The University of Mysore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka was selected as the venue for the third international festival of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEMfest 2016), and had jointly organised it with event management specialist CIMGlobal and Global Stem States, a forum that discusses the role that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) innovation plays in the needs of industry, export, trade and development.
The University, which is the sixth oldest university in India and oldest in the state of Karnataka, hosted STEMfest 2016 on the sidelines of its centennial celebrations.
The four-day event featured exhibits from leading institutions, corporates and R&D organisations in addition to an educational fair that saw participation from national and international institutions. A mobile planetarium, robotic competition, demonstration of drones, summit for game and app developers, and forum on space and astronomy were among other attractions at the event.
Due to political unrest arising from disagreements between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over access to water from the Cauvery river, organisers of STEMfest 2016 had to tackle potential attendee attrition.
The conflict emerged a month before the event and saw violent protests taking place across Karnataka – even in host city Mysore – that were covered extensively by various media houses. That worried international and national delegates.
The timing of the conference posed another challenge. It was to be held immediately after the Hindu festival of Dussehra, which meant many academic establishments were closed for the holidays and therefore their students were unable to attend the Science, Technology & Education Exhibition held along with STEMFest 2016.
To tackle fears of the unrest, STEMFest 2016 organisers communicated regularly with all delegates and assured them of their safety and security while in the state of Karnataka. Details of efforts made by the government to ensure that the general public was protected from the protests were also conveyed to the delegates.
However, Anitha Niranjan, managing director of CIMGlobal, opined that their efforts would have been “more effective” if “state government representatives had made assurances to the delegates” as well.
Despite these challenges, students from various colleges and schools thronged the Science, Technology & Education Exhibition. A robotics exhibition also turned out to be a hit with visitors.
With hindsight, Niranjan opined that strategic events for the education, science and technology domain needed strong participation from the state and central governments.
She said: “The participation of the government sector has to be ensured in such events, as that can bring about the much needed changes in our education system.”