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Children building their own automatons at a 'Swimming Robot Workshop' which was held as part of a Science Awareness programme

Do you want to know the secret behind the working of a robot or a piano? Want to learn how to build one? New DIY courses are putting fun back into education.

For Raviraj Shukla, a student of Bal Bharati Public School in Maharashtra's Raigad district, robotics is not some fancy sci-fi term;it represents the joy of programming an automaton himself. At a recent science exhibition in Navi Mumbai, he and his friends showcased their own swimming bot that uses air-containers to stay afloat, and a combination of fish-like fins and rocket-like propellers to move forward or backward.

His schoolmate, Shikhar Mohan, a budding astronomer, finds immense joy in building scientific gear like telescopes, which he now uses to observe Jupiter and details of the Moon's surface. For their friends, Aarohi Kulkarni, Kushagra Gupta and Dipti Sharma, creating a Hero's Engine - a device that spins on its axis by shooting steam - has been the most enjoyable learning experience in the recent past.

Madhumita Suriyanarayanan, who has a keen interest in Indian Classical Music, recently built her own working model of a piano that can be used to compose music.

The impressive part is that all of these kids, between the ages of 12 and 14 years, have gained this proficiency in science and engineering in the last few months after attending extra-curricular DIY (Do-It-Yourself ) courses.


Shukla and his friends attend workshops by TechShiksha - a science club founded by a group of IIT graduates, which specializes in teaching technology through experimentation. It conducts half-day weekend workshops on school premises, and has already tied up with three institutions in Navi Mumbai: Harmony International School, Kharghar;Indian Women Scientists Association, Vashi;and St. Mary's ICSE School, Kopar-Khairne.

According to Amit Modi, CEO and Creative Head at TechShiksha, DIY courses are the best way to learn engineering and technology concepts. "At science club workshops, we focus on five learning-essentials : Observe, Explore, Imagine, Innovate, and Create. DIY doesn't replace school, but supplements it. Our syllabus is designed in such a way that students get to apply the concepts they are already familiar with. For example, they learn Newton's three laws of motion in school. At the workshop, they build engine-models by applying these laws. "

"Recently, we conducted a camp at St Xavier's School of Sahibganj in Jharkhand. Attended by 200 students, the event's key attraction was building a hot air balloon, " Modi says.
Another organisation, Tech Tots, offers a similar course, conducting workshops every Saturday at Bombay Scottish School in Mumbai. And the founders themselves are students: Ankur Thakkar and Nikita Govind are part of courses at Mumbai's DJ Sanghvi College of Engineering.

Govind says, "Most kids are interested in gadgets like smartphones and gaming consoles. At Tech Tots, we teach students how gadgets work. "

"Education doesn't have to be boring, " Thakkar avers. "The practicaloriented format of DIY workshops brings fun to learning. Children get excited about trying out new things. These experiments also help them to evolve as students. At every session, they come back to us with printouts and clippings of what they've discovered on the internet or in newspapers and magazines. "

Like TechShiksha, Tech Tots has also aligned its courses with the school syllabus. "Children read about concepts like resistance and capacitance, but rarely get to apply them. We try to include experiments where they get to use what they learn in school, " Thakkar says.


Such hands-on workshops not only kindle an interest in science, but serve as a platform for students to get an early experience of what awaits them in colleges, or in their career.

Govind of Tech Tots opines, "Today many of the students that opt for engineering education do so out of parental or peer-pressure rather than an interest in the subjects. DIY learning can help them take an informed decision. Given their stronger foundation because of DIY, it will also be easier for them to grasp the advanced concepts taught in degree colleges. "

Modi agrees: "As a country, our whole approach to education needs to evolve. Memorizing text books cannot lead to creation of great scientists and inventors. That will happen only when education and experimentation are allowed to go hand in hand. "

Who, what, how

TechShiksha is...

Geared to conduct one-day camps in any part of the country, but requires a minimum participation of 100 students and teachers as volunteers Designing a Teachers' training programme to replicate TechShiksha in schools

Course Details

lFour modules: Level 1 to 4, starting from basic physics to electronics. lStudents learn to build new machines and gadgets every week throughout the academic year. lRs 1, 000 per student, per month. lEligibility: Standard V upwards lwww. techshiksha. com

Tech Tots is...

Expanding to top eight metropolitan cities (including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Chennai) in 2013-14 Geared to conduct one-day camps anywhere in India;requires minimum participation of 100 students Exploring franchise partnerships in metros.

Course Details

lThree levels: Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced. lStudents learn to build devices and gadgets like mini-piano, dancing lights, electronic dice, burglar alarm, remote controlled cars, etc. Workshop is conducted every Saturday. lRs 400 per session, per student. Elementary level has 12 sessions, Intermediate has 15, and Advanced has 25 sessions. lEligibility: Standard V upwards ltech-tots. blogspot. in

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