May 23, 2012
“Studies have shown that we retain only 5% of what we hear in a lecture, but nearly 80% of what we experience,” remarked Mr. Ajith Basu, Chief Program Officer of Agastya International Foundation, that is known for running the largest hands-on science program in the world.
The Foundation takes science to students in rural India. Its 500+ curriculum-based science models that inspire rural children were one of the highlights on the first day of the Amrita-DST INSPIRE camp, as the best high school students from the state of Kerala, learned by experiencing and doing.
This emphasis on hands-on learning continued throughout the five camp days, as lectures by eminent scientists were supplemented by labs and workshops.
Sinisha, a Standard XII student, from GHSS Thumpamon North in Pathanamthitta district, was excited about the opportunity to make a magic eye, an electronic guest indicator that can be installed on doors. “This is the first time I assembled a circuit; I never knew that it could be so much fun,” she enthusiastically shared.
The students worked with electronic circuits at the lab of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. They learned about basic electronic components and accessories such as bread board, hook-up wires, wire strippers, tweezers, multimeter, musical buzzer and sensor transistors which were provided to them, along with instructions for making the electronic eye circuit.
The students also received kits with electronic components they could take home with them, to later practice making other kinds of circuits.
Invoking curiosity and inquisitiveness, the virtual lab sessions were also very popular among the students. As they sat at the desktop computers or using the tablets provided to them, they seemed to greatly enjoy this mode of learning.
Shamila, Standard XII student from Mount Seena Public School in Palakkad remarked, “The online experiments felt easy. They were also very useful as we could repeatedly do them on our own. All one needs is access to a computer connected to the internet to learn like this.”
The students all got their own ids to access the online labs developed by Amrita; with popular request it was decided to have the ids remain active even after the camp was officially over, so that the students could access them from home.
The hands-on learning was supplemented by expert talks that covered several topics such as sustainability, pollution control, photo voltaic cells, space research, new trends in astrophysics and cosmology.
“We have to use technology with an understanding of the basic principles of spirituality,” reminded Dr. P.R.G. Mathur, Chairman, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, who lectured on the topic Science, Religion and Spirituality.
Dr. P.T. Manoharan, Former Vice-Chancellor of Madras University delivered a talk on spectroscopy while Dr. K. G. Narayanan, Former Chief Advisor of DRDO, detailed the fundamentals of solar radiation, solar photo voltaics and solar thermal systems to the students.
Dr. V.P.N. Nampoori, Emeritus Professor, International School of Photonics, CUSAT shared evidence that ancient India had made many advanced in astronomy and cosmology.
Ashwin K. Raj, Standard XII student from Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Kannur shared his thoughts after the camp ended. “Now I feel more inclined to take up science subjects. The whole camp was a very refreshing experience for me.”