Live-in-Labs™: AmritaWNA Conducts Environmental Conservation Workshops in 4 Local Schools in Kerala
As part of the Live-in-LabsTM program at Amrita University’s Center for Wireless Networks and Applications (AmritaWNA), Amritapuri campus, the department’s staff and students travelled to four local schools to raise awareness about environmental conservation on Thursday, January 17th. The program called for the cooperative engagement between AmritaWNA staff and students, making it a unique opportunity – for both groups – to coordinate outreach activities in the community.
The AmritaWNA group – consisting of 36 staff members and 43 students – conducted workshops at St. Joseph’s UPS (Clappana), Kulashekarapuram UPS (Champamkottu), G.H.S.S (Kulashekarapuram), and Prayar HSS (Oachira). Topics such as water conservation, rooftop and backyard gardening, organic composting, and waste management were presented to the school children. Three sessions covering the aforementioned topics were held at each of the four schools for a total of twelve simultaneous sessions.
As a reflection of Amrita University’s dedication to selfless service, a notion propagated by its Chancellor – Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) – AmritaWNA’s M.Tech students and staff decided to initiate an environmental awareness program that could be implemented in schools. First, a group of students and staff came together and drafted several possible ideas. Second, seven of the senior faculty members graded the proposed ideas in terms of their feasibility and impact and gave each idea a score from one through five. Third, the ideas were then sorted based on their average score and translated into Malayalam. Fourth, the student representatives from the two M.Tech batches took the translated list to Amma and described the program to Her. Amma then went through the list and expressed Her contentment with the planning and thoroughness of the project by giving it a “thumbs-up.”
“When we went with a list of possible topics to Amma,” stated 2nd year M. Tech student Neethu Thomas, “She advised us to focus on areas related to seed quality and organic composting since the amount of nutrients currently found in seeds is considerably less than what is was before.” Thomas further explained that Amma advised her and her fellow student representatives to also raise awareness about organic terrace and backyard gardening and water conservation.
After the student representatives received the green-light from Amma to commence work on the project, the research and implementation aspects of the program were quickly initiated and developed. Within a few weeks, students, with active involvement from staff members, were able to devise detailed presentations – in both Malayalam and English – that effectively communicated the essential principles behind environmental conservation via videos, power point presentations, and hands-on group activities.
With regards to the recent edition of the program, Professor Balaji Hariharan was extremely thrilled with his experience.He described the session as “highly interactive” and said there was a “great response from the school children”. He also stated that the student presenters “did a very good job of conveying the information in creative and engaging ways” and was “pleasantly surprised” to see some M. Tech students, who are usually quiet in class, “become expressive and confident speakers.”
WNA Research Associate, Brahmadath C.M., expressed his delight and contentment with the experience stating that it was “wonderful and pleasantly surprising” that everything went smoothly since the department had “set up such a large scale operation.” He further explained that the schools agreed to participate in the event “merely because they heard the name Amrita” and knew that the collaboration would be “a fruitful one.”
According to 1st Year M.Tech student, Siddharth Unni, all the children he worked with were “extremely interactive and enthusiastic”. He was especially impressed with the 5th standard students who showed the most level of involvement. “Everybody raised their hands to answer questions and take part in the games and quizzes and all of them had sound knowledge about the subject – even more than we did”, said Unni with a smile.
Dhanesh Raj, a 2nd year M. Tech student, had a wonderful experience discussing the concepts of roof-top gardening with school children from Kulashekarapuram UPS in Champamkottu. “I was extremely surprised that the children were already aware of the topic”, stated Raj, “but they were still very receptive and were eager to learn more about cultivating their own vegetables.” Raj further stated that the school had its own roof-top garden that regularly yielded fresh vegetables, vegetables that would later be sold to raise money for the school.The principal of the school, Raj explained, had also requested help to install pipe composting units on the school’s premises. “We have promised to follow-up with them soon”.
Following a clean-up drive that took place on 4th September, 2013, the first official session of the Live-in-LabsTM program was held at Amrita Vidyalayam, Pudiakavu, on 27th November, 2013. Students and staff at AmritaWNA have conducted several sessions for the Live-in-LabsTM program since its inception and will continue to do so in the future. The program is now a permanent part of the department’s M. Tech curriculum.
10 January 2014