EXCITING TIMES AT X-TECH
St Xavier’s Technical Institute celebrated its platinum jubilee in the year 2012. This is an Institute that has had a remarkable history, being one of the first in electronics in Mumbai and, for long, the leading training Institute for marine radio in the country. A time like this jubilee is a good time to take a fresh look at many of the significant things that happened during the past years.
My time with X-TECH began in 1968 when I was studying at the IIT for 5 years, but directing the student activities at X-TECH on the weekends. Then I was here again in 1981, but my time as Principal began in 1985, just before the Golden Jubilee. I had the privilege of being the Principal for almost 20 years, and the memories I have are of a vibrantly creative place with superb faculty and administrative staff. This was seen in the fact that not only did we make our mark in academics, but our annual picnics were a riot of fun. Besides we used to meet each year for a training Colloquium, usually in Khandala, which was a time of both personal enrichment and much fun.
St Xavier’s Technical Institute had, from its inception, been known for its Marine Radio Officers’ course. We had the extraordinary good fortune of having Prof M. V. Kini who joined the Institute around 1939, two years after the Institute started, and he was with us till the time the Radio Officers’ job itself ended across the world. The Radio Officers used to use the Morse code to communicate from ships, and this became obsolete when satellite phones came in. Prof. Kini headed the Radio Officers’ course for over 60 years. When the Institute celebrated its diamond jubilee project Kini had been actively teaching for over 50 years and so the Marine Department was named after him, the Prof M. V. Kini Marine Department.
Together with him we had Prof. R.S. Bhagwat, who headed the the Diploma in Electronics and Radio Engineering (D.E.R.E.) Department. He was a creative wizard in electronics for his time. It was proof of his ability that Dr Homi Bhabha, the great atomic scientist, had asked Prof. Bhagwat to design an amplifier for his personal use. After Prof Bhagwat, we had Prof. V. S. Naik as the Head of Department of the D.E.R.E. Prof. Naik was seen by all as a very committed teacher.
At that time, we also had the Diploma in Sound and Television Engineering (D.S.T.V.E.) While the DERE had an intake of 60 students, the DSTVE had an intake of only 20. And usually there had been the problem that few students opted for the DSTVE at the start, and so this was later merged with the DERE with an intake of 80.
We also ran two one-year part time certificate courses: The Radio Servicing and the TV Servicing courses. Later with colour TV becoming important a third course was added, the Advanced Colour TV Servicing course. These three courses were later amalgamated into a single new diploma course, the Diploma in Radio, Audio and Video Engineering Services, D. R. A. V. E. S. This name was too unwieldy and it was later changed to D.R.A.V.E. and again later to D.A.V.E. and still later to D.E.V.E. (Diploma in Electronics & Video Engg.) We were fortunate to get Prof. Mrs. S. S. Gurjar as the Head of Department of this course.
Already in 1981 we had started teaching microprocessors. At that time this was a brand new area; the 8080 and Z80 had just come out. And in 1985 we began a Creativity Lab for experimenting with many new IC’s and circuits that were being developed at the time.
25 years ago, we celebrated our golden jubilee. At that time, we decided to start a radar course for marine Radio Officers. At that time this was not available in India. And so we sent Mr P.P. Thakur to England to do the certified course there and we also arranged for him to go to a company that manufactured radars in order to study the equipment in greater detail. In July 1986 we were the first in India to begin the Marine Radar Maintenance Course (RMC) and very soon students of our course were being preferred by shipping companies. Later, we upgraded this course to the new Automatic Radar Plotting Aids (A.R.P.A.) course.
In April 1991 a new course was started for Navigating Officers, the Marine Communication Course. The needed software for the equipment was very expensive, and so we designed and built the simulator software for a Satcom Simulator and a Radio Telex Simulator. The quality of these was clear from the fact that two other marine training institutes, Advanced Maritime Institute at New Delhi and another institute at Chennai purchased the simulator software for these from us for their training.
A few years later, the world marine communication system changed to the G. M. D. S. S. (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) and in 1993 we were the first Institute in India to have this course properly certified and running. For two years this Institute remained the only institute running this course in India. Capt Marek Chaves headed the Marine Department and it was he who developed the GMDSS with both British and Indian certification.
In 1994 X-TECH became the first international member of the Association of Marine Engineering and Radio Colleges (A.M.E.R.C.), UK.
Our Marine Department needed international quality certification since our marine course students were employed all over the world. In 1999 we were awarded ISO 9002 Certification by Det Norske Veritas, an internationally accredited quality auditing agency.
Our computer centre started in 1987 with a special grant received from the Central Government and we became the proud owners of one main computer with a 20MB hard disk and 12 dumb terminals. At that time this was quite a good facility. We were also then one of only 4 educational or research institutions in Mumbai to have e-mail through the National Informatics Centre (NIC, New Delhi): the other three were TIFR, IIT and NCST. Mrs. Jayanthi Chavan and Mrs. Megha Gawde were among the Heads of Department who led much of the creative development in this centre.
The whole faculty together had spent about a year crystallising what should be the vision statement of St Xavier’s Technical Institute, and we finally put it as the “Joy of Excellence in a World of High Technology.”
As a part of this quest for excellence, our computer centre took on several large projects in real life. We undertook the complete computerisation of Holy Family Hospital, Bandra. This meant a network of about 150 computers linked together with specific reports available at different points. For instance, the operation theatre would have a specific report for surgeons, a separate one for the nurses regarding the equipment required for each operation; the administrator could get an overall report of the finances or the number of operations or the number of patients.
A little later we undertook the computerisation of the Board of Technical Examinations, which again was a network of over 100 computers keeping details of course syllabi, the marks in examinations of all the different courses by all the students, the legal cases being handled and so on.
When the DTE decided to computerise the centralised Diploma Admission process for all 6 regions in Maharashtra State (as was being done already for engineering degree admissions) our Institute designed and implemented the software for this.
Similarly when the State Government decided to have a state-wide on-line Examination for their own employees who had completed the Maharashtra State Certificate Course in Information Technology (MSCCIT), this was designed and implemented by our Insititute.
And the first website of the Maharashtra State Board of Technical Examinations, www.msbte.com, with the results of over 1,00,000 students, was designed and implemented by X-TECH.
We introduced the Advanced Diploma in Computer Software,Systems Analysis & Applications course with certification from Indira Gandhi National Open University. For this we set up a direct satellite link via VSAT with IGNOU, New Delhi, for live teaching from there.
The State Government had granted academic autonomy to our Institute, and we had worked with the Technical Teachers’Training Institute, Bhopal, to develop new curricula based on competencies needed by diploma holders in real life as engineers. In 1996 the TTTi informed us that we were the first polytechnic in India to fully implement competency-based diploma courses.
The Director of Technical Education appointed our Institute as the State Learning Resources Development Centre for electronics. We received equipment and staff for preparing teaching materials in tape-slide and computer formats which were available to all other institutions in the State.
With technology changing fast we needed to build our international linkages. And so we had a 4-year project (March 1993 – April 1997) funded by the Canadian International Development Agency for a tie-up with the Saskatchewan Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (SIAST) with their headquarters in Regina, Canada. Many of our faculty and office staff went to Canada under this project, and we also received a significant amount of equipment.
At X-TECH we also felt that besides our direct goal of high quality technical education, we had the responsibility to act as a community centre for the neighbouring slum and housing colonies. Many children there had no needed facilities to study at home and so, from 1986 on, we welcomed children from the neighbourhood to come and study in our classrooms. At examination times it was common to have all our classrooms filled with students studying till much after midnight.
It was evident, from the rapid advances in technology in our fields of electronics and computers, that we would need to move to degree courses. And so the construction of a new building began, and today we have Xavier Institute of Engineering fully functional and already highly reputed. But this really began after I left in 2004, and so that part of the story is outside of what I was personally involved with.
I am sure the two institutions will move on to great heights and I wish both, especially St. Xavier’s Technical Institute at its Platinum Jubilee, much joy as they train many young engineers to be creative leaders in the exciting fields of Electronics and Information Technology.
Fr. Francis de Melo, S.J.
Fr. Francis de Melo S.J. is presently the Director of St. Xavier’s Technical Institute and Xavier Institute of Engineering, Mahim, Mumbai.