Monday, October 01, 2018


As of 26th September, we are now Netaji Subhas University of Technology!

Earlier last month, on 9th September, we had visited the Centre for Education and Health Research Organization (CEHRO) office at Munirka Village near JNU and interacted with around 40 kids who had assembled to hear me speak and watch the project demonstrations that I conducted. Several of these students sent me a report of the day's activity that they witnessed, in their own words. As a follow up to that event, we invited select students from that group to visit my lab on 30th September.

This blog is a record of their visit. In my opinion, their visit was not only an opportunity to learn about tinkering, science and technology but also about being good citizens, first and foremost.

The CEHRO kids belong to very poor economic background, which is actually a very important and good reason to engage with them. I have interacted with 100s of kids from rich public schools. Kids of these schools already have good facilities available to them. Why not engage with kids with poor economic background and contribute whatever little I can?

Twenty two kids accompanied by four mentors, including Surjeet Singh (our 2012 batch alumni) who runs CEHRO traveled by  DTC bus (number 764) and landed up at NSUT around 11:30 am on Sunday, the 30th September. I managed to catch them just as they were entering the campus.

I stopped them right there and explained them that we are now a University. One kid asked what is the difference? I told them that as a college, we were affiliated to a university, the Delhi University, which had other colleges too. Now since we are a university ourselves, we will eventually have more colleges affiliated to us. So, from college to university is like going from a 'lake to ocean' difference of scale.
As we walked to the CEDT on the 3rd floor, I stopped them at the gate and explained to them the features of the CEDT. I also had an opportunity to turn the staircase lights off (at around 11:30 am), so I explained to them the need to be alert about energy wastage on street lights, staircase lights etc. and do whatever it takes to get the lights switched off or switch them off themselves if they can, in the interest of saving energy. I also pointed them to the 'Twilight Switch' that controls the lighting of the notice board of CEDT right opposite the entrance of CEDT. I explained how sunset/rise time at a given location can differ significantly from another location in the same time zone and how a computer (a normal or an embedded variety) can calculate this time and control street lights etc.
I explained to them the meaning of the name of our lab - CEDT. And how CEDT has been a mother lab, spawning more labs and activities. I highlighted Motherboard, Mothership.. the importance of Mother in our lives.

 Once inside the lab I explained what all activities we would be doing. Since some of the kids did not have any notebooks and/or pens,  I suggested that they go around the campus with Surjeet so he could show his 'alma mater' to them while I arranged for notebooks and pens for them. They came back in 15-20 minutes, ready for the activities.

We started off by showing some projects which we could not show when we had visited their place earlier in September. Also discussed a simple idea about measuring the perimeter of regular shapes as well as irregular shapes using a string. Also, various ideas of measuring larger distances using different methods such as Google maps or more accurately using something called a measuring wheel or a Surveyor's wheel.

I also mentioned about how light, which otherwise travels only in straight lines, can be bent using optical fibres. We showed them a demo of a LED coupled to a plastic fibre and the light coming out of the other end of the fibre, even though the plastic fibre was coiled.

Next, we demonstrated the magnetically levitating doll. And how Maglev trains work by reducing friction. How part of the total energy is dissipated as heat due to friction and accounts for energy loss.

At this point, we distributed the 'mini sadbhavna kit' to the students but before that, I asked them to make groups of 4-5 kids each. A kit would be shared by a group  of these 4-5 kids. Surjeet suggested that they would make the groups but I chimed that let the students themselves make the groups but ensure as much diversity in each group as possible. Since there were older girls, older boys, younger girls and younger boys, each group should have variety. Why is diversity important? Not only because our national slogan is 'unity in diversity', one must experience diversity by trying to understand the view point of others. That is done best by working together.  This breaks down prejudices and at the same time allows one to know more about others, culturally, age and sex wise too.

We left the kids with a set of rules to follow to make the groups and while doing that I noticed that they will probably be discussing things amongst themselves and some kids may keep talking and not listen to others. This I explained, is a big disrespect. Not listening to others, not giving them time and opportunity to talk, there is no bigger disrespect than that. And this is a hallmark of our current social milieu. Many TV debates as well as some debates in the parliament and state legislatures have become prime examples of this lack of personal respect that we (dont) extend to others. This must change. And the discussion around the formation of a team was a good opportunity to learn to respect for others by listening to them without interruptions.

Back to the activities of the 'Mini Sadbhavna Kit', once the kids had made 5 groups. We explained the contents of the kit. The first experiment to perform was the Homopolarmotor. Got them to cut a thin  paper strip to attach to the wood screw used in the motor and explained the importance of the magnet, the polarity of the magnet as well as the battery and to make the motor with all the 4 combinations of the battery polarity and the magnet poles.

Once everyone got the Homopolar motor working, the next project was the DC motor. This time, we simplified the construction of the DC motor and got rid of all soldering requirements. Instead made the DC motor with a pair of metal paper clips, 2 rubber bands to hold the clips to each side of the battery and the magnet stuck to the battery. We explained how to roll the coil using the thick enameled copper wire and how to remove the enamel from the wire and at which places to remove the enamel from. This part took lot of time and many groups attempted the coil a few times before they got it right. I drew lot of sketches on the blackboard as well as demonstrated with actual activity to help with the coil winding. At the end, all groups got their DC motor working and every member of the group had fun making the motor move.

By this time, it was 4 pm and time to wind up. Although the kit had one more experiment (the Faraday's law based demonstration), I thought we should do it at a later date. I reiterated the need on the part of all the participants to write a comprehensive report about the day spent at CEDT and only those who complete this report would be allowed in future activities at CEDT. Here, you can see many participants standing up explaining to others, in their own words, what all should be documented in the reports!

In the end, we all - kids, mentors, our CEDT student mentors, posed for a group photograph before bidding goodbye with a promise to meet again soon!


These are great kids! They all listened and participated with great enthusiasm. They appear to be better students than those I have had from more elite schools. Maybe, their relatively poorer financial background makes them better students compared to students from richer backgrounds! Certainly, the great alacrity with which many of them sent me reports of our visit to their office on 9th September 2018, compels me to believe that.

I wish all these kids a great future together with a promise to help them in any which way I can.


Anonymous Harshari said...

There is no wealth like knowledge and no poverty like ignorance. These kids from CEHRO got their bags filled with wealth of knowledge and a spark of tinkering. The former plants them to reach new heights and the later provides them with a crane to ‘do so‘.

3:28 AM, October 01, 2018  

Very commendable. The way conveying social messages were blend with the whole process of participatory work shop was excellent. Learning is not merely knowing only one aspect but to acquire all round knowledge for overall development of a person to become a worthy citizen of a society. Efforts put in by all those who conceived the idea and those who then went ahead to execute is very appreciable. Surely, such workshops when conducted more often with such commitment should develop such children as good citizen and may inspire them to attain higher goals in their lives.

4:54 AM, October 01, 2018  
Blogger Unknown said...

To kindle a desire for knowledge is better than charity. Great work!!

6:01 AM, October 01, 2018  
Blogger vikram nagpal said...

Excellent work.. this is truth contribution to the society.

7:11 PM, October 02, 2018  

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