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Despite COVID-19 cluster, many achievements at IIT-M in 2020

The Institute’s solutions to challenges thrown up by COVID-19 won it the top ‘innovative education institute in the country’ award
It was a year of achievements for the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, which introduced some important changes in the field of higher education. Institute director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said apart from teaching, research, continuing with industry engagement and start-ups, the institute had discovered “hitherto hidden reserves in ourselves which will enable us to move forward even faster and better once the pandemic is behind us.”

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the institute holding its convocation using mixed reality.

The institute launched a novel B.Sc degree in programming and data science, open to all those who had completed class 12, removing barriers to quality education such as academic background and geographic location.

Innovative solutions to pandemic challenges’
The Institute’s solutions to challenges thrown up by COVID-19 won it the top ‘innovative education institute’ in the country award.

The Institute’s start-ups came up with modular housing, a portable hospital unit and a smart tracker that when worn on the wrist, could detect COVID-19 symptoms. An Institute-supported start up developed personal protective equipment such as face shields using 3-D printers.

A team from the Institute’s electrical engineering department came up with a solution to remotely monitor patients. A team from the applied mechanics department developed a point-of-care COVID-19 antigen test that can provide results in five minutes using saliva. The project won an award from the US-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund.

The engineering design department developed touchless sanitiser dispensera deployable in vehicles.

Recognition and awards
One of the professors, Pradeep Thalappil and alumnus Prem Watsa, founder-chairman of Fairfax Financial Holdings, was awarded the Padma Shri while industrialist, Venu Srinivasan, chairman of TVS group and honorary professor of practice at the Institute, was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

Two professors from the institute were among the 21 chosen for the Swarnajayanti fellowship across the country.

At the end of the year, the institute became a cluster for COVID-19 cases, but it was soon contained as a joint effort between the institution, Chennai Corporation and the Health Department.