Finally we made it! My classmates, with invaluable help from other friends from the Maths department, organized the largest ever IITB Mathematics Olympiad. With 1500 registered participants from schools and colleges all over Mumbai, we successfully organized the event that can, for most of us, be described as the most amazing time of our IITB lives. The help and support and participation from my Math class was inspiring. Amar has so wonderfully described the event ( and praised me 😛 ) that I don’t feel like continuing my incomplete draft. So here gets deleted my draft, and Amar’s article follows:

Being in IITB has been an awe-inspiring experience for most of us. Everything here happens on a scale unimaginable to most who are not part of this amazing college. You know Mood Indigo, Techfest, the Performing Arts Festival, the fledgling start-ups by the students, the in-development micro-satellite that is soon to be launched by ISRO, the renowned teaching, the innovative products and services developed by students… All have one thing in common; support of faculty, and lots of money being poured into them. In comparison, the IITB Math Olympiad is a small event. The logistics that go into it are a far cry from those that go into a Mood I or a Techfest. And it seriously lacks all-round support of faculty. Maybe this is why the departments of pure science(Math, Physics, Chem…) never make it to the headlines of papers like the engineering departments do. It is not like there is a lack of talent. There is a lack of inspirational leadership and support.

Let me rephrase. The IITB Math Olympiad was a small event; until January 31, 2010 came along.

What, why and how of the Big O…

The IIT Bombay Mathematics Olympiad is (purportedly) an annual event and takes place in the months of January or February. It is a competition that tests problem-solving skills of students belonging to schools and junior colleges. The questions are by and large based on, but not restricted to, high school mathematics. Last year, the event did not take place because our seniors were not really up for the challenge. All the people on the students’ council (called as the Mathematics Association, IIT Bombay here) were in the ASI programme and were not really inclined to have a ‘Math Olympiad.’ It was a real shame, and we disliked them for not organising the event which is a tradition here. We had promised ourselves, and Govind reiterated this when he became GSec of the Assoc, that we must organise the event, come what may. We did not have a clue as to where to start, since the event had not taken place when we were juniors here. Govind and I realised that we need a complete overhaul of the proceedings of the Assoc and Govind supplied the clarion call: “Olympiad karke rahenge!” And then the two of us began to prepare the groundwork that was to lead to the most amazing time of our IITB lives…

The Lead-up

Govind and I first began to make rounds of our teachers’ rooms to garner support for the idea. Neela Ma’am was the first to back us. She said it would involve enormous effort from our side and hardly anyone would volunteer to execute the huge exercise. But we were determined. We booked the Convocation Hall for the event. We got Krishnan sir on board to proof-read the question papers that were to be designed by students. We used to make rounds of the PA System office almost everyday to know how to get the necessary permissions. But the Assoc was short of money. After a brain-storming session with our classmates in Govind’s room, we chalked a plan to decide on the next steps. I made the registration form and covering letter, Abhishek took up the job of designing the QP along with Anup, Arun decided to look after the sponsorship, Arundhati gave us a new and exciting logo and a cool poster, Ojas drew up a list of schools and colleges to target, and Abhishek and I volunteered to be contacts for students. Finally, things were picking up. We got the posters printed, and selected 500 schools and colleges randomly to target. The Olympiad website had to be updated too. The last date for entries was set as January 9, 2010. But we had not taken into account that kids have their Christmas vacations just before, and unit tests around, that time. There were a few other exams that were clashing on that day. Many schools requested us to postpone the last date, and we obliged. Before that the number of entries coming in was thin, and we were worried that the event would be a total disaster. But we hung on to hope.

From a Trickle to a Flood!

With less than five forms on 5th January, 2010 to almost 1500 on the day we closed registrations, we had come a long way indeed. The number was mind-boggling and the expected footfall on that day was going to cross 2000! This year, we broke all records; the number of registrations and the income from registrations. Ashish, our Treasurer, was a lakhpati! The event had grown to become an organisational challenge and we were not sure if we were up for it. We had to book more venues. For the first time, the O was going to be held at different venues! We had to bring sponsors and Arun handled that job very well. In keeping with tradition, we decided to bring out a souvenir for the event, for which Arundhati designed the cover and Abhishek coordinated the articles. Here I have to mention Nahush who assisted him splendidly in getting the LaTex code together. The security for the day was handed to Rohit, who came up with a good plan but we were not sure if it was implementable. That led to some spats between the two classes, but in the end, we all came together.

Before the O-Day…

The number of entries was so huge that it required a dedicated group to handle the examination process. Here is where Ashish, Siddharth, Yogendra and Shirish stepped in. They sorted the forms, prepared the Excel sheets of the registered students, conceived the seating arrangement for the day, prepared the seat code stickers and allocated tasks to juniors and they determined the actual exam day procedures. They also coordinated between the different venues. They formed the backbone of the event. They poured their heart and soul into their work and went for days without sleep to make the event a day to remember. Bunk, Ojas and I got the winners’ prizes. Shrinivas designed the certificates, which went through a lot of modifications before they were finalised. Bakul, Riddhi and Uma spent the night near the printer. Uma designed the answer sheet and the transparencies. Arun designed the official T-shirt, but we could not receive the orders in time. We had MS Raghunathan as our guest speaker for the event.

O-Day: We will never forget…

O-Day, most of us would agree, is the most memorable day of our life in IITB. None of us would ever forget January 29, 2010 when we secured the event. All of us were out in the Academic Area, determined to make it happen. The night before the event was when we got most of the work done; printing of question papers, the answer sheets, the transparencies, preparation of the files and envelopes that were going to carry them, the allotment of tasks to each individual, the day’s programme was charted out by Bankim, the placards and banners were put up, the venues were stuck with seat number stickers, the Convo was cleaned, the certificates were brought from the press… On O-Day, in the morning, we also brought the souvenirs from the press. Everyone slogged through the night to tie the event together. Having four venues was a difficult task and we were running from one place to another to see if everything was in order everywhere. I was at the Convo, and Shirish held his own there and managed the exam with an enviable command. We screened ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’ at the event and had MSR’s talk before we announced the results. The research scholars evaluated the papers. As the event drew to a close, the realisation that we had come together like never before and managed to organise a remarkable event, set in and overwhelmed us completely. There are some days you live for, and this was indeed one of those.

The event, as Govind put it, showed us what we could really achieve if we work together. Here I need to mention Abhishek, who designed the QPs and the souvenir and took part in everything that had to be done to make the event possible. Ashish, Shirish and Siddharth along with Yogendra spelt out what event management is all about and left their impressions on the event for everyone to see, thought they handled the often thankless back-end. I am very proud of my class-mates and honoured to have been able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them when we together organised the 28th IIT Bombay Mathematics Olympiad.

* Tailpiece *

We are planning to design an ‘Operating Manual’ for the Olympiad, that we want to hand over to our juniors, so that they do not face the same difficulties we faced while organising the event next year. Like I said to Abhishek, we can only safely say we succeeded, if next year, the event gets bigger. Juniors, make it so!

PS: Please visit Amar’s blog to see the O-photos!