Seoul National University and Kathmandu University Ramping Up That Partnership

UAV workshop that ended recently at Kathmandu University. Prof. Maskey seen here at left first.
Photo Credits: Peter
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It was back during my SLC examination preparation that I frequently visited Kathmandu University, mainly to escape the hustling and bustling and the pollution of Kathmandu (yep, ironically the main campus is not located in the capital) to "focus" on my preparation but also to get to see how universities in Nepal are like. Unlike Korea, where higher institutions build good partnership between schools and where high and middle school students frequently visit the school premises and the labs, the system is not quite there back home.

In fact nobody plans on going to "see" a university and how it functions. I don't remember me doing the same. It is likely that it stems from the fact that institutions themselves have enough problems to deal with; the student unions, the ugly looking politicians and local agitating parties and add to the fact how Nepali students behave, one can truly understand how chaotic the whole yearly schedule can be.

There's no time for outsiders.

The landscape is slowly changing though. Prof. Maskey was brought in to build a R&D based culture into Kathmandu University where largely the focus is on teaching and that's about it. It's hard for any student outside Nepal to think that University do anything but teach, which is clearly not the only work that these institutions do. Here at Seoul National University, graduate school has a tendency to lean towards hands on project/research based learning rather than sitting in the class listening to lectures.

By R&D I mean, not the fancy state of the art R&D. Nepal doesn't need to do that. What Prof. Maskey has been able to do is start from ground up which looks very promising indeed. His initiative now to build a proper relationship with Korea's Seoul National University (SNU) has not only helped his students learn from fellow students from SNU but also build a sustaining working partnership.

As the cliché goes, the fruits are starting to appear. KU was not only opening up for local partnerships but international as well.

Before we delve any further into SNU's project in Nepal in collaboration with Kathmandu University (KU), we will have a look at how it all began. 

The Beginning:

Credit where it's due, and it was Dr. Binayak Bhandari, an ex-student of KU and then still a student here at SNU, who took the initiative to convince the administration here to sign the MOU with KU. From then on, a steady stream of Professors, Masters and Undergraduates have come on gone as part of the exchange agreement that the two school signed back in 2010.  

In fact, the very first time I came here at SNU, I was mistaken to be an exchange student from KU. I didn’t bother clarifying this because I was being introduced to other exchange students and was forced to take basic informal Korean lessons with them. Which to be quite honest, was what I wanted. I am still in touch with those kids. [You know who you are!]

Taking it to the next level:
Article on the Nepal Solar Volunteer Corps on The SNU Quill,
SNU's english language journal

Dr. Bhandari teamed up with Prof. Hoon from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering as part of the Nepal Solar Volunteer Corps, to instigate series of renewable energy projects. SNU required a local partner to provide volunteers and technical support and that's when KU, under the leadership and co-ordination of Prof. Maskey, started becoming seriously involved. Having been personally on ground in one of those projects (Kolkhop) for both reporting for the SNU journal and constructing of the planned micro-hydropower plant, I could see how the relationship between the two institutions were slowly making a difference at grass root levels in Nepal.

The Present:

Shiva Raj Poudel addressing the locals
Photo Credits: Shiva Raj Poudel (all)
On more recent collaborative projects, Shiva Raj Poudel, a graduate student here at SNU at the Department of Mechanical Engineering was in Thanapati Village, Nuwakot District in Nepal last month as part of SNU IGSR (Seoul National University Institute for Global Social Responsibility) for dual solar/hydro installation. This was the first attempt at reconstruction effort to help Nepal from SNU. Poudel, with his own local team and with volunteer support from KU, was able complete an installed capacity of 4KW in total (3KW solar + 1KW hydro) and hand it over to the local community.

3KW solar installation

1KW Hydropower plant for off-grid supply

Peter (an exchange student here from Georgia Tech) and his team from SNU were also in Nepal and only returned back on Monday after completing a 4-day Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Workshop which was scheduled from 6th to 9th of this month at KU. The team demonstrated two UAVs, one fixed another quad and brought in a healthy dose of motivation for the newly formed robotics team who are also working on their own KUCopter for remote sensing purposes. 

His team's arrival at Kathmandu University
Photo Credits: Prof. Maskey (all)

Peter making his presentation on the team's fixed wing UAV development @ KU

There are, notably, further two projects that I have been currently advising that have already made contact with KU and have been seriously considering bringing their ideas back home.

Jae's rendering of his bamboo wind turbine powered street lamp
Photo Credits: Jae (all)

One that I am really excited about is SNU Design School major Jaekang Ha’s final year project which is based on improving Kathmandu’s urban landscape by introducing locally made bamboo based street lamps. The lamp is powered by wind turbines made entirely out of bamboos and the initial rendering on the streets of Kathmandu Valley do look very impressive indeed. His focus was to improve the worsening road conditions for both pedestrians and drivers and since the valley does lack that, the project could well move on from the design to prototype and finally to implementation phase; given students from KU can be involved in the process as well.

Full scale rendering of his lamp
Way to Bhaktapur
Traffic post


The second project, which only has just begun, promises to be an interesting one as well. During the time of the earthquake, there was much need for shelter for the victims. This team decided to be creative and design a bag such that it would open up to become a tent. However, as Nepal moves on to more recovery rather than emergency mode and since tents of all sorts have been constructed and used, the team is now focusing on people who actually provide the relief because that’s where I feel focus should be right now. Initially the youths who were involved in Together with Gorkha (now rebranded as Together with Nepal as their scope widened) who made the first leap to support fellow Nepalese, were largely under prepared. While doing their rapid assessment, they lacked proper clothing, proper shelter and proper equipment. What if there all they had to carry was a bag that had all the necessities packed up and ready to go? A bag that could turn into a tent or a stretcher or injured carrier for rough landscapes or at worst of times, a blanket? That would be pretty darn awesome.

The multidisciplinary team was kind enough to share some of their initial designs although a lot has already changed. They are now waiting proper response from KU and Together with Gorkha/Nepal to receive feedback on their design and hopefully head to the rough landscapes to test their prototype in the near future. 

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