Thursday, January 18, 2018

'Tinkering' Awareness Workshop at Jammu


The first Tinkering awareness workshop in Srinagar that we conducted was hosted by XV Corps from 4-6 December 2017 and was a great success. It also gave us important insights on how to prepare for a workshop with school children at a remote location.

Shortly after we returned from the workshop, I had a phone conversation with an army officer from the XVI Corps based in the Jammu region of J&K and he wanted to schedule a similar workshop for the army goodwill and public schools under his corps. We decided to have this workshop sometime in January.

Fast forward to January 8 and I received a phone call from an energetic sounding captain of  the Indian Army. She was talking about holding a tinkering workshop as soon as possible. She suggested the weekend of January 13 but I mentioned the challenges of getting assuredly reserved train tickets, training kits and other material etc at such short notice. She also mentioned that the plan was to hold the workshop at the Army Goodwill Public School at Potha in Poonch district. I consulted the map and it showed travel time from Jammu (nearest air/railhead) to Potha to be around 7 hours. This meant that we would spend a good 14-15 hours on the road instead of interacting with the participants.

Earlier in December 2017, during a workshop at IIT, Jammu and had a conversation with their director Prof. Manoj Gaur and he mentioned that IIT Jammu (like most other educational institutes) is committed towards conducting outreach programmes for the local society. I remembered this conversation and immediately sent a message to Prof. Gaur asking whether they would be willing to host the event at IIT Jammu. I was pleasantly surprised when he replied positively. At this point I got the captain in touch with  Prof. Gaur and they quickly agreed upon having the workshop at IIT Jammu on January 12 and 13, 2018.

Captain Suman then brought in her superiors in the loop and they all worked furiously to arrange logistics for transporting 60+ students and few teachers from the three selected school. Once the location and logistics of this workshop was finalized at IIT Jammu, we prepared to arrive in Jammu on the morning of 12th January to begin the workshop.

From 8th till we began our journey from Delhi on 11th December, more than 30 students in my lab worked relentlessly to test the demonstration projects and arrange sufficient quantity of the 'Sadbhavana Discovery Kits' that we had first put together for the Srinagar workshop. This time around, we even had a manual for the kit ready. AT IIT Jammu, Commodore (retd.) Naresh Kumar, OSD (Officer on Special Duty) and his team were busy ensuring that the lodging and boarding facilities for all the participants would be in place, in time.

Day 1: 12th January 2018

We see a clear mandate for us when we conduct such a 'Tinkering' workshop for school children. The objective is to introduce modern electronic components and sensors and embedded computers with a single objective: TO INDUCE LOVE FOR SCIENCE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY. 

Instead of rote learning that most often our school students are subjected to, we strive to introduce these elements of technology so that they can be used to demonstrate interesting scientific principles they study in books but most often, never see them in action in real life. We feel and many would agree with us, that such an approach has the potential of instilling fundamental interest in the hearts and minds of young children, sowing the seeds of potential scientists and engineers amongst our young minds.

We intended to implement this very mandate during the 2-day event, as we describe below.

We (Me and Srijan Pabbi from 6th sem ECE and Yash Jain from 4th sem ECE) traveled by Rajdhani Express on the night of 11th December and reached the Jagti campus of IIT Jammu by 9 am on 12th January, ready to set the ball rolling. This new campus is still under construction and the rate of construction is racy.

The participants, ~70 students, ~15 teachers and 3 principals of AGPS Rajouri, Pinewood School Hamirpur and AGS Potha respectively, as well as a few army personnel, were all assembled in a large hall at the Jagti campus.

The event started with a brief welcome by Cmde. Naresh Kumar and then I took over and started with our project demonstrations.

All the students, without exception, were very well behaved and respectful. They all turned out sharply, always queuing up when needed. They were as curious and inquisitive as the group I met in Srinagar. They asked a lot of questions and I took time to explain the background for each project and to quiz them about the inner workings of each project. I have found that this approach works best at every level - school children as well as college students, just the level of the questions change. For college students, one can enter into more intimate discussion regarding the details of the circuitry and the software.

Before the last session on the first day, we distributed the 'Sadbhavana Discovery Kit' to each school. As during the Srinagar workshop, this kit is our gift to the participating Army schools here as well. Each kit has enough material to engage 25 students in groups of 4-5 each.

The first day ended around 4:30 pm, with a hands-on activity where all the participants made a homopolar motor using the parts supplied in the 'Sadbhavana Discovery Kit'

Day 2: 13th January 2018

We started the second day a bit earlier than the first day. And the first activity was to build the 'Faraday Generator' using the components from the 'Sadbhavna Discovery Kit'. All the participants split in groups of 4-5 with a teacher to supervise. I explained the steps for building the generator and soon enough, the first group had their coil, almost 1000 turns of 36 SWG of copper enameled wire,  wound on the thread spool. Few steps later, the first group had their Faraday generator connected to an LED working.

The next project we took up was to build a DC motor. The DC motor requires a coil wound using a thicker (than the Faraday generator) copper enameled wire, a few turns of the wire, using an 'AA' battery as a guide. The participants quickly got this done. The next part required soldering, so I set up a table and had them come one by one. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the senior army officers volunteered to help with the soldering! One of the best pictures we see here!

Everyone got the DC motor working soon. Next, we had to prepone the valedictory session to accommodate the availability of Prof. Manoj Gaur, the director of IIT Jammu.

Once the valedictory session was completed, we covered two more sessions! In one session all the participants explored their own LED kaleidoscope kits and then Srijan Pabbi gave a demonstration on how to install the Arduino IDE, how to write a short sketch and how to download and run the code on an Arduino Nano kit. For demonstration, he chose how to play an 'SOS' message in Morse as well as visual way and how to change the sound patterns for SOS, ever so carefully to turn it into a Nokia phone ring tone! That was quite educational and illustrative for everyone. At the end, we distributed one more 'Sadbhavana Discovery Kit' to each school so that they could go back and share it with other students who could not make it to this event.

Hopefully, all the participants would head back to their school and start playing with an Arduino platform for useful applications. The manual that accompanies the 'Sadbhavana Discovery Kit' has quite a few resources to get started.


As with the participants at the Srinagar workshop, the participants from the Jammu region schools (although AGPS Rajouri falls up north in the winter belt) were very disciplined, curious, hardworking and willing to learn and excited to experiment. They displayed having being brought up in a good learning environment at their school and the interaction with the accompanying teachers and respective principals provided enough evidence of that.

The best part of this was the watchful eyes of the Army Officers in charge of each school. It is under the nurturing care of the Indian Army that this has been possible. A true 'Sadbhavana' towards the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir! And they have my strong support for any activity leading to better teaching and learning in their schools.

I thank Corps XVI officers involved with the event and it's planning and organization. IIT Jammu under the dynamic leadership of their director Prof. Manoj Gaur deserves a special credit. He has offered his institute for any such event in future too. We felt at home at IIT Jammu, thanks in no small measure due to delicious food and other arrangements made by the hosts for this event. My students at CEDT who put in stupendous effort, as always, to make this event possible are my extended family and I love them as much.

Jai Hind!


Blogger soumya said...

Thanks for sharing your colorful experience at IIT Jammu. Sir, I hope in the similar fashion you can conduct workshops at all NITS at each state. The purpose of ATL will be achieved.

1:41 AM, January 19, 2018  
Blogger Ritu Jain said...

Great work done by Prof Gadre and his team. Yes, Tinkering is possible when we actually see scientific principles in action in real life.

6:02 AM, January 19, 2018  
Blogger swati basotra said...

J&k need lot of such thought provoking workshop .

7:50 AM, January 19, 2018  

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