ARJUN SAWHNEY

I’m a 18 year old studying at the University of California, San Diego. I’m passionate about Computer Science, design, sketching, and building FeedOn, my social venture

Building India's Premier School Tech Event: ShriTeq

2015

        Once a year, in October, The Shri Ram School shifts the spotlight to its flagship tech event: ShriTeq. Started by the Head of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in 2014, the event is every student’s favourite. Different from all other school events, ShriTeq has since grown to become a unique symposium that attracts the biggest names in the tech world. The ShriTeq Tech Quiz is North India’s largest school tech quiz, with NDTV’s “Gadget Guru” Rajiv Makhni as its host. The combination of his enterprising personality and innumerable prizes, for the winners as well as the audience, create a viewership of thousands. Sitting in the ShriTeq audience many years ago, I remember being amused by the sight of hundreds of students jumping out of their seats to answer audience questions from Rajiv Makhni, popularly called “The Indian Santa Claus!” Looking up at the lights and sounds room above the auditorium, I couldn’t help but notice the content look on the faces of the ShriTeq organisers as they witnessed the excitement they had created.

TSRS Megabyte: Logo + Website
Created using Adobe Suite

        Joining the Computer Society was the stepping stone in my school tech journey. It was here that I accompanied my seniors as a participant for dozens of interschool tech competitions. It wasn’t long before I was working alongside them, creating content for ShriTeq 2015. I worked day and night to produce giant hoardings to be placed all over school, stage side banners, thousands of ID cards, posters, and much more. Seeing designs on my laptop screen blow up in size to 20 feet tall structures absolutely fascinated me, and continues to do so today. It was a brilliant feeling to be completely surrounded by the print items I had designed.

ShriTeq: Hoarding 2015
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Stage Banner 2015
Created using Adobe Suite

        2015 was the year in which I took part in the ShriTeq product design competition, creating MediCity: an online marketplace for pharmacies and hospitals. With participation from over 25 schools, the 3 day long event saw talent across all age categories. A major reason for the event’s popularity was our choice to host events for students in junior school. I enjoyed the experience immensely, learning new things about design and event management each day. I even created a formal style guide for the ShriTeq brand and implemented the common theme in all deliverables. Most importantly though, I finally got a humbling taste of the hard work that it took my seniors and staff to organise the events that I would enjoy so thoroughly. I was left craving more responsibility.


2016

        11th grade was a year of carefree extracurricular experimentation. I dabbled my hands into every event in the school’s “Shri” portfolio: ShriDebate, ShriMUN, ShriKhoj, ShriTeq, Shri Form Evening, Shri Form Morning, and even Shri Physics Conclave. It wasn’t long before Kanishk and Raghav, the heads of tech at the time, graduated from school and the baton of responsibility was to be passed on. Vedant and Kunal, the heads of events of the grade below, came to be known as the “Kanishk and Raghav” of their grade and before we knew it, my friend Ahan and I had slipped into the shoes of “Vedant and Kunal.” Just like that, we were the go-to people for everything ‘events.’ It wasn’t long before the tremendous weight of raising the already high standards of ShriTeq 2015 for ShriTeq 2016 was placed on our shoulders.

        The Shri Ram School is an institution that pays immaculate attention to every detail in its events. The process of approval for every decision goes through three levels of hierarchy. It is this level of care and discipline that makes each event so special. My team and I spent days brainstorming new ideas for ShriTeq 2016. Before we even began, however, our heads were plagued with questions. “How do we take this to the next level? What should we do differently to make the event unique? Where do we get sponsors from? How do we divide the workload? How do we make a schedule for an event that is only month away?” To guide us with this mammoth task, we worked closely with school admin's ICT head, Aashish sir, and Tathagata sir (fondly known as TD sir). The dynamic duo were our mentors, and over time, grew to become our good friends. Some of the easiest people to talk to in school, with ears everywhere, they were informed of all student gossip even before we were.

ShriTeq Style Guide 2016
Created using Adobe Suite + Keynote

        To make ShriTeq 2016 stand out, we decided to pioneer the first legitimate large scale inter-school Hackathon in NCR. To take the Tech Quiz to the next level, we set up a livestream so that hundreds could watch along. The time had come to crack down on the nitty gritties. I took charge of creating tons of print deliverables and online creatives for Facebook advertising, contacting potential sponsors and keynote speakers, planning the Hackathon, as well as building the ShriTeq website with Ahan. Kunal and Vedant took charge of administrative duties like formulating invites and event rules, making carefully planned schedules, and contacting schools for registration. Aashish and TD sir ensured the team worked efficiently and cohesively. Though we made our fair share of novice mistakes, our determination to be disciplined formulated the best team work ethic I have ever seen.

ShriTeq: Poster 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Hoarding 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Facebook 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Events 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Keynote Speaker 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: ID Card 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: ID Card 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Quiz 2016
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Stage Banner 2016
Created using Adobe Suite

        While we steamed through the logistics, the design templates I had created for print items and creatives were yet to be filled with sponsor logos. The problem loomed over our heads like a dark heavy cloud. A boiling pot of creativity, talent, and technological curiosity, ShriTeq could provide access to over 25 of India’s premier schools and several thousands of people across all age categories. Despite this, our initial efforts to spam company “contact us” emails with sponsorship proposals were ineffective and inelegant. After a few weeks of this futility, it dawned on us to spend more time concentrating our efforts on personal and school alumnus connections. We refined our proposals and finally tied down sponsorship from Nokia, MakemyTrip, Spectranet, TCPI, Manya Group, Kajaria Tiles, and iZenica.

ShriTeq: 3D Logo
Created using Adobe Suite

        Our most exciting project, however, was “The Tunnel.” To add an element of mystery and surprise to the event, we stayed in school till 3am the night before ShriTeq constructing a 3 foot tall Hologram in a pitch black tunnel. We took it upon ourselves to scale a tiny phone hologram project to an 80 inch LCD screen. We cut 4 planes of pyro glass into the right shape and glued them together with a glue gun. I created a 3D ShriTeq logo which was rotated in 4 different directions to create an looped video. The video was exported to the LCD screen and voila! The magic of refraction of light had created our own homemade hologram. With the tunnel complete, the stage was set. Months in advance, I had designed deliverables of all imaginable sizes: quiz placards, cue cards, coupons, lunch stamps, gigantic cheques, trophies, and massive stage side banners and hoardings. To celebrate our hard work, the ShriTeq core team enjoyed late night pizza in school.

        ShriTeq 2016 raised the bar for inter-school tech symposiums throughout all of NCR and was widely regarded as the best tech event of the year. There were several reasons for this. The event was cohesively presented and pioneered some of the newest technology trends. The hackathon gave student developers a chance to showcase their talent as they spent 24 hours developing brilliant ideas to disrupt the travel business. The tech quiz maintained its level of excellence as Rajiv Makhni hyped up the crowd with levels of showmanship only a television show anchor could have. Seeing the crowd go wild every time there was an audience question from the lights and sound box above the auditorium, I was reminded of the power of ShriTeq.


2017

        12th grade is a year of lasts: the last summer vacation, last children's day, last literature fest, and of course, the last ShriTeq. With the experience of organising ShriTeq in 2015 and 2016 as well as HackGSF in Bangalore, my team and I took on the responsibility to carry this event to new heights. With graduation looming like the bittersweet ending of a favourite movie, it was time to run the last few metres of this race and pass on the baton to my juniors to carry the event forward in years to come.

ShriTeq Deck 2017
Created using Adobe Suite + Keynote

        As the head of the computer society, I am surrounded by ​a community of coders, gamers, designers, artists, photographers, thinkers, and public speakers. These are the people I’ve spent my school years with, competing in every inter-school tech competition we have been invited for. This year, I was determined to involve all the members in organising ShriTeq 2017. I have always believed in the power of collaboration. Arhan, the budding designer of the computer society, worked closely with me in formulating the new style guide for the year. We decided that in 2017, ShriTeq would switch to flat design. Kabir, our AV guy, worked with Yuvraj and Shivraj, the drone guys, to record footage for our introduction video. Everyone pitched in one way or another, and for the first time, ShriTeq was an event organised entirely through student collaboration.

ShriTeq: Cue Card 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Keynote Speaker 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Quiz Host 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: ID Card 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Invite 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Quiz Placard 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Coupon 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Winner Cheque 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Hoarding 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Stage Banner 2017
Created using Adobe Suite
ShriTeq: Crypt Hunt 2017
Created using Javascript, PHP, PhpMyAdmin, MySQL

        To build the excitement, I introduced an online cryptic hunt quiz. Along with some friends, I spent hours building the infrastructure to make it a success. Using some javascript and PHP, we created logins for 25 school teams to solve the level based quiz. Hours were spent ensuring the website was safe and unhackable, and the experience taught us new and valuable skill sets. The entire society chipped in to write cryptic riddles. However, not everything can be foreseen. The day before the event was to go live, the ShriTeq server crashed, and we lost access to all our databases and live edited files. Just as all hope appeared to be lost, we rerouted the website to a new address and mere hours before the event was to go live, I rebuilt the front-end from scratch. The whole process taught me the importance of quick thinking and remaining calm during times of crisis.

        After spending years analysing inter-school competitions, we decided to refine ShriTeq 2017 even further. To make the premium experience of the ShriTeq quiz accessible to more, we introduced the middle school category. With ReNew Power and Hero Electric as our sponsors, we decided to keep “Sustainability” as our theme, a topic we believed to be extremely relevant in 2017. The Hackathon and product design competitions were merged due to their similarities. To make the event more exciting, we invited 5 cutting edge judges to invest money in their top 5 favourite pitches in a "Shark Tank" format. The captivating pitches were watched by thousands in the audience and the livestream. Two impressive projects even made use of Artificial Intelligence to aid waste segregation and hardware to regulate the efficiency of energy sucking household appliances.

ShriTeq: The Sharks
Created using Adobe Suite

        At the end of the three days and this year of lasts, I couldn’t help but feel pensive and nostalgic. The amount of real world experience I had gained organising ShriTeq was astounding: dealing with sponsors and their demands, handling server crashes at 3am, rushing to buy appreciation gifts for guests and judges, dealing with vendors for all sorts of odd jobs, and constantly motivating a young team to work towards making this event a success. Gustav Mahler said “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” Leaving ShriTeq in the capable hands of my successors in the computer society, I know they will continue to refine ShriTeq even further.