Rajarambapu Institute of Technology is a leading private autonomous institute of Maharashtra with the vision of transforming of young minds into competent engineers and managers to face global challenges.
Dr. Mrs. Sushma Shekhar Kulkarni is the Director at Rajarambapu Institute of Technology (RIT) in Maharashtra, India. She holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, from Shivaji University, Kolhapur, India. She has 28 years of teaching experience in civil engineering programs. Her areas of interest are concrete technology, total quality management (TQM), quality circles, construction management, watershed management, outcome-based engineering curricula and best practices in engineering education. She served as a member of the jury for the 2015 GEDC Airbus Diversity Award and will serve on the 2017 GEDC Airbus Diversity Award Committee.
Dr. Kulkarni has contributed to more than 75 research papers in Indian & international journals and conferences. She has a provisionally registered a patent titled ‘Academic System Based on Mobile Computing Devices’. She has also completed a project sponsored by the Department of Science & Technology. She has authored a book on TQM, published by LAP Lambert Publication (Germany). In 2011 Dr. Kulkarni was awarded by ISTE with Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s Best Engineering College Principal Award and by the Indian Society for Training and Development (ISTD) with a gold medal for the Emerging HRD Thinker’s Award. In June of 2016, Dr. Kulkarni was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Directors of Indian Education by the World Congress.
Dr. Kulkarni has several universities around the world, including the University of South Australia, the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Purdue University. She has contributed to various professional boards including the GEDC, the Indo-Universal Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE) and the Indian Society for Techincal Education (ISTE) and was also Fellow of Institution of Engineers. She has served as a Chairman in Lead Colleges at Shivaji University, Kolhapur. Since 2014, Dr. Kulkarni has also served as the editor of the international journal, Journal of Engineering Education Transformation, published in collaboration with IUCEE. Furthermore, Dr. Kulkarni served as a Keynote Speaker at the 2016 Asian Engineering Education Conference at Yanshan University in China.
What are some degree programs offered by RIT?
RIT is an Autonomous institute affiliated with Shivaji University Kolhapur. It is ranked 75th nationally by Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development's National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
RIT has eight undergraduate programs and 11 post-graduate in engineering in addition to three Ph.D. programs, an M.B.A. and four Diploma programs covering a range of engineering disciplines such as mechanical, civil, electrical and computer engineering; Information Technology, Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering, etc. with approximately 3,500 students on campus. The Institute is accredited by the NBA and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the apex of accreditation bodies in India.
What are some salient ongoing research projects at RIT?
- The design and development of a multi-sized stapler: it is provisioned to stable three different sizes of pins per need and is useful in offices.
- Automatic Bhel (an Indian snack) vending machine: this is an interdisciplinary project that has applications in restaurants and for street vendors.
- The design and development of a multipurpose high traction manual tiller: it is a farming machine useful in Indian agricultural practices
- The design and development of a bajara and sorgum harvester: it is a farm implement useful for harvesting these typical Indian crops
- Thermal Investigation of Dehydration of Jaggery: this research is taken to improve the quality of Jaggery.
- A remotely controlled autonomous robot using an Android application: This is an IoT based system useful for industrial applications.
- Artery blockage detection using Nadi Parikshan: this is a noninvasive method of artery blockage detection using a principle of Nadi Parikshan Technique used in Indian Ayurveda
Can you share with us some of the approaches that RIT is implementing in order to sustain growth in its Engineering College and retain a constant growth of its student body, in addition to ethnic and gender diversity?
There are many initiatives undertaken by RIT to promote diversity. We have been organizing special lectures for extremely bright students and remedial classes for students at the other end of the spectrum. We provide scholarships to bright students who would otherwise be unable to attend university. We have successfully implemented a learn and earn scheme. We identify the learning styles of our students and adapt teaching strategies based on their needs. Additionally, increasing international student admissions is part of our strategic plan. A diverse team helps in cross-cultural understanding.
In India, we have reservation policy for students based on gender and also who are from a different caste, which is an old system of classifying people based on birth in a specific family. Thus, there is a proper representation of ethnic and gender diversity at RIT, and we take all efforts to bring these students into the mainstream by providing support through specially designed programs. An example is Urja Prakalp, where diagnostic tests (on the line of Psychometric tests) of students are conducted based on 16 parameters including EQ, IQ, spatial skills, aptitude, etc. Based on the test results, training starts in the first year and concludes in the final year. The program develops self-awareness, self-management, emotional intelligence and overall personality. In 2016/2017 school year, this project has been implemented for 484 First-Year students and 438-Second Year B Tech students.
We also initiated the program called SHARADANYAS to address the persistence of women in engineering. The program focuses on providing ways for female engineers to enrich their experiences in engineering, to retain them throughout the program, to build their self-confidence in both curricular & extracurricular performance. By the 2015/2016 academic year, around 97% of female graduates had successfully completed their programs. Furthermore, an induction program begins on day one to integrate them into the Institute's culture. The name of the program itself pays homage to Sharda, who is the goddess of power.
Progressive growth of female students at RIT.
How has the GEDC helped RIT achieve the goal of making the institution a more globally connected and relevant?
- Academic curriculum development and choice-based credit system development
- Best practices thorugh workshops for deans
- Ease of networking with deans accross the globe on a single platform to exchange ideas and to understand trends in engineering education development
Is RIT planning to offer or offer any MOOCs in engineering?
RIT encourages its faculty and students to use the MOOCs. Going forward, RIT is planning to formally include MOOCs for the post graduate programs in near future to cater for the needs of our stakeholders, specifically students working in industry.
What are some of the overall challenges your institution faces?
- /The recruitment and development of faculty
- Industry-institute interaction
- Increasing employability and entrepreneurial competencies of students
- Cultivating student interest in academics through projects, classroom and laboratory teaching-learning processes in consideration of the fact that students are highly techno savvy and have an access to a pool of information
- Enhancing industry-institute interactions in order to provide an internship to students
- Developing faculty to face the challenges of outcome-based design, delivery and evaluation
- Developing research in emerging areas and getting research funding from external sources
- Improving employability of students through entrepreneurship and startups
- Connecting our faculty with their global contemporaries for academic exposure
All of these are national challenges; however, these challenges are compounded by the reality that RIT is located in a remote and rural area.
How would you characterize RIT's corporate/industry relations? What are some projects that you are implementing with local companies?
We have a well-established Industry Institute Interaction cell that collaborates with various industries to understand their problems and provide solutions. Additionally, there is a Technology Development cell which attracts and provides solutions to the community through technology transfers, which benefits both industry and the community. We also have industry personnel visit RIT to deliver expert lectures and sponsor undergraduate and post-graduate projects. From this perspective, RIT has been successful in establishing partnerships with industry in the region.
One of the products developed by RIT is a sugarcane harvester, which was created in collaboration with a local entrepreneur and a local company, the Rajarambapu Sugar Factory. The harvester has seven patents and the prototype is ready for commercialization. The funding for the product development came from the Rajarambapu Sugar Factory. Other products include a Tumeric processing unit, an automatic curd maker, the Baby E-Cradle, the aforementioned heart blockage detector based on Ayurveda principles and accessories for two wheelers for paraplegics, among other projects.
Are there any international partnerships between RIT and other institutions?
We have MoUs with Purdue University, Lawrence Technical University, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Hartford University and with the IUCEE. These partnerships have helped us develop in myriad ways, such as creating bilateral exchange programs to help prepare students for entry into the global workforce, aiding assistance in developing our unique curriculum and establishing necessary academic departments. Our students actively participation in a forum organized by IUCEE and the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED) and learn cross–cultural team work.
RIT is publishing an international Journal of Engineering Education Transformations (JEET) in collaboration with the IUCEE. JEET provides a forum to facilitate conversations among engineering educators who would like to showcase their transformational work. It is a scholarly journal committed to the advancement of theory, research and practice in the field of engineering education. Published in India, the world’s largest hub of engineering education, JEET authors are scholars and experts from across the globe who share their theoretical insights and innovative practices for the enhancement and transformation of engineering education.
As these platforms have provided our faculty and students with ample learning experiences, we are continuously taking efforts to build more partnerships at the international level.
What have been some cutting edge engineering education advancements in the engineering program under your leadership?
Under my leadership, the biggest achievements have been the selection of our Institute for the Technical Education for Quality improvement Program (TEQIP), which has helped us to further develop our engineering programs. The second landmark is the achievement of Autonomous Status, which allows us to update our curriculum based on industry requirements, which in turns helps produce industry-ready engineers.
We have a one-page Strategic Plan in place as a road map for RIT's development from 2013 to 2018. We have defined five-year for priority areas, which are then broken down into annual goals. These goals are given as Key Result Areas (KRA) to Directors, Deans, the Registrar and faculty. Performance awards are given as targets for in each KRA are reached.
We have enhanced the use of information and communication technologies in teaching and learning, including lectures by the National Program of Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), blended MOOCs with IIT Powai, webinars offered by IUCEE, 10-12 courses are web-based lectures from IIT Chennai. Our faculties have started regularly using active learning techniques like Zig Saw, Think Pair Share, small-group activities, Flipped Classroom and brain-storming sessions. We have implemented Project Based Learning from freshman year to final year, professional skills development and communication skills in English are embedded in curriculum from the first year through the third year. Our design of curriculum is also based on industry feedback. We evaluate our students with different methods such as online objective questions, quiz practical exams, presentations, group work and tests. Question papers are based on the Blooms Taxonomy Guideline. Furthermore, we prepare our students for higher education through the Graduate Aptitude Test for Engineering (GATE) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and foreign language classes.
In your opinion, what are some of the significant issues/topics that ought to be addressed by the global engineering community, particularly Engineering Deans, in order to further strengthen interregional communication and continue to globalize this field of study?
- To develop strategies for a global faculty exchange program in order to strengthen of academics and non-academics through exchanges.
- Similar strategies for students exchange globally along with their credit transfer so that students can get global exposure.
- Industrial training or internship for students/faculty in specialized industries in various countries supported through universities.
- Joint task forces and research projects through faculties and students to find a solution to global and local grand challenges.
- International admission for students at RIT.
What are the main areas of research in engineering (and technology) at your institution?
- Sustainable society
- Watershed management for hilly terrain; use of recycled aggregates for concrete in low-cost housing construction
- Fuel cell, solar energy and usage
- Waste-water treatment
- Interdisciplinary projects
- Design and development of agricultural implementations
- Design and development of food-processing machines
- IoT-based control systems
- Biomedical engineering
- Assistive technologies for the handicapped in vehicle design
- High-performance concrete
- Automatic water level controller
What are the main goals of RIT's research?
- To solve real life problems in the community and in industry using appropriate technology
- To publish research papers in reputed journals
- Incubation and commercialization of innovated patented products
What are your top five priorities as a Director and what do you envision for RIT five years from now?
- To be the best private self-financed university in the next five years
- To increase industry-academia interactions with internships, sponsored projects, consultancy and more
- To establish an incubation and innovative entrepreneurship centre
- To admit international students at RIT
- To implment CDIO and develop a research park
Important Achievements of RIT Under Dr. Kulkarni's Leadership
- In a 2016 survey by the NIRF, RIT was ranked 7th in Maharashtra, 75th in India and 1st in Shivaji University, Kolhapur.
- The institute received the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan National Award for an Engineering College Having the Best Overall Performance 2016 from ISTE.
- The institute was accredited with an "A" grade by the NAAC.
- RIT was named Distinguished College by the Computer Society of India (CSI) at the TexhNext India 2017 Awards to Academia.
- RIT was ranked 3rd for very good Institutional Transformation in Engineering Education by IUCEE during ICTIEE 2017.
- RIT received the 2014 Sustainable Industry Institute Partnership Award (SIIP) from IIT, Madras, which was organized by the Society for Educational and Entrepreneurship Development (SEED).
- RIT was awarded by ISTE with the Sri VVR Seshadri Rao Gudlavelleru Engineering College National Award for Best Private Engineering Colege 2013.
Dr. Kulkarni's Distinguished Memberships
- Elected Corporate Member of the Indian Institution of Engineer's Pune Local Centre Committee-Civil Divison for the 2016-2018 session
- Member of Vishwakarma Institute of Information Technology's Academic Council
- Member of the Global Engineering Deans Council
- Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, member of the ISTE and All India Association for Educational Research (AIAER)
- Member of the Board of Trustees for the Engineering Education Foundation
- ISTD National Council Member
- Chairman of Lead Colleges, Shivaji University
- Member of various committees including the Board of Studies for the Department of Technology at the University of Pune; former member of the state level governing body-the Hydrological Data user's Group (HDUG) for Maharashtra state; Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli Academic Council and Chairman of the Research Review Committee at Shivaji University