Shiv Nadar School organised a first-of-its-kind energy boot camp, virtually, in association with the Indian Youth Nuclear Society, where students interacted with scientists on pollution, sustainability, climate change and nuclear energy. Sakshi Sharma speaks to experts
Do you know about the immense energy that is released from a collapsing star? Have you ever explored what is an atom? Do you know about the foundation of nuclear energy? What can be an alternative source of energy for mankind? These are a few of the many questions that can keep the students hooked to the multi-faceted world of nuclear energy and discover a myriad of possibilities. Well, spark a reaction in your classroom with nuclear science and start small by exploring its basics. Then, go big and learn about the nuances of energy, its processes and application in various areas.
Shiv Nadar School, Noida, organised a first-of-its-kind Energy Boot Camp as a part of its STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) programme. It was organised virtually in association with Indian Youth Nuclear Society (IYNS), from November 6 to 8. During the session, students from grade 6 to 12 got a chance to make an e-visit to a nuclear irradiation facility at Nuvia India, ITER, France and ITER India. They interacted with the scientists on contemporary concerns of pollution, sustainability, climate change and energy.
Nuclear scientists and physicists from International Youth Nuclear Society, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, France (CEA) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, helped the students understand the dynamics of nuclear energy in the world. Some of the participating scientists were: Dr Nitendra Singh, Founder and President of Indian Youth Nuclear Society (IYNS), Dr Arvind Kumar, CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore, Nikhilesh Iyer, Hydrometallurgy Section, Materials Processing Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Dr Mohit Sharma, Jozef Stefan Institute, Slovenia, Sunaina Kundra, Indian Youth Nuclear Society, Samyak Munot, IT Manager, Indian Youth Nuclear Society, Vaishnavi Tiwari, Editor-in-Chief, Indian Youth Nuclear Society, Dr Joyeeta Sinha, Plasma Physicist, ITER Organisation, France and Ganesh V, Scientific Officer, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
Excerpts of our conversation with Dr Nitendra, Vinita Sharat, STEAM Coordinator, Shiv Nadar School, and Ayan Gupta, class 10 student:
How was your experience of helping students understand the dynamics of nuclear energy in the world?
Dr Nitendra: Nuclear energy as a whole is a very long term affair in terms of design, construction, operation of the plant and then its de-commissioning. It’s a matter of accountability and responsibility unlike other power sources. This is mainly to address the associated perceived risks involved and to take care of the radioactive waste. Safety is one of the most important thing in nuclear industry and is practised at each level. This level of responsible and logical sense needs to be understood by each one of us. That is why ‘the students’ or ‘Generation Z’ or ‘the future decision makers’ should be taught well about this beneficial technology and its applications. A logical thinking needs to be inculcated in all those young minds. While interacting with kids during various events like experimental demonstration by the scientists, one-to-one discussions with scientist and students, inter-school competition and many other chances of seeing them in the Energy Boot Camp 2020, I found that they are amazing and inquisitive enough to question us, question the current issues and keen to seek the logical solution. It is important for all of us to nurture this sort of thinking and imagination in their young minds. It was an exceptional experience for all Indian Youth Nuclear Society (IYNS) team members and scientists across the globe. We all would continue to answer their questions through various means and several IYNS platforms so as to keep that logical thinking alive and sustained.
Do you think a deep understanding of such topics among the students can lead towards a better future?
Dr Nitendra: Deep understanding of the problem or any concern is very much required before we begin to address or answer that. This gives us the long term, stable and sustainable solution of any practical problem. I don’t think there’s anything better than helping students logically understand the concerns of the present world and choose the possible solutions wisely. I would like to give an example here. All the young students are taught moral and civic education in schools. If we question why, the reason is simple — Kids are rational and look for logical answers for everything. They retain it for their lifetime. All this is basically required to create a civilised society. Similarly, we want to instill the scientific temperament in the young minds to take logical decisions in all aspects of their lives. This will directly help them create a better and bright future. This is a much needed change at this stage and I am proud to be a part of such an innovative perspective.
Could you give us an insight into your teachings?
Vinita: Energy and sustainability is an interdisciplinary topic and is a part of the school curriculum from grade five to 12. A month-long Energy Boot Camp has given a teaching pedagogy where teachers gave students the freedom to learn by using their critical reasoning ability. This gave students a learning experience beyond books and allowed them to witness science in the real laboratory. The National Education Policy (NEP) has given some guidelines under ‘Optimal Learning Environments and Support for Students’, ‘Towards a More Holistic and Multi-disciplinary Education’ ‘Curriculum and Pedagogy in Schools’ ‘Learning Should be Holistic, 11 Integrated, Enjoyable and Engaging’, ‘Online and Digital Education: Ensuring Equitable Use of Technology’ and most importantly, ‘Project-based Learning.’
We were able to meet this criterion set by the NEP. This will certainly bring a change of mindset as students would be given the freedom to explore independently. The idea of “why?” was stressed upon. In the classroom, students were given more liberty to question and not just memorise things written in a book or taught by teachers without really understanding. The scientists, educators and teachers collaborated from different parts of the world and the outcome was an amalgamation of ideas and thoughts to think critically and solve environment-related problems. The event will add value in my teaching as I will allow my class to collaborate with local and global students through all digital means to solve problems with deeper understanding of concepts though discussions and constructive criticisms.
The most important takeaway from this camp was certainly the e-visit to the nuclear facilities — Nuvia India (Mathura road), Tarapore (Mumbai) and ITER (France), where students could delve deeper to understand what we teach in class about nuclear fission and fusion.
How was your experience of getting an insight into the area of nuclear energy and environment from researched scientists?
Ayan: This session gave me the opportunity to interact with reputed scientists. It gave me a deeper insight into the world of nuclear energy and changed my perception about our environment. It also encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a nuclear physicist.
How do you think this can help you shape your knowledge in a nuanced way?
Ayan: These sessions gave me a broader perspective about nuclear energy and its benefits. I had no idea that nuclear medicine is a separate branch altogether, which is a specialised area of radiology. Its application ranges from medicine to power generation, industrial use and forensic sciences to space exploration. It also helped me understand the limitations of this form of energy, the working, the benefits and the risks of nuclear power plants. These sessions also talked about possible ways of mitigating climate change by using an energy mix between different renewable sources (for instance: solar, wind, nuclear and sea wave) to generate power in future when the fossil fuel has completely phased out.
What were your major takeaways from the session?
Ayan: We had 15 teams of three members each with a scientist and a teacher-mentor for their guidance. Each team conducted a video survey, in which people were questioned about nuclear energy and a small video was put together where most of the people had a negative impression about it.
For instance, nuclear disasters like Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima Daiichi (2011) were the two events, which people recalled the most while talking about nuclear developments. There was very little awareness about the benefits of nuclear energy and the safety protocols of nuclear reactors. There were also many who consider it to be a possible solution for a complex problem like Global Warming.
During our projects, I learnt a lot about radiations and Gamma Ray Surgery and its benefits over conventional, invasive brain surgeries. My experience during this boot camp was very enriching. I learnt that conducting deep research is more insightful than conventional mode of rote learning. It has been an exciting journey and I look forward to more of these events.