IIT Mandi’s ISTP Program exposes national and international students to the complex interactions of technology and society

With an objective to sensitize students to the problems around them in their society and develop a sense of responsibility in them by being the solution provider Indian Institute of Technology Mandi offers semester-long Interactive Socio-Technical Practicum (ISTP) course to the 3rd year B.Tech. students under the design and innovation stream. This course is designed to encourage the interdisciplinary academic culture among students.

As part of the ISTP, between March to May this year, the Institute is hosting 18 students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on the campus for Socio Technical Practicum (ISTP), including 5 female and 13 male students, from the USA. 

These students have education background in science and technology with majors in fields such as Aerospace Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemistry, and Robotics, among others. This program is part of their undergraduate 3rd year requirement during which they work on projects to examine the interrelationships of environment, technology, and society through direct engagement with community stakeholders.

Speaking about the ISTP program, Dr. Rajeshwari Dutt, ISTP Coordinator, IIT Mandi, said, “The real need of today is to have engineers who design solutions keeping in mind the needs of society. ISTP with its emphasis on projects that are at the cusp of society and technology allows our students to find innovative solutions to the pressing needs of local communities and work towards a sustainable society. As such, it is a project-based course that has the potential for real and long-term impact on society.”

Talking about the uniqueness of the program, Dr. Shockey, Ingrid, Faculty in-charge & Teaching Professor of Global Studies, WPI, said, “The program encourages students to see community members as experts on their own lived experiences from the Himalayan regions. This is a unique opportunity for STEM students to understand the value of learning from local stakeholders about issues such as climate change, water resources, agricultural practices, and so forth. This invites an exchange of ideas between students, scientists, and communities, and across institutes.”

The projects are based on real-world problems and are designed to have a positive impact on society. A total of approximately 160 students have come from WPI to IIT Mandi since 2013 with approximately 20 students each spring excluding the Covid period.

This is an immersive experience designed to teach students about the complexity of decision making in real life. The ISTP program is designed to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills by encouraging students to work on real-world problems and projects that require interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration. The program brings together students from different departments and disciplines to work together on projects that have social, economic, and environmental implications.

Through the ISTP, these students explore the various issues/challenges of society and come up with technology-based solutions for the problems and evaluate the proposed solutions from social, technical, economical, environmental, and other aspects.

Also, whenever required and possible, help from the local administration, NGOs working in the region, etc. is sought for the implementation of the solutions.

ISTP exposes students to the complex interactions of technology and society. It equips the students with the tools and skills to systematically understand and evaluate these interactions. On a higher plane, ISTP intends to nurture the students with qualities required to become an excellent engineer or technocrat who contributes to society in a variety of ways. The overall objective of this project is to make a positive contribution to our community.

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