UV light, and it hardens). Applications of 3D Printing in the automobile and biomedical industries, prototyping, et cetera, were elaborated on in detail. The upper hand to using a 3D printer is that it allows one to create 3D designs, which is cost-effective, and certain raw materials can be 3D printed, among other things. Parts of a 3D printer, such as nozzle, controller board, filament, feeder board, et cetera, were shown in pictures, and their locations were shown on the printer for participants to get a practical approach.

After the presentation and discussion on the 3D printer, they designed a keychain on a 3D printing software called Ultimaker Cura. Later, 18 participants were divided into teams of two and were taken to see the printer, which had keychains kept for Printing. Slides of a 3D print farm were shown in pictures. Videos were shown on 3D Printing, followed by a Q&A session. After the workshop, every participant had a 3D-printed keychain and ISTE goodies to take home. The workshop had something to give and something to take.

Arvind Sasikumar Talk
Prakhar Dwivedi | Staff Writer

Arvind Sasikumar, an MIT alumnus, recently visited Manipal for an event organised by ISTE and E-Cell in collaboration. This event was organised to expand the thought of entrepreneurship among the students of MIT. Later, he started as a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft (Redmond, Washington, United States). After some time, he quit his job and started his own company QUINN.

QUINN is a private company that has been in the industry for some years now. The company has a B2B model, it offers a platform where businesses can post their product videos, reviews, and many more, and visitors can shop from the application, enabling clients with analytics from conversions to engagement and helping to grow their revenue. Arvind Sir spoke about his journey through college, the struggles he had been through, and then about the dream job everyone wishes for, but not being happy and then turning onto a completely different road.

Quinn wasn’t easy to start up like every other new business. It took him eight months to determine what should be done to get the thing on the right track. And now it’s a well-growing business. His talk mainly focused on forming his company and making its place in the market. He mentioned some distinctive qualities for making your business solid in the market and how risk-taking ability plays a vital role in everybody’s life. He specifically said the importance of backing the pricing of your products as the market would accept if your product is valuable, and you should not be afraid to price it accordingly.
In short, a great talk with a lot of informative knowledge was given by Arvind sir.

Aurora CTF
Krrish Manchanda | Staff Writer

MIST organised an entry-level CTF in collaboration with ISTE and BugBase to introduce new players to CTF. There were a total of 60 participations, and at the end, 3 cash prize winners were declared. The event saw progressively increasing levels of questions which were released in a period of twenty-four hours with some delay in between to keep everyone on their feet. The event was hosted on the official website of BugBase.

Blender 3D Workshop
Prakhar Dwivedi | Staff Writer

Blender is software used to model 3D objects, which has various applications in engineering, from modelling components for 3D Printing to making characters for video games. The blender workshop hosted by ISTE was a very detailed and hands-on guide for rookies to get into a blender to figure out the various components making it easier for them to delve deeper into the software and its endless applications.

The instructor made sure all the participants could implement whatever he was teaching and was very competent in his knowledge to resolve all the arising doubts the participants had. By modelling simple objects like a bed and a pillow, the instructor tapped into a lot of features of Blender. The participants also seemed to have a fun and enriching experience.

A participant working with Blender.

Cad Modelling Workshop
Ayn Shahabal | Staff Writer

IE Mechanical held a two-day workshop on the basics of CAD Designing. The workshop aimed to provide participants with a firsthand experience of working on Fusion 360, a popular computer-aided design (CAD) software. The workshop was hosted in NLH and was attended by 12 participants. The workshop began with an introduction to CAD Designing and its importance in the engineering industry.

The participants were given a brief overview of Fusion 360, its interface, and its tools. The participants then had the opportunity to follow along with a step-by-step tutorial on designing a simple part using the software. They were guided throughout the tutorial and answered any questions they had. On the second day, the participants were given a more challenging part to design, and they were encouraged to use their creativity to design a unique and functional part. They were also given tips on how to design efficiently and effectively and shared some design best practices. The participants also learned how to animate their models using Fusion 360’s animation tools.

A live demonstration was held on how to create a simple animation, and then the participants were given time to create their own animations. Overall, the workshop was successful, and the participants gained valuable experience and knowledge in CAD designing.

Capture the Flag Workshop
Deepali Vengaka | Staff Writer

A workshop was held on the 12th of February at NLH in collaboration with MIST to introduce the attendees to Bandit and Capture The Flags. Bandit is a Linux-based command line game that orients players to the basics of playing other wargames. MIST helped people better understand command tools and use their acquired knowledge to play Capture the flags. They played a few levels together, followed by a few basic questions and moved on to PicoCTF.

PicoCTF is a program built on the Capture the flagging framework created by security experts at Carnegie Mellon University. It gives access to its users to think creatively and critically to solve challenges. With PicoCTF, participants were guided about the different domains and taught how to get about a CTF. Attendees had writeups for future reference, and the process of finding answers
was discussed. Everyone who attended the workshop was asked to carry their laptops because all the activities were hands-on.

Overall the event was a massive success, with over 60 excited participants who had a great time.

The participants of the Capture the Flag workshop organised by MIST and ISTE.

CSS Frameworks Workshop
Saranga KrishnaStaff Writer

CSS frameworks are pre-made collections of code that help developers style websites quickly and easily. They offer pre-designed styles for typography, buttons, forms, navigation menus, and more, allowing developers to quickly create attractive and responsive layouts without having to start from scratch.

Some popular CSS frameworks include Bootstrap, Foundation, Bulma, Materialize, and TailwindCSS, among others. These frameworks typically come with various customisation options, and many offer additional JavaScript functionality to enhance user interactivity and functionality.

The workshop conducted as a part of Aurora tech week left the participants with knowledge of how to use, implement and take full advantage of CSS frameworks such as bootstrap and tailwind to design a unique website that stands out from websites that are designed using raw CSS and are easier to maintain and update.

“The entire workshop went smoothly. The crowd was very interactive, and it was fun teaching them. Many of them could complete the hands-on projects, and they looked very professional. The participants were delighted after the workshop and appreciated our efforts”. Says Prateek Anand, an organiser of the event.

This workshop was where every web designer found ways to turn their absurd, creative and intricate thoughts into reality and design an ‘original’ and a functional website.

A still from the CSS Frameworks workshop.

Dev Sprint
Yahsya Garg | Staff Writer

Hackathons have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for developers and tech enthusiasts to come together and collaborate on innovative projects. One such event, the “Dev Sprint” web development hackathon, brought together participants from all over MIT to create exciting web-based solutions. This event provided a unique opportunity for developers to showcase their skills. Whether you are a seasoned developer or simply interested in the world of tech, the Dev Sprint hackathon provided a fascinating glimpse into the world of web development and innovation.

Dev Sprint was organised by ISTE with a prize pool of 10,000 Rupees awarded to the top three teams. There were two rounds in total. In the first round, teams had to replicate an image-based website within two hours. The top ten teams were moved into the second round, which was eight hours long. The second round was a little more challenging, with teams being required to create their own websites using the problem statements provided.

The event was extremely well organised, with a large number of volunteers on hand to assist with any queries. Each participating team got a goodie bag which added to the overall excitement and enthusiasm of the event. The experience was exciting and educational, complete with an adrenaline-filled environment. The hackathon was won by team SRTJ followed by team Sentinels in second spot and Last Minute Squad in third place. However, the true winners of the event were all the participants who were able to learn from the experience and walk away with new skills and knowledge. The event gave an insight into what it is like working in an environment where pressure is high and time limited.

Digital Divide
Kartikeya Vasista | Staff Writer

On the 12th of February, debate lovers across the campus gathered in a classroom to participate in the Digital Divide event. It was a parliamentary discussion about how technology affects day-to-day life. Another much-debated subject was the ethical concerns posed by new technology, not just privacy but also issues like consent, freedom of choice, and autonomy. A spirited debate about how technology has impacted various industries and aspects of daily life took place at the event. There were two preliminary rounds, one semi-final round, and one final round. With around twenty participants in six teams – three of them comprised of first years, the event lasted for around five hours.  

Sushant Shekhar, an organiser, said, “I had a great time planning and judging the competition. I was really amazed by the calibre of arguments presented by newcomers to the game! I really like hearing folks discuss the notion of consent and choice. I hope there are many more occasions like this where many people may take part and watch!”. The event was enjoyed by participants, judges and the audience alike, with all of them agreeing that it was intellectually stimulating. 

Face Detection using OpenCV
Sharad Mathur | Staff Writer

An ISTE and IOSD Manipal collaboration brought forth an exciting opportunity for students to learn the fundamentals of object detection and gain hands-on experience using OpenCV’s Python library. The Face Detection Workshop was a three-day event held on the 15th, 16th and 17th of February at NLH as part of AURORA, ISTE Manipal’s flagship event. The workshop began with an introduction to computer vision and object detection, followed by an explanation of the OpenCV library and its features. Participants were then guided through the installation and setup process for the Python environment and OpenCV library.

On the second day, the participants were guided through a project involving taking selfies automatically from their webcams through face recognition using OpenCV. With the help of the facilitators, students learned how to implement face detection algorithms using OpenCV and Python. The facilitators provided in-depth explanations of the code and answered any questions that came up during the workshop. On the final day, the ongoing project was completed, and students were helped through any errors in their code or other problems with their projects. The facilitators made sure that every participant left the workshop with a fully-working model and was confident in their understanding of OpenCV and the powers of computer vision.

Overall, the workshop was a success, with students leaving the event with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of object detection and practical experience in using OpenCV. The workshop set a great example for such events in the future.

Microcontrollers in Drones Workshop
Shivani Seshadri Iyer | Staff Writer

The frightening thing about the future is that one will always be watched. Drones help facilitate that in 4k resolution. But as with all things, drones have their benefits and drawbacks. Project Dronaid has helped the cause ‘One Flight Saves Lives’, and made the most of their abilities to improve access to healthcare and saved many lives.

Project Dronaid held a workshop on 15, 16, and 17 February 2023 on ESP-32 Microcontrollers and their importance in drone technology. They are one-of-a-kind small computers on single integrated circuits that are designed to control a specific function within a more extensive system, in this case, the drone. The process efficiently has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and can go into the all-too-effective energy-saving mode. They are also used in smart home devices, motion detectors, et cetera.

The workshop started with the organisers explaining ESP-32 Microcontrollers to the attendees. They were later given a kit consisting of an ESP-32 Microcontroller, Breadboard, MPU 6050 Sensor, USB cables and male-to-male Jumper wires. Instructions on using every component in the kit were given, and organisers taught participants the applications of the breadboard, which is used for making connections temporarily. MPU sensor measures the angle by which the drone turns. They had to build a microcontroller using the kit. On the second day, the coding of the C-code that activates the microcontrollers on the software took 2-4 hours, and the connections for the microcontroller also took place, which extended to the third day, which also included a simulated drone flying session with the ESP-32 microcontroller that the participants had built.

This workshop had the best of all worlds: electronics, coding, and aviation. The workshop had a practical engagement and skillset which required participants to bring out their A-game. Participants were well-engaged throughout the three-day workshop and eventually comprehended the relevance of a microcontroller in a drone.

A still of the drone developed by Project Dronaid.

Neural Networks and Computer Networks Workshop
Yashya Garg | Staff Writer

The field of computer science is constantly evolving, and with it comes new advancements that can sometimes leave us feeling uncertain about their impact on our lives. There are new technologies that can revolutionise the way we live and work. That’s why the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) conducted a workshop covering some of the essential technologies computer scientists need to know about: Python, NumPy, Pandas, OpenCV, and the basics of neural networks.

A neural network is a computer system designed to learn and make predictions based on data. It’s inspired by how the human brain works, where neurons in our brain communicate to process information. The ACM workshop was designed to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of these technologies and how they can be used in real-world applications. The three-day workshop began with members of the ACM introducing the fundamentals of Python, NumPy, and Pandas to eager participants.

The second day was even more fun when they delved into OpenCV, a popular Python library, and began exploring the basics of neural networks. Day three was the most exciting when students were introduced to Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs). ACM brought students together to work on the final project and showed how similar projects were used in real-world applications. The workshop was a great success, and the students left feeling inspired and confident about their newly acquired skills. Students were given a chance to see how the technology they had learned could be applied to real-world problems, and by the end of three days, they were able to build their real-time face recognition system. ACM’s efforts to promote computer science education are paying off, with many participants saying this was their first experience with programming. The course was also an excellent opportunity for students to interact with one another.

Participants of the Neural Networks and Computer Networks Workshop.

UI Design Workshop
Dakh Loiya | Staff Writer

The ISTE-ADG partnership held a 3-day workshop. The workshop was created for newcomers interested in learning more about the fundamentals of UI design and web development.

The attendees were given a brief introduction to Figma on the first day of the workshop, which is a well-liked design tool for producing user interfaces and other visual designs. The students learned the fundamentals of HTML5 on the second day, including how to organise web pages using HTML tags and attributes.

The final workshop day was devoted to CSS and how to use it to improve a website’s visual appeal. Students were instructed on creating a sidebar for a website and urged to play around with the code to understand better how it functions. The organisers walked around and assisted the students with questions or concerns in creating an interactive and exciting learning environment.

Overall, the workshop was an excellent opportunity for beginners to gain practical skills and knowledge in UI design and web development. The organisers frequently asked the students questions about the different tags and attributes used in HTML, helping reinforce the learning and ensuring that the students understood the material.

Vinod Aravindakshan Talk
Siya Kothari | Staff Writer

On 20 February 2023, Vinod Aravindakshan, the founder of CareerBolt, enlightened the students about the strategies that go inside a recruiter’s mind. From his personal experience as an HR of companies like Samsung, he briefed the audience about how they can make their resumes and LinkedIn profiles more appealing. He further expanded on how a recruiter’s mind works and what makes a candidate stand out among 100-200 candidates.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session where Vinod sir also talked about CareerBolt, an HR consulting agency that helps people from core branches contact potential employers. He even acknowledged the organisers for organising such a talk for the MIT students.

“I am proud to say that the talk was a great success. The talk was well-attended, with many students eager to learn from our guest speaker’s experience and insights as a recruiter. The speaker’s expertise in the field was evident as he shared practical tips and real-world examples that resonated with the students. Overall, the experience of organising the talk was a rewarding one. It was an excellent opportunity to provide value to the students and to contribute to their professional development.” said Parv Kohli, the president of ISTE.

Whether you want a job or a start-up, Vinod sir was the perfect person to answer everyone’s doubts.

Image Credits: Manipal the Talk Network(MTTN)

Sitting down with Arthur T. Benjamin

Professor Arthur T. Benjamin, popularly known as the Mathemagician, is an American mathematician specialising in combinatorics. He occupies the chair of the Smallwood Family Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. His adept techniques explore and simplify mathematics’ fun, quirky side. Often regarded as the Bob Ross of Mathematics, learn more about Professor Benjamin’s’s conversation with our team.

Professor Benjamin poses with some members of the Post Team.

As one of the most renowned “mathemagicians”, spectators are in awe of what you do. Do you think of it as “just math”, or is it somehow magical to you too?

I guess I approach it as a skill. I think of it as performing a magic show. Maybe similar to someone who has practised playing the piano and performing in front of a large audience. They are not composing music on the spot; they are just performing something that they have gotten to do very well over the years. So for me, mental math is like my instrument that I am playing for the audience.

What inspired your interest in the domain of combinatorics?

Mathematics has many different facets, including those that have nothing to do with numbers, like Geometry, Topology, but the math that I love is very number oriented. Combinatorics is the mathematics of counting. In how many different ways can we seat 20 different people? How many ways can we seat them if there are certain restrictions? Questions like those. I find questions like those very fun and very number oriented. It allows you to think about problems very creatively. I guess it was the mathematics that tickled my brain the most; hence I continue to study it because I like to be tickled, mentally, not physically.

When it comes to mental maths, how do you think one can train their cognitive faculties to achieve a desired level of speed and accuracy?

Accuracy comes from understanding the process, and speed comes from lots and lots and lots of practice. Accuracy comes from the technique of squaring a number. You do this, and as you practice more, for example, if someone said what’s 300 times 300, the first time you say that it’s, oh, is it nine thousand? Is it ninety thousand? But after a bit of practice, you know that’s around 90 thousand. But in the beginning, you’re trying to figure out what the sizes of things are; after a while, that’s not a problem; you know the size of the things, and now you have got to get to the exact answer.

You’ve also been a vocal proponent of creative visualisation as a means to understanding mathematics. To what extent do you think that’s applicable, especially when one moves on to higher studies, for instance, if we take higher-order matrices?

I think one of the best things about mathematics is that it can be done in a very creative way. There are often many, many different ways to solve them. Whether we’re talking about an arithmetic problem, algebraic problems, or real-life problems, often there are many promising approaches to a problem, and what’s fun about mathematics is that if you can do a problem in different ways, you’ll get the same answer. That’s true for arithmetic as well as for a lot of real-life problems as well. I found that consistency of mathematics to be absolutely beautiful, which I still do now as a mathematician. Again, I think the ability to look at problems from multiple angles is important; it gives you depth. If you can see from different angles, you’ll see different sides of it. You’ll get the big picture of what you got, and I think that’s true, in all areas of mathematics, from arithmetic to matrices to calculus, and I certainly want to send the message that when people see me, they just see the mental math, they don’t see me doing algebra or calculus. I want to send the message that arithmetic is just the beginning, but it’s the beginning for everybody, and if people get turned off even at that first step, then they probably never going to like mathematics at all. If you give them a good first step, I hope they would take the second and third and fourth and fifth steps.

What would you like to leave as food for thought for the younger generations to ponder upon?

There is a fun and beautiful side to mathematics that you are probably not exposed to in school. It would be as if in school if the only music they played for you was opera, and that’s all you’ve ever heard of music. You might like opera, but you wouldn’t know about the variety of other music out there. Just because you don’t like opera doesn’t mean you dislike music. Just because a lot of math in school doesn’t interest you, there’s a gigantic part of the fun and beautiful mathematics out there that I hope you get to experience.

As students of mathematics, we crack a good number of math jokes. How often do you find yourself indulging in some?

I have certainly heard a lot of math jokes, like, what do you call a hen that counts its egg? A “Mathmachicken”.  You know what I’d like to do? I probably have never said this in an interview; I love the musical Hamilton. What I love about Hamilton, you know, is that my daughters learnt the entire musical, including the cabinet meetings between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and I was thinking, wow! These kids learn a slightly fictionalized version of American History and get into it. I mean, Alexander Hamilton, before Lin Manuel Miranda, was just some boring guy on a 10-dollar bill, and no one ever knew anything interesting about this guy unless you were a history major. Because of that musical, a whole generation of kids learnt to love a portion of American History. I would love to do and try something like that for mathematics. When I retire, that is one of the things that is on the back of my mind: can we do something that would be interesting enough, cool enough, or popular enough?

I watch kids who invest thousands of hours in memorising rap lyrics, and cricket statistics, and I wonder if only that energy could be channelled into something like mathematics. Oh my God! How brilliant they could become and how good that would be. If I could create something like that or if I create a musical or a book that a generation of kids knew how to prove that there are infinite prime numbers and found that to be astonishing. There is a beautiful side of mathematics that they are not showing you in school. I think that love of mathematics pays so many dividends for science, technology and for the world! Anyway can’t remember what the original question was, but that is something I would love to do for mathematics, that is, create something that is Hamilton-like.

By the way, I think everyone should learn multiplication tables till 10. Do you really need it? Yes. Especially at a young age, you have that. What is an 8-year-old or 9-year-old going to think about anyway? You can use some of their brain cells to master a skill that will be useful for them for the rest of their lives. But make it fun. Don’t make it monotonous. The worst thing that could happen is for people to take my mental math ideas and say, “Now we are gonna make people learn this every night for hours and hours”, and everyone will hate mathematics.

Given the rise of ChatGPT and Google Bard, do you think that somewhere computational mathematics may find itself somewhat stagnant as human-paced developments would give way to instant artificial intelligence?

I think we should give it time to evolve. I mean, people made fun of the internet and Google Searches in their infancy. With Wikipedia, they used to be like look at what this says about Mathematics. I think I am not worried about ChatGPT putting mathematicians out of work because they cannot think creatively. It just thinks, “What are the most likely words that can appear out of words that are already here?” and it doesn’t understand what it is saying. It is just saying. You can ask some very basic questions, questions that a child would get right, and ChatGPT would just bluff its way very authoritatively. But again, to succeed in mathematics requires you to think differently. Think outside the box, and think from an angle that has not been explored before, whereas ChatGPT is all about doing what seems to flow the best from what has been written before.

I think as far as technology and mathematics are concerned, no, your advances come from thinking in a new direction, not just thinking in the old direction. I think it is a wonderful tool. It is a wonderful starting point. Let’s say I am trying to write a song about the infinity of prime numbers; I may ask ChatGPT to give me some ideas and rhymes. It’s like asking a friend. At least I am not using it as the authoritative, that this is THE answer. It surprised me that ChatGPT is being used for software development. You can ask, “give me a computer program that will do this.” and maybe partly. This is why we see layoffs in software companies. What took software developers months to develop, you get it instantly, and now you can tweak it. Again it won’t put the entire company out of business because you need people to think in new directions, but a lot of the routine work, forget about mental arithmetic, think about writing code; I think in the past, you could have Googled things and found things around the internet but this thing just gives it to you. It is exciting and scary at the same time.

All these big tech companies, we keep hearing- Microsoft is laying off people; Google is laying off people, and Facebook is laying off people. I don’t think I have heard the full reason.

In the same way, this generation grew up with iPhones and the internet as a way of life. What would the next generation who grew up with ChatGPT be like? Whatever the next big thing is, that is based on these models that are at their fingertips since they were born. People are thinking, how is it going to affect education? It can write a college essay that could get a B. You don’t learn from that.

We academics are wrestling over things anyway; I mean, there are enough sites out there where we can buy answers to homework problems which makes professors say, “What is the purpose of homework?” I hope the purpose is that it makes people think and solidify the concepts better, but do you make it required? Do you give it weight? Ultimately you’ll have to be given tests, offline exams showing what you know at your fingertips, even though that is not very realistic.

Professor Benjamin with students and faculty who were present at the show.

Sir, you’re someone who’s been working with patterns, sometimes recognising some which would otherwise go unnoticed. Have you ever contemplated applying it to the share market?

Well, there are certainly people who do and there’s a lot of money paid to people who can discover patterns and correlations. Now, if everybody knows that fact, you can’t make money off of it but if you’re one of the first people to make that connection then yes it can be very rewarding. One of the greatest geniuses in financial math was Edward Thorpe, and he had analysed a card game that was played in the casinos called Black Jack and he figured out how to play the game to have an advantage, and the casinos had to change the rules because he’d figured these things out. He later also applied the same ability to optimize to finding things in the stock market to say certain things are worth this much and if people are selling that much then you can make some good money. I am not trained in finance and macroeconomics but I know some people who are very strong mathematically and who’ve gone on to do very well in the financial sector, and it’s really good for people in that sort of field. I used to say if I hadn’t gone into teaching I might’ve gone into financial mathematics and now I’m saying if I hadn’t gone into teaching I might’ve gotten into data science because it defines a lot of things I like to do.

When one reads about you, one comes across the fact that you’ve been deeply involved with scepticism. With due respect, what do you believe is more true about scepticism, is it a constant state of questioning widely accepted standards, or a temporary suspension of belief?

You know what, I was greatly influenced by another magician by the name of James Randy. He performed as the Amazing Randy. A very successful escape artist and illusionist, but like Houdini, was disappointed in seeing magicians deceive the public using magic tricks represented as legitimate science. Millions believe in communicating with dead people and would spend money on these magicians (or worse). I met him early in my career, as I was starting to perform shows. He got very excited because it allowed him to say that these people are full of it and are not telling the truth, they are making you believe in things that are not true whereas this guy is not cheating. He’s doing amazing things with his mind but he’s not claiming supernatural powers to do it. This is what we should be paying attention to, science is beautiful all by itself and it doesn’t need supernatural mumbo jumbo. If there are things out there that we don’t understand, let’s study and research them.

For instance, in parapsychology, there is not a single repeatable experiment in that field. Does the Extrasensory Perception exist? Probably not, but no one’s been able to measure anything for a little bit of time. As I was transitioning from doing magic onto mentalism, I thought this was magic and I can really pull it off, but after meeting Randy and a few others, I felt guilty that I might be spreading misinformation. After my show, if people thought “Oh my gosh look at that guy he really could read your mind”, I wouldn’t want people to start thinking that was legitimate. I’ve always performed things that for the most part I was willing to explain afterwards. Most magicians would never do that but when it comes to mathematical magic it should be open, there should be no secrets. I think the explanation can be more fascinating than the effect.

Making the Most of MIT—A Chat with Meghana Dharmapuri

Meghana Dharmapuri was the Editor—in—Chief of the MIT Post for the academic year 2017-18. A student of Computer Science and Engineering, she graduated in 2019. She left a lasting impression on her peers and faculty alike. Currently a Solution Advisor at Deloitte India (Offices of the US). The MIT Post had the opportunity to sit down and interview Meghana about her experiences in MIT, the MIT Post and her professional life.

How was your MIT experience? What stood out to you the most?

Okay, I did a lot of things. I was one of those “active kids around the block” at that time. I come from an army background. So, there’s a lot of sports and all of that involved. So, when I came here, I saw this whole avenue of things to do. I was part of the music club, debate club, and MIT Post. Eventually, I was on the Editorial board also, and a lot of other things. I was part of the tennis team and swimming team. So, I used to be in all of these things because it was something apart from the academics itself. I also made sure that I took out time to study. The evenings were just for ensuring I’m in all these student activities and technical projects. One of the reasons why it was really nice for me was that the seniors were very authentic. It made a lot of impact the way they were with you, the way they encouraged you to always do whatever felt better. I was also part of the dramatics club AAINA. It was a unique experience compared to all my other peers in different colleges. Apart from your academics, you get that time to explore different avenues and see what else you are good at. So that is something I enjoyed.

Were you part of any projects?

I was actually with Manohar Pai Sir. There was a technical project called RC Air. We worked on air cleansing machines. 

How different is your MIT experience from your professional life?

Very different. Here, you used to get that time to balance things out. At work you don’t because there’s just so much to do. For the sake of comfort, there are sports there. I’m part of the football club over there and the basketball club. But still, it’s not the same, because here, you have that whole peer group aspect. Everybody is your age and going through the same things, the same journey. The end goal is the same, at least for those four years. That helps you through that whole process, no matter where you are in life at that point in time. In an office, it becomes very different because you’re dealing with many different people. For me, I’m not even dealing with my colleagues. I’m only dealing with people on the Swiss or US sides who I have never even seen in my life. That’s the thing. It makes a huge difference when you’re here and learning things hands-on, online it’s a little different.

It’s the time aspect, the amount of time that you have to do things, and the rat race- it is still a little easier because everybody’s going through the same thing.

You seem to have participated in many different activities, so to most students, would you recommend joining many clubs or focusing on one?

See, I would say first you should explore. You see, if you’ve not tried something, you don’t know if you’re good at it or if you enjoy it. You don’t know the kind of seniors you meet, the kind of people you meet. Otherwise, you’re restricted to a very small circle. So, make sure you go out there, do things, and meet as many people as possible because the exposure is very vast. The kind of people you meet, their experiences, what you learn from them, you never know, you might make some friends for life through that. So, after that year, see what you like, and then start narrowing it down. That’s what I did. So, in the first year, lots of clubs. The second year, few. And then the third year, I just stuck to a couple of clubs like IECSE and MIT Post.

What do you think of our curriculum and course structure now that you are in the industry? Has it helped you in your professional life? 

Actually, it is. To a great extent, it is. Everybody is taking a course they are interested in. I have gone more into the consulting side of things in the software field, but for me, it was more of the technical mindset that I could develop through the course and curriculum. The kind of questions I should ask, the kind of technology, while it’s not the same tools and technologies you’re using, it makes me adapt faster to those. But for others who are more interested in the software field. It’s a very up-to-date course, in fact, for that matter. I think I’ve heard that your courses are getting updated even still. That’s wonderful because most of my time, they did network; I think the networking one, then SVPN that they were doing then, are things they applied in their jobs. So definitely the course has been immensely helpful for everybody relevant.

We have heard you like to travel and said you’re from a military background. Did you move around a lot as a child?

Yes, I did. I studied in seven different states. I studied in nine different schools, so I was always moving. I’ve studied in the school for just ten months, and I’ve also studied for two years. But to date, the longest place of residence has been Manipal for me. So that’s something really interesting when somebody asks, what is home? I wonder if it is the longest place for residence. Because then it’s Manipal. It’s the feeling that this is my hometown for me. 

What was your experience like in MIT Post?

There’s a reason I stuck around all four years in this one club. Firstly, my love of writing. I used to like writing the kind of articles that I did. But apart from that, it was the whole culture. It is not entirely just students. It’s got some part of the administration. You’ve got that sort of mix of things going on that you are running around and talking to professors about things, getting those permissions. That’s got a real kick to itself, right? Then the kind of people I interacted with; my seniors-their objectives were very clear. I had certain visions for the Post, which pushed me to do a few more things there. Like we had a new column that I created called In Transit, which was our travel column. So that is something that I really enjoyed working on with everybody because every vacation needs to be going somewhere new.

We had the yearly magazine, the Standard, which had a different set of articles going into it. There was a lot of variation in the way we worked. So, it was really fun. 

Where did you do your internships, and did you find them on campus?

My internship was at Deloitte. Other internships are small ones. I did that development here, so that was it. Apart from that, it was only Deloitte. A lot of us from campus were there. So, they hired a lot of people. It was a lot of fun to learn things during our internship because we didn’t have to execute many things. It was just shadowing different projects and different kinds of things on which people were working.  We had something called an innovation project. So that is something my team and I did. You were supposed to use different kinds of technology to see what kind of things that you can do. It was a competition at the end of the day, and we won. Hence internship was a good period. We returned to college every time for the midterms, and the final terms were also fun. We just coordinated together. 

What additional learnings outside the classroom that you value most?

As I said, go out there as you don’t know what field you find interesting. I’ve seen people who completed their engineering, but one of these clubs stuck, and they made a career out of those things and are very successful doing that right now. Or even the projects they did, so many people did mechanical or computer science projects, and they have their own start-ups now, so it’s all about how you leverage your interest and first go out there and put yourself out there to see what is there. If you test what is there and see what you can do with it, then make the most of it. Make sure you experience Manipal to the maximum because, trust me, nobody has experienced what we have. To date, I know so many seniors who were in that “Manipal bubble” because of the experience they had. Most people get out of college and are done with it, but everybody carries Manipal with them for a long time in their lives, so make sure you make full use of that. 

Flamed And Cancelled—Salem In The 21st Century

It was a cold winter night in colonial Massachusetts. Paper hung on the walls of the houses saying, “Notice to practitioners of Witchcraft: Those who seek out communion with the devil shall be burned”. In the distance, people shouted “Burn the devil!” while holding their pitchforks and torches. Two of them tied a woman to a stake and burned her. Her screams were silenced by the cheers and celebrations of the village.

This sight was not uncommon in 1692 and 1693. People were accused of worshipping Satan, kidnapping and sacrificing children, and performing witchcraft. With the onset of spring, signalling new life, 25 people faced death. This is not only one of Colonial America’s most notorious cases of mass hysteria but also a lesson from history on how accusations and witch hunts can result in unnecessary destruction. Today, we know of Witch Hunts by a more unassuming term—Cancel Culture.

When The Devil Entered Salem

The Devil is said to have first entered Salem, a town heavily populated by the Puritan community, in the chilly winter of 1692. It knocked on Reverend Parris’ door when his 9-year-old daughter and 11-year-old niece started showing ‘unusual’ and ‘non-religious behaviour’. This included throwing fits, shuddering, shaking, and barking like dogs. When they took the girls to a physician, his diagnosis was—the girls were affected by an evil and unholy hand.

An artist’s rendition of one of the girls who was regarded as a victim of witchcraft.

With the so-called disease coming to the town of Salem, people started looking for its source. When the two girls were brought before the magistrate, they accused three women of being the root of this ‘disease’. On February 29th, 1692, three women from marginalised communities—Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne—were accused of being Devil worshippers. 

The Unfortunate Fate of Sarah Good

Sarah Good had lost her father when she was young. The law at the time prevented girls from inheriting their father’s property, forcing Sarah to find refuge in charity. She married a servant named Daniel Poole, whose death left her in debt and forced her to sell a small portion of her father’s land, which was the only property she owned. She later married William Good. Sarah developed a reputation for being a “turbulent spirit, spiteful and maliciously bent“. She challenged the Puritan values, which did not sit right with the people of Salem.

Sarah Goodwhose poverty resulted in her being held guilty of practising witchcraft.

When she was accused of practising witchcraft, she claimed her innocence until the very end. Her husband told the examiners that she was “an enemy to all good” describing her as a “burden to him“. He said that he hated her demeanour and that she had failed to meet his expectations of a wife. Sarah was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth to a child in Ipswich, who later died.

After the trials, Sarah was given a death sentence. Even at the time of the execution, she profoundly claimed her innocence while blaming Osborne and Tituba for witchcraft. 

The Tragic Life of Sarah Osborne

Sarah Osborne was the wife of a prominent man from the Putnam family, Robert Prince. The couple had two sons, after which Prince passed away. Following his death, Sarah married Alexander Osborne, an Irish immigrant. She took over the land and the property that her late husband had left for their sons, resulting in them suing their mother. When she was accused of practising witchcraft, Osborne was dealing with legal issues and had not attended church for three years which made matters worse for her. Unlike Tituba and Good, Osborne pleaded her innocence without accusing anyone else of practising witchcraft. She died in jail on May 29th, 1692.

Sarah Osborne | Paintings from the Collection | Gallery guides and podcasts | State Library of New South Wales | State Library of NSW

Sarah Osbornewhose financial independence resulted in her accusation

Osborne, unlike Tituba and Good, did not belong to a marginalised community, but she broke social norms by taking over her late husband’s land and denying her sons the wealth that they inherited by law. Her economic independence made the Putnam family feel insecure, and her owning and taking over a part of their land resulted in their financial instability. Hence, it is possible that the Putnam family had a hand in her arrest. 

The Black Witch of Salem

On March 1, 1692, while Good and Osborne claimed innocence, Tituba stood apart from the other two by confessing to having practised witchcraft. She also denied these accusations at first, but later confessed with persuasion, clarity, and scary specifics. Tituba’s testimony is one of the longest in Salem’s dark period. 

She told the Court how the Devil had come to her and bid her serve him along with Good and Osborne. She had signed in the Devil’s book using blood. She related detailed images of red cats, black dogs, yellow birds, and a certain black man she described vaguely, who asked her to sign in the Devil’s book. She was called ‘The Black Witch of Salem’.

Tituba (cdogdancer12) - Profile | Pinterest

Titubawhose ethnicity and social status resulted in her accusation

Today, we know very little about her apart from her being a worker and caretaker in the Parris household. Her status as a ‘coloured slave’ is an obstacle to knowing her story and her point of view on the accusations. Although very little is known about her later life, it is said she was jailed, and her status of ‘sole witness’ helped her survive the initial days of mass hysteria. During her trial, Tituba mentioned that there were nine more signatures in the Devil’s book—it planted a seed of paranoia, which led to 144 more accusations in the town. 

The View of The Church

The Puritans were members of a religious movement that arose in the Church of England. Its purpose was to cleanse the church of its Roman Catholic values. They were also the people who immigrated to the US and formed the majority of Salem’s population.  Reports of witchcraft, which was considered evil and satanic, threatened the holy barbed wire of their religion. Hence, these cases were dealt with immediately. The magistrate did not interrogate the accuser and the accused separately, and the necessity of physical evidence was ignored. In such conditions, the accused had only two options—confess to practising witchcraft or face a death sentence.

Can an auto-immune illness explain the Salem witch trials? - BBC Future

A scene from court trials determining the fate of the woman who was accused of practising witchcraft [Image Credits: BBC]

When unexplained events began to occur, the people of Salem turned to their God for an explanation. They believed that by punishing those who performed witchcraft, they were performing their duty towards Him. While the religion teaches peace and respect, they thought they were acting in accordance with His teachings by purging the world of Devil-worshippers—the epitome of destruction. They relied more on their instincts and faith than on physical evidence.

A Bad Case of The Ergotism

In 1976, Dr Linnda R. Caporael suggested that all the symptoms of witchcraft that were seen in the victims may have been a case of rotten bread. Ergotism is a form of food poisoning, caused in Salem in 1692 because of a rye bread that was infected by a fungus. It explained some of the symptoms experienced by victims. Other conditions like sleep paralysis accounted for the nocturnal attacks. Interestingly enough, the fungus, Claviceps purpurea is what modern-day LSD is derived from. There are many records that back up Caporael’s theory. The year 1691 was a wet season for Salem, making the conditions perfect for fungal growth. Moreover, the minister was paid in grains, and it was the minister’s daughter and niece who were the first victims of ‘witchcraft’.

There are still some people out there who deny Caporael’s theories because they choose to believe in flying broomsticks, grimoires, shape-shifting, and dark magic.

A Tale of Patriarchy and Discrimination

In the 17th Century, Christians believed that women were inferior, making them easy targets, and more susceptible to Satan’s wiles. Perhaps the Salem Witch Trials were to serve as a reminder of the status of women in the gender hierarchy. They believed that the devil could reach and ‘pollute’ a women’s soul more easily. The roots of this belief lie in the New Testament. Satan in the form of a serpent lured Eve and made her eat the forbidden fruit, which led to the fall of humankind. Around 70-80% of the people accused in the Trials were women, of whom, many were around the age of 40 and above—notably, an age when a woman’s fertility starts fading away. Sarah Good began questioning the values of the Puritan Society. Osborne gained economic independence by claiming her late husband’s land. Both of their actions were considered ‘evil’. 

The Salem Witch Trials were not about killing and punishing witches who went against God. It was about people trying to maintain the ill-balanced social hierarchy of the time. They felt that the hierarchy that benefited them was at risk because of Good and Osborne’s actions. They wanted to maintain the fragile status quo of male supremacy. They wanted to keep on defining a woman’s worth through her fertility. This was done best by linking folklores and myths about the Devil to women and people of colour. The Salem Witch Trials was an attempt at maintaining a position of power and privilege over those less fortunate.

The accusations soon flared out in Salem’s neighbouring towns in 1693. It did not take long before accusations were meted out indiscriminately. When the wife of Francis Dane, Governor of colonial Massachusetts, was accused of performing witchcraft, the trials were ended, sentences were retracted, the arrested were released, and compensation was given. The trials came to an end.

The Trials remain a tale of patriarchy and discrimination. It was an event that marked the beginning of the end of Puritan society. It is a tale of how people valued authority over justice and delusion over truth. It is a story that is being told to this day.

The 21st Century Witch Hunt

The hashtags keep popping up on the screen. People chant with their pitchforks and receipts “Cancel! Cancel! Cancel!”. The stake is replaced by hashtags, the pitchforks with keyboards. The internet warriors come to serve justice. Salem now is not just a small city in Massachusetts with a small population. It is a town that exists on digital media with a population of millions. Years have passed, but time has not changed. Every generation has its own Salem.

The Salem of today is made up of social media apps. However, the beginning of the Witch Hunt in today’s Salem is very different compared to the 17th Century. Cancel culture arose within black culture. It arose during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s. For black people ‘Cancel Culture’ was not a mere hashtag—it was about calling out those who threatened their rights and freedoms.

Cancel culture was initially supposed to represent the helplessness people felt because of unjust systems and the influences of people in power. It was a way to boycott racist businesses in the 50s. It was a way to tell people that one may not have the ability to change the inequality and the laws that support tyranny. However, one does have the power to fight, to ‘cancel’ out the inequality and those who promote it in society.

The Aftermath of A Hashtag

Cancel culture has taken a different turn in modern times. While appearing very different from the Salem Witch Trials, it is the same issue at its heart. In a strange turn of events, it is no longer the persecution of minorities. Now, it targets those in power who often misuse their authority.

Many celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby were cancelled because of sexual misconduct in their workplaces and had to serve prison sentences for the same. On the other hand, when celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and JK Rowling were cancelled, it hardly made a difference in their lives. Ellen and her show continue to maintain popularity. Even after her transphobic tweets, JK Rowling continues to profit off Harry Potter and its merchandise. 

So, while Cancel Culture was successful in hunting down figures like Harvey Weinstein, many people, even after being held at the stake of cancellation, continue to maintain their status in society. Cancel culture, just like the Salem Witch Trials, is based on instinct and faith, rather than tangible evidence. It is based on mob mentality. 

Instead of bringing down these authority figures, it has created fear in people’s minds. Innocent individuals are burned at the stake of social humiliation. People with their keyboards hunt down others and hold them accountable for something they said or did several years ago. It is true that because of a corrupt justice system, people often resort to a hashtag to mete out punishments, but it can be harmful when the person being held accountable is innocent.

Cancel Culture frequently hides under the disguise of call-out culture and often turns into cyber-bullying. At the end of the day, such ‘justice’ is not worth it when it comes at the cost of mental health and the lives of the innocent.

What Lies In Store For The World? 

While we continue to live and grow up in a patriarchal society where discrimination still exists, the witch hunt today is very different from what it was 330 years ago. Today, people get cancelled for supporting patriarchy and discriminating against others based on their skin.

In the 21st century, history is not recorded from the point of view of the biased majority, but in the form of digital footprints. Being able to hear opinions of both sides along with those of ‘internet warriors’ serving ‘justice’ via their keyboards instead of by the gavel does not justify the suffering innocent people had to go through. It was not warranted in 1692, it is not justified in the 21st century. With history being recorded through digital media accessible to the majority, the fate of the impetuous millions is yet to be determined.

Featured Image Credits: History.com

Sports Events—Revels’22

Sports do not build character—it just reveals it. Sports might be just a hobby to some, but to others, it is so much more. The Sports events of Revels’22 were held from 9th to 12th of April before Revels, unlike every year when they are held simultaneously during the four days of the fest. This gave the athletes enough time to focus and train for their events while also not missing out on the other events of the fest and Proshow. Sports events were held in two slots—6 to 9 AM and 5 to 8 PM during these three days. The prize distribution ceremony was held at the MIT Tennis Court on the 12th of April. 

Students could participate in various games like athletics, badminton, basketball, chess, cricket, football, handball, hockey, squash, swimming, table tennis, tennis, throwball and volleyball. Some of the outstation participants for sports events in Revels were from NIT Surathkal, BITS Goa, NIT Calicut, and Manipal College of Health Professions (MCHP).  The venues for football and tennis were the Endpoint Football Court and MIT Tennis Court. Badminton and Table Tennis events were held in the MIT Recreation Center. 

All of the students put in their blood, sweat and tears to put in their best effort and it was truly a sight to witness. Our students made us proud by winning the following laurels:

Athletics and Swimming—MIT won the Overall Best College

Table Tennis—MIT was in the top three teams

Badminton—MIT-A won the Second position and MIT-B was in the top 4

Football—MIT-B won First Position and MIT-A was in the top 4

Basketball—Girls team won the First position and the Boys team won the Second position

Volleyball—First Position

Squash—MIT got all three top positions

Chess—Second Position

“Revels 2022 was an experience of a lifetime. From months of practice to win the trophy for Best College in Athletics, it all felt like a dream come true! Daily training and weekend outings helped the team bond. During Revels, both the boys’ and the girls’ teams dominated the field in their respective events. I’m so proud of our team, which feels more like a tight-knit family now and I wish them loads of success ahead.” said Shrey Deshmukh and Chaitanya A., Captains of the MIT Athletics team, while describing their experience during the whole event. 

The MIT Athletics Team were the winners of Revels’22 among 12 college teams (Image credits: The MIT Post)

The sports category saw many people winning and many teams losing, but ultimately it was something much more than that. Ultimately it was about sportsmanship, teamwork and, most importantly, creating memories for a lifetime. 

Image credits: Photography and Videography, Revels’22

Featured Image Credits: PNGITEM