IISc Open Day 2016

(a slightly delayed post!)

March 5 was Open day at IISc, the day of the year when the entire institute is open to public with interesting events, demos and talks. As a single day is super short to see all the interesting stuff, here’s what we could grab:

We began with Center for Cryogenic Technology (as it always seemed a very fancy place). Cryogenics  deals with the study of production and effects of very low temperatures, (lower than −150 °C (123 K)).  At such low temperatures,molecular motion in materials becomes very low resulting in a highly ordered state of matter. This alters some of the physical properties of materials. Liquid nitrogen and liquid helium are commonly used cryogenic fluids.

The first demo was of a cryo-jet, made from a very simple apparatus: a string tied at two rigid ends (a tree and a wall about 50-60m apart) and a plastic bottle placed at one of the ends using two hooks(string directs the bottle to a defined trajectory).Water was filled first in the bottle followed by liquid nitrogen. As soon as liquid nitrogen comes in contact with water, it starts to evaporate much faster (than if it were alone). A small hole in the bottle cap acts as a nozzle, which is initially blocked and later unblocked. As soon as it is unblocked, the bottle shoots away towards the other end. As soon as nitrogen starts to evaporate, it needs much more volume and therefore rushes out through the nozzle, pulling the bottle away in one direction.

Next  demo was dipping various objects in liquid nitrogen and observing the change in their physical properties. The demonstrating student took a rubber pipe dipped it in liquid nitrogen tank for a few seconds. When it was removed, it was super brittle (until it reaches back to atm. temperature). They also made instant ice-cream by dipping sweet milk mixture for a few seconds in liquid N2.

Later we saw liquefaction of Oxygen using liquid nitrogen. Gaseous Oxygen was filled in a balloon which was in turn connected to a glass bulb. When the bulb was immersed in liquid nitrogen container, Oxygen inside the glass bulb was cooled and liquefied and thus,volume of balloon shrunk. When the bulb was removed away from the liquid nitrogen, the O2 converted back to gas and the balloon volume increased.


liquefaction of O2

Resistance of materials also changes when subjected to ultra low temperatures. We saw a light bulb demo, where the connecting copper wire, when dipped in liquid nitrogen caused the bulb to glow brighter, as wire resistance reduced, than when it wasn’t ultra-cooled. Transmission losses during electricity transfer could be reduced by lowering the resistance of the cables. The challenge is maintaining the very low temperatures.

Magnetic levitation demos are always magical. A trail of permanent magnets was constructed and a superconductor (a special alloy dipped in cryogenic fluid for a few seconds) was put on the trail to navigate. The superconductor maintains its orientation due to pinning effect, and orbits around the trail.


levitation demo

Next to Cryogenics were demos by IISc undergraduates and we stopped to glance.

One of the fun demos was understanding a Faraday cage using soap bubbles. A closed conducting surface shields its interior from external electric fields, and is called a Faraday cage. A soap bubble was blown on a smooth surface and then a static charged plastic bottle was brought closer. The bubble moved towards the bottle. Then another bubble was blown inside the first bubble and then when the bottle was brought closer, the inner bubble didn’t react, only the outer one did.

Brachistochrone (Least time) problem demo: The setup here consisted of two different paths between two points, a linear one and  the other an inverted cycloid. The challenge was to guess which of the two paths would be faster for an object starting at rest from the top point to reach the bottom. The linear path has the shortest distance but the inverted cycloid takes less time for an object. It is because the object accelerates much faster due to rapid descent in the beginning than the linear path and then covers the rest of the path due to the built momentum.


interesting visuals at the UG Exhibit Hall

We later saw samples of various types of rocks, demo on ground water conversation and various chemistry demos, math puzzles and more..



Then we went to Center for Product Design & Manufacturing (CPDM).Lots of models and prototypes of novel concepts are always a visual treat. Among the prototypes we saw were those of foldable helmet to minimize storage space, design of a Surgical 4 state chair using a single actuator, a light weight and affordable segway  and others.

At 1pm was one of the air-show slots so we went to the Aerospace department launchpad to watch in action the planes and quadcopters built by hobbyists and the department. It was super hot but the crowd was still very enthusiastic.


After lunch and a bit of rest, we caught up the last set of demos at Electrical Communication Engineering (ECE) department.

Intruder detection with PIR sensors : The goal of the project is to detect and classify various intruders (human,animal) in outdoor scenarios, using low cost sensor network (array of Passive Infrared Sensors (PIR). The motivation of the work comes from the undesirable conflicts that occur occasionally in regions close to forests, either due to human intrusion in the wild or wild-life intrusion in human habitations. An array of 8 PIR sensors is used to classify clutter (movement of vegetation) from various intrusions (animals and humans) using machine learning.

Open shoe project: This project is being developed in collaboration with KTH Sweden, and consists of a foot mounted inertial navigation system. Each module consists of several Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) along with Bluetooth and the module sends heading and displacement data,to another device, say a phone on which the position of the wearer can be tracked. One of the applications of such technology would be to improve safety of folks like firefighters, by accurately tracking and guiding their indoor navigation as GPS signals are not available accurately.  The project is completely open source, check out more details here.


Open Shoe project (Left) and a smartphone based robot model

The demos ended by 5pm and it was a fun filled Saturday. We also missed a lot of departments demos (Neuroscience, CSA, CEDT, NanoTech..), some other time later..


Spring around!

some of the perks of living in Bangalore (and close to IISc). =)

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Story of Aster as it goes live!

Yo folks!

The startup I currently work with is launching a new product, a backpack with integrated lights, for improving visibility of cyclists on roads. The product is called Aster. (whose meaning in earlier times was ‘a star’)

The backpack features rear lights,front lights, indicator lights and automatic brake lights. It comes with a handlebar control unit for controlling the indicator
lights and the unit also doubles as a theft deterrent for your bike, by generating a motion alert on your parked bike.

The design of the bag itself is unique and has lots of cool features, such as it opens up completely flat for easy packing, has easy access laptop compartment, quick access bottle holder, a minimalist helmet holder, U-lock holder,separate dirty laundry compartment,  and lots of space for whatever you would like to stuff.

Coming to the lights part, the bag is equipped with a total of 54 LEDs (a number which might change by (+-)1,2 units as we fine tune it for the final run) which light up various areas of the backpack at various instances.  Rear lights are for normal visibility, are red in color, and can be set to steady or blinking mode. Front lights are much brighter, are white and help the cyclist be visible in the rear view mirror of the motorists ahead. Profile lights are on left and ride sides of the bag, are steady and red, and help judge the distance and width of the cyclist ahead. Indicator lights are amber in color and they turn on/off when you press the respective button on the handlebar unit. There is also reflective print on the bag.

The backpack also comes with a USB rechargeable battery. The handlebar unit is powered with a coin cell battery. There will be a whole bunch of customizations of the lights possible with the mobile app.

My contribution has been in developing algorithms for braking detection and theft alarm with sensors on the handlebar unit (so if you have any related questions there, just shoot).

We are a super small team of engineers, designers and biz guys based in Bangalore, India and we have designed and manufactured the product completely locally and are very proud of this.

More details about the product at the crowdfunding page. The campaign will be on for two months from today.  (And we are completely funded. Thanks everyone for the support! =)) If you find Aster of utility, then don’t forget to support it and spread the word.🙂

A big shoutout to everyone who gave us valuable feedback at various stages of development!



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Light of humanity

This incident happened a couple of months back, when I had just moved to Bangalore. Sometimes, I would commute with the city buses to work. I would have to change a  bus in between the route to reach work and similarly two buses for the way back home.

It was a rainy evening and the final bus to home was quite packed with passengers.I was returning after a long day, taking accidental short naps in between.  As the bus arrived at the stop, I got down hurriedly,crossed the road and started towards home.

Just then, I realized my phone was missing from the pocket. Thinking it might be in the jacket or the bag, I searched quickly but couldn’t find it. I thought to go home, and check thoroughly first, so ran to home.  After all the search, couldn’t find it anywhere. I was sure I left it in the bus, as I remembered using it there. With another phone , I called my number and it was ringing but no one responded. I realized that it was on vibrate mode, and in the crowded bus would have been hard to hear for anyone.

In the next minutes, we took a rickshaw to the bus’ final stop hoping we could catch the bus somewhere and by some chance find the phone. Given that it was recently bought and relatively expensive, I couldn’t think of losing it.

We kept calling and around the third attempt, a lady responded. It was a huge relief… I asked her where she was and that I was coming to collect the belonging. She said she is at some bus stop with the phone and that I should reach there soon. It took us about fifteen minutes to reach the exact place, there she was..waiting in the rain. It was my irresponsibility of having left it at the seat and I couldn’t have blamed if I didn’t get it back. The lady said she saw the phone on the seat after I left, and thought if unattended could be claimed by someone else (which nearly happened too). So she stepped in to return it back. I got my well-deserved bit of thrashing for the carelessness. I hugged her and thanked her for the efforts and returned home happily.

To all the beautiful people everywhere.. unknown, unsung.. for their little deeds of goodness & righteousness..

to all the little goodness around...

what is Diwali after all.. if not spreading some goodness.. =)  




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Mini Maker Faire, Bengaluru

On October 15th was the first edition of  mini maker faire in Bangalore, and a few friends and I happened to visit it. It was a nice event showcasing fun projects built by children and adults as individuals or teams.

One of the first projects I saw was by a team of 2 students,who were part of a club ‘Idea Lab’ in a local science museum (VITM).  Their idea was to use Turmeric  as a bio-pesticide instead of the usual chemical one, for several plant varieties. They had conducted studies on a few plants (Pea,Rice etc.) and found that spraying a liquid mix of water and turmeric was repelling for the pests. The newer leaves that sprouted after spraying the mix were less affected by the pests. The solution was cost effective and organic too.

Turmeric as Bio-pesticide

Turmeric as Bio-pesticide

Quite a good idea; definitely something to investigate further into.

Another fun project was called ‘Digital Reconstruction of Dussasana Vadham‘. The idea was to animate a physical object by projecting information onto it. In this case, animating a 3D model of a Kathakali Dancer’s face to tell a story through expressions.

The motivation behind the work as told by the maker was that not as many people might have seen a live Kathakali performance. Through this digital storytelling, he could reach out to a lot more folks.

Animate any structure to tell a story!

(L) The 3D structure of face of a Kathakali Dancer (R) Projected Image on the structure

We could animate so many things around like this!

Another interesting work was quite high-tech and of much more utility too. Built by a team of researchers at IISc, Bangalore was a low cost, portable nano-particle synthesizer. The setup utilized microfluidics to instantaneously synthesize metal nanoparticles, which could be used in a variety of sensing scenarios.



An example scenario was melamine detection in milk, for which the existing prototype costs a lot and therefore is not prevalent. The proposed solution would be super cheap and accurate too.

Scaled versions of Rail locomotives

Some highly industrious work was done by a Railway locomotive fan from the city. He has been building scaled models of railway locomotive out of recycled paper since many many years. His models are complete physical replicas of their original counterparts, containing the exact same number of components too.


Patience poured in..

Just do it! :D

Just do it!😀

Among other popular projects were a rope fountain demo and boombox karaoke by a team of designers from the town, some cool prototypes of pinhole camera and an led display watch.

Accompanying them were the usual clan of 3D printers, quadcopters, electronics prototyping kits and others…

Clockwise from top: Karaoke on Solar powered music player, Pin-hole cameras and LED matrix display Watch

Clockwise from top:
Karaoke on Solar powered music player, Pin-hole cameras and LED matrix display Watch

Maker Faire2

Some interesting 3D prints

Was a fun afternoon.

Kudos to all makers!🙂

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Lake Constance and around

After a long interval, there was a little bit of travel a month ago..  happened to be around the region around Lake Constance in Austria and Germany. The entire region is quite beautiful, especially it was Spring then, when everything comes to life.🙂

The trip began with Austria, in the towns of Dornbirn and short trip to Bregenz and Feldkirch followed by the German side of the lake, in the towns Lindau, Kressbronn, Markdorf and Friedrichshafen..

Beginning from Austria..  Bregenz is a nice town by the lakeside, and is capital of the Vorarlberg state of Austria. It has a nice art festival each year (Bregenzefestspiele) around July-August when people from around the region come to enjoy the music and theater plays.  I stayed in the bigger town Dornbirn, in the same state, which was also quite nice..


Bregenz, Austria


Dornbirn, Austria

Bregenz town..

the text translates to ” From apprentice to Master” (somewhere in Bregenz town)

Now coming to Germany, Lindau has the lakeside just outside the main train station and so a nice place to sit or take a stroll. At a short distance to Lindau is the village of Kressbronn, where I was hosted by a wonderful couple. We went to a concert of a Polish all-girls band in the neighboring town and had dinner together.  Such friendly and kind people they were!

The next day was at Markdorf and Friedrichshafen. Friedsrichshafen is a totally amazing place , with again lakeside just outside the main train station. Some old friends came to meet so it was even more fun. We took a boat ride (‘Hello Kitty’ was our boat😀, as chosen by the boys ) in the Lake, and saw (for the first time!) airships (Zeppelin) floating across the sky and spent the rest of the time just sitting at the Lakeside..

I would say Europe is a place to be in Spring, even more than Summer (sometimes it gets too hot :P).

To happy travels! Enjoy!




at some shop in Lindau..



hello Beautiful!

hello Beautiful!

Friedrichshafen Lakeside

Friedrichshafen Lakeside

Sea shells!


See you again!

See you again, Lake Constance!

[Thanks Viru for your camera!]

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Beautiful Belgium

A few weekends ago, I was in Belgium with some friends. It was our first visit in the country though we study not too far from there.

We visited 3 places; the capital Brussels and two other towns, Ghent & Bruges, and here’s what I liked the most about them:

Comic Art cult

So Belgium boasts of having the highest density of comic artists in the world! There are university degrees offered for this area🙂 and Tintin and Smurfs are some of the creations from Belgium.

Tin tin art somewhere in Brussels

Tintin art somewhere in Brussels

so very cute! =) somewhere in Ghent..


We get to see a lot of graffiti elsewhere in Europe but Belgium definitely has more cute art around its walls.

the beautiful exteriors!

Frankly we didn’t expect Belgium to have much different architecture than its neighbors.. but it really is nicely different.

The houses are colored brightly and many of them have a staircase shaped front which looks nice.


houses in Bruges..

market place in Bruges..

what a beautiful Blue!

what a beautiful Blue!


Towns like Bruges have a medieval look and it is so pretty..

Bruges to you, folks!

Bruges to you, folks

and the beautiful interiors

Not just the outsides, their sense of interior design is also very nice. In each shop, we found uniquely designed mannequins and a different sense of style.


travellers' bar..

travellers’ bar..

Valentine's Day theme all over! =)

Valentine’s Day theme all over! =)

and how can we forget their sense of beautiful chocolate styling!🙂

hammer 'em down!

hammer ’em all down!

Music on the Streets

This might singularly refer to Bruges but the music we heard on the streets there was just out of the world. The artist played fusion music using a hand pan (heard about it the first time there!) and a really long pipe like instrument (a Didgeridoo) accompanied by a Shruti box and some Ghunghroos!🙂 We got a pleasant surprise when we saw the Indian musical instruments among his repertoire of tools.  Probably, Good music comes when combining some bits from everywhere! =)

His channel if you might want check out a little.

the music that takes you somewhere above..

the music that takes you somewhere far..


Do not forget to also try out Cuberdones in Ghent.. It was something really different.. plus it was vegetarian.. plus the vendor we met was a very nice person..

It is basically a cone shaped candy which is hard outside and fluidy inside and is fruit flavored.. Also it stays great until about 3 weeks, so pack some along for the journey..

yumm yummm..

yumm yummm..

Everything else

  • Potato fries come from Belgium as we got to know, but they are fried mostly in animal fat, so vegetarians be careful. Waffles are nice and soft, and the authentic ones are topped with just plain sugar and nothing more. U shud try them out!🙂
  • Every 3rd shop at all places we were was a chocolate shop, so we ended up just drooling at their beautiful chocolate creations. We spent all our time trying to search for the most authentic chocolates and ended up with nothing in hand!😛 Maybe one more trip just for chocolates..
  • Belgian railways is comparatively cheaper and is particularly generous to youth < 26 (so travel b4 u turn 26!)
  • Weekend tickets are usually at 50% discount so try to plan the travel accordingly.
  • Take a USE-IT map for all places you visit. It is super cool and offers super local information for free! (thanks for finding ’em, Viru)
  • The best way to travel within the country is by trains and within the cities by walk..

It was a great trip in the tiny country and we look forward to another trip there sometime.

Belgium, indeed..

Belgium, indeed.. (Clockwise from left: A store name we came across, the Belgian waffle, postcards made with lace designs, USE-IT info maps)

Happy Travels folks! Spring is here!

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the home coming..

I am flying home tonight after a long stretch of 850 days.. came to Germany for my master degree and going home after completing it..🙂
It has been an incredible journey and taught many many lessons.. and as this phase of life comes to a conclusion,I am reminded of an incident from the movie Life of Pi.. so the story is a about a little boy stuck with a tiger on a small boat in the middle of the sea.. how he manages to survive with the big cat and other conditions until they find the shore. When they finally do reach the shore, the tiger takes his own path and that incident breaks the boy’s heart.. since the tiger was part of his struggle,he thought he would stay with him afterwards too.. but instead he just walked away and the boy who was so strong during the entire journey… wept like a child grieving the loss of his cat friend..
What he didn’t realize was that the cat was with him as a matter of chance.. and the purpose he served was to make the boy stronger..and when he found a way of his own,he pursued that..

A lot of people and places touch our journey and shape us in different ways.. but not everything and everyone carries along with us .. they serve their purpose and then move on in space and time.. we must learn to accept that,shouldn’t we!🙂

A note of gratitude to everything and everyone who shaped me.. and to all things yet to come!!

And I just realize how strange spaces most airports are.. too much of artificial light all the time to know whether it’s day or night,or how the weather is outside.. too formally dressed staff,long faced immigration officials :p .. crazy expensive goods…isn’t it! I love to see a plane take off and the technology marvel it is, but the airports could be made better..🙂

A few hours more to reach the best place on the planet… home..!

happy holidays folks! Until next year!

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