IIT Guwahati hosted the 9th Inter IIT Tech Meet from the 26th of March to the 28th of March 2021. Under the current situation of the pandemic, the Meet was hosted in virtual mode for the first time. The theme for the year was ‘Pandemic, Paranoia and Possibility’, via which we wish to contribute to the cognizant and escalating India by bringing about impactful changes.
IIT Kharagpur had a podium finish, ending up as 2nd Runners Up in the Meet. Here are the experiences of the members of the team who won accolades in various events.
The events were divided into three categories- high-level prep, mid-level prep and low-level prep.
One of the mid-level prep events was ISRO’s Astrosat — A web-based visualisation tool for Astrosat observations. Astrosat is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space telescope. The event focused on making a web application that would take in logs from ISRO’s Astrosat- and other sources and cross-reference them together and then visualise them in a user-friendly manner for easy inference. Concisely- putting together the data retrieved from Astrosat and visualising this data is what the event’s problem statement asked.
The team from IIT KGP won the gold medal in this event. We interviewed the team captains- Snehal Reddy Koukuntla, Meher Changlani and a team member Manjunath Bhatt to know what the event was about and how their experience panned out to be.
The interviewees mentioned that the team was diverse, with members competent in respective fields required for front-end and back-end development. Therefore, it made it easier for them to divide tasks. Captain Meher started with visualisation (frontend) while the data retrieval was headed by captain Snehal.
The different heterogeneous data files that were given to us were very cryptic, and the first step was to research about it and make as much sense as we could in the little time we had. Then we had to devise algorithms that could cross-reference, match and retrieve the data across different data files and provide meaningful data that could then work as a backend API for our application. In parallel, a user-friendly UI was being designed by the front end team that could leverage the backend and visualise the different astronomical sources in a 3D fashion.”
The primary goal of this project was to help scientists at ISRO visualise the different sources observed by the Astrosat in a 3D fashion and quickly get additional information about each source. This can help scientists analyse the data much better without looking at heterogeneous data sources. This could very well be extrapolated to other kinds of astronomical data as well. Not only will it help scientists, but for every user who wants to dive into the world of astronomy, it will serve as a ‘search engine for extra-terrestrial objects’.
Coming to how the event panned out for the team: “The event was 2 weeks long as it was a mid-prep event. After finalising the team, we broke down the problem statement into a set of specific tasks and distributed the work to the members based on their skillset. We spent the first four days implementing and refining the foundational aspects of the PS. Next, we dwelt into more specific details and aspects that would set us apart from the rest of the teams. Implementing these well, and covering all cases, was a top priority. On the final day of video submission, we decided that we’ll implement one more feature that we had overlooked. It was a risky move to be making changes to the website and adding new features just hours before submission and did give us quite a significant amount of panic right at the end. But eventually, thanks to the diligence and abilities of the team, we were able to successfully pull it off, and submit the final version with all the key features.”
The team faced quite some challenges throughout the 2 weeks of the prep. Some technical aspects were a bit bothersome initially- “The first major challenge that we faced was that we had to understand the data well ourselves in order to build algorithms on top of it. The data was distributed across multiple different heterogeneous sources. We had to research and understand what each of them meant and how we could process the data to our advantage. The data was also patchy and hence we also had to rely on other open-sourced online sources to help our algorithms get better and consistent insights.
Also building a bug-free 3D visualiser fine-tuned for our use case in such a short time frame was a hassle, but the team made it happen. Once the barebones backend API and the front end was up and running, we had to implement features as quickly as we could seeing that we were in a time crunch. Good team coordination and parallelization of tasks really helped.”
When asked about how much did the online conduction of the event impact- the respondents unanimously stated that an offline experience would’ve been more fulfilling. Although their work was based on a web application, working together, bonding as a team and having more communication would have been easily feasible had the event been offline. Also conducting the event offline leads to an environment of competition and everyone feels even more excited to do their best. Not to mention, online conduction led to some last-minute network issues during their final presentation; although this didn’t deter them from putting in the best effort. Captain Meher stated, “It was an absolute rollercoaster, but totally worth it!”
The interviewees stated that during the course of prep and even in the final presentation, all their expectations were met and they were pretty satisfied with the end result of their website- naxtara.com.
“Immediately after the announcement of mid-level results, a day before the final presentation, we were all quite pumped up and motivated and believed we had a great chance to win the event. We gave our best in the presentation, and once the results were out, we were really excited and happy that our efforts had earned us a Gold Medal.”
On a conclusive note, the team gives the following advice to all the students who aspire to be a part of the Inter IIT Tech Meet:
“For the juniors who wish to participate in the Inter IIT Tech meet, I feel it will be very helpful for them to gain the experience and exposure of these team events through the Tech General Championships and representing their halls. Participating in these events helps develop skills and also exposes one to teamwork and task delegation, with multiple people parallelly working on different things for the common goal. The experience is essential because it teaches one how it’s all supposed to be integrated into one final product. It’s one of the best ways to connect and work with your seniors and develop yourself.
Once part of the Inter IIT tech contingent, you are expected to give your best for the team. It’s a very unique experience. It has the added thrill of sport, competitiveness and fighting for pride and glory. I can assure you it will be a very fun and exciting journey, where you’ll work with a set of talented people and learn a lot during the process, and make a few new friends. It’s up to the individual to make the most out of this opportunity. All the best!”