The ATL Marathon is an innovation challenge conducted every year by Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Government of India and is open to all Indian students studying in grades 6-12. This goal behind the challenge is to help youngsters gain a better grasp of community issues that are of national and societal relevance and motivate them to engineer practical innovative solutions using their ATLs. Atal Tinkering Labs, or ATLs, are makerspaces that the Indian government has established in 10,000 schools around the country to foster an innovation and entrepreneurship culture. AMMACHI Labs’ work with children since 2016 has given evidence that integrative hands-on STEAM education programs held in ATL Makerspaces can increase children’s sense of agency and interest in maker projects, robotics, and computational thinking. Children gain 21st-century skills such as creativity, communication, cooperation, and critical thinking while working on projects in makerspaces. Hence we built our hands-on program around ATLs so that children have access to tools and materials for creating physical and digital prototypes.
AMMACHI Labs’ 3.5 month long training and mentorship programme aimed to prepare student teams from schools that were in three different locales (urban, semi-urban and rural) to compete in this challenge. We encouraged children to form inter school teams and inter grade teams. We encouraged equal participation from girls and boys in this program. This was the second edition of our program for the year 2021-22.
The goals of our program were
Provide technology education for social good by blending data-driven research with engineering design thinking process for technology innovation to solve global challenges
Empower and inspire children to become innovators and technology creators by providing hands-on experiential learning through digital tinkering and making
ATL marathon 2021 celebrated the resilience, diversity and achievements of India as we begin the 75th year of Independence. To commemorate this special year, ATL Marathon 2021 drew inspiration from developing a New India with the innovation and creativity of the young minds of our country. The Marathon was based on the ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ document by NITI Aayog. This national strategy document for New India is a detailed exposition of forty-one crucial areas of national importance for achieving the objectives for a New India by 2022-23. ATL Marathon 2021 adopted four strategy areas or themes mentioned in the document – Healthcare & Nutrition, Education, Energy & Transport, Social Inclusion.
AIM Mentors of Change, IEEE Volunteers and researchers from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri campus trained children in skills such as app development, robotics, physical computing and IoT over a period of 3.5 months and mentored them to create their own innovation prototypes. Volunteers taught children to research problem statements, ideate solutions for their chosen problem statement, identify the best possible solution and create working prototypes. Children worked with MIT Media Lab’s Scratch Programming language, MIT App Inventor, Google’s Teachable Machine, Lego Mindstorm kits, BBC Micro:bit kit, and a variety of maker tools to build innovative prototypes for their ideas.
IEEE selected Gayathri Manikutty as STEM Ambassador and team received pre-university STEM grant funding for their proposal titled ‘STEAM for Social Good’, a 10-day training program plus a 2-day makeathon for school children on social problem solving for UN SDGs. The team has began conducting events for school students with IEEE Education Society members of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and Kerala Section in September of 2022.
3.5 month long training and mentorship program
84 children in 32 student teams trained including 13 all-girls team
300+ hours of live mentoring for students
15 digital and physical computing skills imparted to students through 8 hands-on workshops
32 physical and digital prototypes made by children teams
11 member professional mentor team including 6 women STEM professionals served as mentors\
9 educators from 3 schools supported children through the entire journey
Program Impact survey
108 students registered for this workshop. A total of 84 students successfully built 32 prototypes. 53 participants completed the program impact survey.
From the pie charts, we can see that 75% of the children reported that they were in Stages 1, 2 and 3 at the beginning of the workshop but at the end of the workshop, they moved to Stages 4, 5 and 6. Thus there was an increase in the technology adoption as perceived by the children.
Statistical analysis of the results above showed that
The experience with learning opportunities from the program was equal regardless of gender and location.
The program significantly impacted children’s perceived ability to integrate advanced technology into their projects and impacted them equally regardless of gender and location.
The program significantly impacted children’s perceived competence, autonomy and relatedness equally regardless of gender and location
These results have been submitted for a research article in Frontiers in Education 2022.