Eklavya IIT Bombay Internship Experience 2018

IIT Bombay, that lits up one’s mind with all its glory and reputation, provides a chance to students from different institutes for internships every year and 2018 was no different, except that I found myself eligible to apply there for the same.

Out of a rush of 3000-odd competitors applying for an internship at IIT Bombay, only a handful of 74 were given a chance and I was luckier enough to get in through Academic Quota (for institute top rankers).

After completing the 2nd year examinations at my college, finally it was time to go to a place which each one of us always dreamt about.

Reaching IITB, on 15th May (my birthday), my first observation was about the greenery of this place, which was no different from my own institute-neither better nor worse.

So, lets begin the internship!

The first couple of days were introductory, as expected.

The first day started with Prof. Dr. D.B.Phatak’s introduction of Eklavya internship and some quick guidelines followed by the project presentations by the respective mentors. To be honest, all the presentations were too tough to sink in my mind.

Nevertheless, I found one project (based on Machine learning ) with a familiar topic listed in its prerequisites- Data Structures.

Thanks to R.B.Keskar Sir (VNIT, Nagpur) who strongly built our concepts of Data Structures so that I could say I am a good candidate for this project.

Among all the other interns present, there was a big hype about Machine Learning and everyone wanted to just grab it before someone other does that.

Probably, only I had a different reason to prefer this project over all the other projects. Consequently, the most popular project was decided to be given away based on experience in Machine Learning, which was (and is still) an absolute zero for me.

Now, time required me to submit my preferences-three preferences were needed and I was figuring out what my next two will be.

Randomly, I chose Analytics as my second preference and some Research based Project as my third one- the second one was what I was finally allotted (the first one was never a hope).

The next day was the start to the journey in real sense.

The Analytics Team, of which I was a part, gathered, waiting for our mentor and hence the project details.

The project details were revealed and we were asked to familiarize ourselves with Python, luigi, Node.js, Django , Bootstrap.

The learning curve was too much for each one of us, thereby it was divided.

I chose to learn Node.js and Django, this is where I feel I made a big mistake, choosing something without understanding the motto of the project, which kept me away from understanding the buzz-Big Data.

Despite efforts, there was no coming back thereafter, I was put in to enhance the front-end of a platform that displayed course analytics to course teams — open edX.

Things started with the installation of dashboard in my local machine.

Seemingly easy, this was the most complicated task I had ever faced till then.

The tough phase already began and I kept on giving commands that spanned a long time. To worsen the situation, the output was a list of errors, meaning I had to redo the same thing by putting more efforts to resolve the errors.

Even the other guys, who were luckier to be given a chance to work with Big Data, faced similar problems in the installation. After putting a couple of weeks in this process, despite failures, our mentor asked us to go through the open edX code (from github repositories) and understand the system.

Now, we spent time “reading” the codes.

Also during this internship, there were talks organized for we interns regarding the current technological developments and other topics.

The talk that really impressed me was about “Image Analytics” — yeah, related to recent Google’s image search and Facebook’s photo tagging suggestions. It involved discussion about how Computer Science can ease the life of people ranging from radiologists to traffic police and even farmers. To end with, the hype that AI is all set to replace humans everywhere was answered beautifully in the talk with the following incident-

“A student went to a teacher’s cabin to ask a doubt. The teacher answered him and the student left. But the way his student closed the door while leaving made the teacher call the student back and answer him more precisely, ensuring that he left satisfactorily that time.” (The teacher is a famous person, I don’t remember his name. (Naam mein kya rakha hain?))

Computers will fail to understand unusual situations like this, even if they become Artificially Intelligent and the skilled part of work is far from being replaced by AI.

Coming back to “understanding” open edX code!

Call it luck or fortune, I was able to figure out that part of the code which was required to be modified in order to accomplish my task in a quick time.

The problem was that I could not change it right away as I didn’t have the set-up till then to verify the change.

After another few days of “understanding” the code, I started guessing the required but would have felt a lot better if I could hit-and-try those!

Again, I was to get back to the boring (yeah I was bored now) work of setting up the dashboard and fixing the previously unresolved issue.

Indeed near the end of the internship I came to know that what I considered an error was not an error but a message because of lack of certain pipeline tasks(a technical term) but during that time I literally wasted my time without proper assistance.

The shifting through continued — go through the codes, “guess” the modifications and keep on fixing the errors and proceeding if possible.

Time continued to flow seemingly faster and the internship was nearing an end now!

Under tremendous pressure, I prepared the document for my codes and felt a bit too nervous, hence seeked help from Prof. Dr. D.B.Phatak, who really boosted me from zero to 100%. He, unexpectedly appreciated my constant efforts in setting up and understanding the platform, which was considered very huge and complicated due to its vastness. This talk with him also made me feel very priviledged as I was given approximately an hour by such a busy Padma Shri of India for my silly query!

Near the end, a new set of experienced people helped me finish things off happily by making me verify to some extend that what I figured out was not incorrect and here I came to know what I considered “errors” were not really “errors” but a set of messages indicating some possible fixes (lack of availability of pipeline tasks). Had I known this earlier I would have been able to verify the correctness of my codes and end up being high!

Nevertheless, I had to consider myself happy, in the end, for I have worked on the front-end of such a “big” platform ( if not big data) almost alone having taken a good amount of learning in the process.

Finally the presentation day arrived on 6th July, 2018 , the clock ticked 10.30 am and Open edX team was called upon to present their work in front of experts at IITB.

I would say our presentation was pretty confident and within the specified time limit. Also Prof. Dr.D.B.Phatak, the principal investigator of our project applauded our efforts, works and the takeaways.

Finally the internship came to an end with Certificate Distribution and Award Ceremony for top 4 from Software Quota (I would like to see VNITians here from next year) and a wonderful valedictory speech again by Prof.Dr.D.B.Phatak.

The internship ended but not its memories, still some moments scare me while some make me happy for an experience IITB provided me to look back.

In the end, I would like to describe this journey with myself being-

“An IITian by chance, although a VNITian by heart”

-Abdul Sattar Mapara