Written by Dr Maneesha V Ramesh - Dean, International Programs and Director, AMRITA Center for Wireless Networks & Applications, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, India
Why and how has your university incorporated the SDGs into teaching and learning?
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi (AMMA), a world-renowned humanitarian leader, is the founding Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. AMMA’s vision of Education for a Living and Life, her relentless focus on Compassion Driven Research, and a commitment to instilling universal values have come together to shape Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham into an institution where the latest discoveries combine with compassion and service-mindedness.
Right in the formative years of the university, Chancellor AMMA led the students and faculty to immerse themselves in a humanitarian rescue and relief effort of unprecedented magnitude when the massive tsunami struck in 2004. This became a gold mine for experiential learning in the areas of disaster management, healthcare, education, skills and livelihood, information and communication, sustainability etc., all targeted towards building resilient communities. Indeed this set our trajectory of compassion driven research. In addition to having a strong societal benefit through real-world deployments that are saving lives and improving the quality of living, research at Amrita has also resulted in high-impact publications and patents.
Education that Transforms Lives
Developing a comprehensive programme for academic engagement in building sustainable communities by designing and integrating a curriculum based on experiential learning that enable participants in contributing to 14 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Building Knowledge Societies
Bringing academics and members of the community together to create inclusive knowledge societies by increasing access to information and knowledge.
Science and Innovation for a Sustainable Future
Faculty and students from multiple disciplines use applied research to ensure sustainability through affordable scientific solutions and technological innovation. Several research projects have been initiated to develop sustainable, smart and efficient citizen-centric technological solutions to address pressing challenges of societal importance:
- The world’s first real-time wireless sensor networks for early warning of landslide disasters leading to the effective and safe evacuation of people. The university is now officially recognsed as a world centre of excellence for disaster risk reduction by the International Program on Landslides.
- A-VIEW: connects over 11,000 institutions in the country, benefitting over two million students and teachers.
- Solar powered, IoT based intelligent systems using sensors, that can prevent crop damage, increase yield and improve farmer self-sufficiency.
- A low-cost internet connectivity solution for fishermen at sea, providing safety and emergency risk management, OceanNet provides connectivity for more than 60 kilometres away from shore.
- Development of drones (UAVs) for disaster reconnaissance and the delivery of medical and other essential supplies. The team has developed and tested over 21 UAV variants for various payload sizes and diverse configurations for flight endurance.
- The Jivamritam Project: specially designed low-cost water filters deployed in more than 250 communities across the country, enabling a sustainable supply of drinking water to all..
- Gesture-driven wheelchairs to help disabled patients.
- Coconut tree climbing robots to help farmers.
- Robots for disaster relief.
- Robotic (prosthetic) arms with myoelectric sensors that can be used for amputees.
Compassion-driven research in Humanities and Social Sciences has resulted in:
- The 3A model (adaptability, agility and alignment) as a best practice for providing effective humanitarian relief during disaster management.
- Vulnerability mapping using a systems thinking approach supported by AI and GIS to benefit women across geography, time and context, enabling intervention simulations.
- In partnership with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), the development of state-of-the-art haptics technology for advanced vocational education and training. Innovative approaches in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality user interfaces that transform uneducated rural women into a self-reliant employable workforce in rural communities.
- Accurate character recognition software for multiple Indian languages (AmritaRITE), offering quality education to rural communities.
- Community-based training programmes for women in innovative financial strategies (AmritaSREE), leading to their financial independence, emotional strength and social respect. The first self-help group (SHG) has now grown to a network of over 13,000 SHGs with over 250,000 women.
- Saukhyam: reusable sanitary napkins from banana fibre, a natural absorbent with therapeutic qualities.
Experiential Learning that is not confined to four walls of the classroom
The Live-in-Labs® programme utilises a unique comprehensive framework for academic engagement, Education for Life (E4Life), implemented at Amrita for the development of SDG champions. The four phases of engagement through the E4Life framework are experience, embrace, engage and empower.
The Live-in-Labs® is a six credit course for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. This multi-dimensional framework facilitates the development and effective implementation of customised, scalable, and sustainable technological solutions to foster rural development through the four cells:
- Multidisciplinary Innovation Cell
- Experiential Learning Cell
- Implementation and Performance Cell
- Services Cell
Evidence of Success
With over 150 projects in 21 states across India, Amrita Live-in-Labs® participants have touched the lives of approximately 60,000 rural residents during the past several years. With participation from over 40 institutions around the world and nearly 50 departments, schools, and centres at Amrita, students and faculty have clocked in a monumental 200,000+ hours in the field working towards sustainable development in rural communities.
As an extension of the Amrita Live-in-Labs® programme, we are now set to offer a fully funded PhD program in Sustainable Development - the E4LIFE International PhD Fellowship Programme. Inspired by our Chancellor, compassion-driven research with a strong societal impact is the dominant theme underlying the university’s vision and priorities. This theme runs through our thrust areas of research in Science, Technology, Medicine, Humanities and Social Sciences, and aligns with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Amrita’s Chancellor announced 100 fully funded fellowships per year to international students so that all our projects are able to create a global impact.
Dr Ramesh will be speaking at our Live Event - 'From Global Goals to Global Learning' - on 25 June 2020, at 9am British Summer Time.