Saturday, December 06, 2014

INSPIRE Patna

I have been invited to speak for a day at the week long INSPIRE programme at NIT Patna on 17th December 2014. This blog reflects what I plan to do there.

For the uninitiated, the INSPIRE program brings together class XI-XII students face to face with scientist and engineers for a week of interactive lectures with the objective of inspiring the young minds to take up research in science and engineering as a career.

However, instead of the usual, often one-sided lectures, Professor Asok De, the director of NIT Patna has desired that the students should be engaged in some  hands-on activity. Apart from demoing my regular embedded systems projects, I have offered to give a simple kit to demonstrate the Homopolar motor to each participant. Also on offer is a 'Faraday Tube' to generate electrical power from mechanical motion, which I have used in my 'Kinetic Remote' in the past. Both these are quite engaging and useful projects that will teach senior high school students a bit of things and enthuse them to further make things using the principles illustrated in these two projects.

Apart from showing my projects and engaging the students in the above mentioned hands-on activities, I plan to talk about the 'Make in India' program. As you are probably aware, 'Make In India' is quite the talk of the town lately. My talk will be titled "Making 'Make-In-India' Possible: Confronting the 'छेड़ो मत. टूट जायेगा!' Mindset". To the non-Hindi speaker, छेड़ो मत. टूट जायेगा! translates to 'Do not fiddle. It will break'. To anyone who has/is grown/growing up in India, this is probably the most common refrain we have heard from our parents, teachers or anyone else older than us. It reflects a mindset really, and is based on a dated premise that we do not have things to waste and/or the expertise to fix it if things break. Perhaps a hundred years ago, as an enslaved nation, this might have been true. Not any more. Increased economic potential as well as progress in science and technology and our own grasp of it means we do not have to be held back playing with things. That, we must learn from breaking things and in the process actually make and invent things.

Sadly, our schools still play by the old mindset, keeping the students as far away from practical aspects of science courses in the mistaken belief that we cannot afford things if they break or even if we afford it, we do not know how to fix things if they break. We, as a nation must believe that we are a developed country, quite capable of finding our own problems and building their solutions. The seeds of this belief are best sown in school itself, when the mind is young and quite impressionable. And there is no better way of sowing the seeds of this belief than opening the physics, chemistry, biology and electronics laboratories to the students and making them do things with great gusto and gay abandon. Only then, 'Make in India; or better still, 'Invent in India' would be possible.

So I say, today our slogan should be 'छेड़ो मत. टूट जायेगा!' मानसिकता - भारत छोडो!

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