Support grassroots student innovations

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Support grassroots student innovations

Wednesday, 09 February 2022 | BIJU DHARMAPALAN/ KAPIL K  TRIPATHI

Support grassroots student innovations

Local needs generate curiosity among students. That needs to be sustained by Government efforts to result in scientific innovation

Science progresses not through our research institutions alone but through the success of innovations made by a layman without having any scientific knowledge. The best innovations come from our rural folk who live with nature. It is the need and necessity that generate curiosity in the minds of humans. This curiosity, in turn, triggers his response to tide over adverse situations. Our scientists who sit within the four walls of research institutions rarely follow nature’s clues to identify a scientific problem. They usually depend on published research papers to locate a problem.

Most of them rarely accept anything that is not published in scientific journals or think out of the box.There will not be any precedence to do work in that area in such instances. That means there will not be any reference material to start the work. Science survives only through innovations; for that, our scientists should come out of the lab and see the problems that affect society. They have to work to find a solution for that.

Students, especially school children, have good observation power, and they continually formulate questions in their minds. Often, they ask these questions, often treated as absurd questions, to their teachers. There are only very few teachers in our education system who entertains such nasty questions from students. It’s these questions that awaken the pursuit of innovation among the students. To promote such innovations from our curious minds, the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India has started the ‘Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research’ (INSPIRE) Awards - MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspirations and Knowledge).

DST is executing this awardthrough National Innovation Foundation - India (NIF), an autonomous body of DST, which aims to motivate students of classes 6 to 10. This award scheme aims to target one million original ideas/innovations rooted in science and societal applications to foster a culture of creativity and innovative thinking among school children. Under this scheme, schools can nominate the five best original ideas/innovations of students. The top 1,00,000 ideas received that can address societal needs through Science & Technology are shortlisted by NIF. The shortlisted students will get INSPIRE Award of INR 10,000.

It is always an inspiration to go through the paths taken by our young researchers. How have they identified a problem? How do they pursue the work despite difficulties? What are the challenges they faced? How their parents and teachers support them? All these can have bearer on the next-generation innovators.

These questions that crept into the mind of our young innovators are answered through the programme Vigyanveer. It is a popular science programme telecaston the India Science Channel, managed by Vigyan Prasar,DST.This science series is specially designed to propagate and popularise the innovations of students who won the prestigious INSPIRE Award MANAK. In each series, one award-winning innovation and its innovator are showcased.

Amazingly, most of our young innovators have identified problems from their day-to-day experiences. One of the episodes of Vigyanveerhighlights K. Shrawani, a student of Bibinagar village in Telangana, who understood the risk faced by farmers during farming and made a life-saving device for them.Increasing electrical energy generation is an area of concern. Riddhi Tiwari, a student of the Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, has developed a  unique model that can increase the electricity generating capacity of standard solar power panels.

Similarly, Jitendra, a student living in a village in Rajasthan, developed an automatic swing. This swing takes care of children when their parents do fieldwork and protects children from any unknown danger.

Another student  M.Abhishek, from Telangana, made a machine that can be used to fill grains in sacks in less time and without much effort. This unique innovation saves the farmers’ time and reduces the labour involved in loading the grain. Vandana Kumari, a student of Mahuakheda village of Etah, Uttar Pradesh, made a unique device to solve her father’s troubles in plucking fruits from trees full of thorns.

Microscope holds a vital role in understanding fundamental biological concepts in science education. Even though children from city-bred schools are fortunate to have the hands-on experience, many schools in rural regions of the country don’t have many laboratory facilities. When Ananya Singh realized that many students don’t have a facility like a microscope for their studies, she developed a low-cost microscope from waste plastic bottles. She named this as ‘Plastoscope’, which is low cost and can be easily carried in a school bag. 

Managing a house is a tedious task for our homemakers. For helping his mother, Shailendra from Udaipur, Rajasthan, has developed an automatic device to help her mother clean the house.

Similarly, Dharmendra Yadav, a student living in the Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh, created a unique movable toilet after seeing the difficulties of his grandmother. Vibha, a student from Karnataka, developed a fantastic innovation that will reduce fuel consumption in the kitchen and reduce the cooking time. Navshri Thakur, a student of Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, designed a unique machine to ease her mother’s trouble in the kitchen. This machine can do many tasks in the kitchen together, and it does not even require electricity to run.

Manual scavenging is an inhuman attitude prevailing in our society. Many oppressed members of our community are cleaning the public toilets without any safety measures. Sulochana Kakodia, a student from a tribal-dominated area of Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh named Gummach Khamaria, took the problem of manual toilet cleaning as her inspiration and made a machine that can clean the toilet without touching hands. Similarly, Ayush, a student from Bangalore,  discovered a unique way to prevent accidents due to open manholes.

Many people are living with disabilities. To support such ‘divyagyan,’ students have developed innovative technologies. K Sreeja, a student of Godavarikhani, Telangana,  has made such a unique cap and stick that can bring a new ray of hope to the lives of blind people.   Mainuddin, living in the Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh, has developed a leg-controlled computer mouse that will make disabled people work with a computer. Similarly, Madhav Lavakare, a Delhi student, understands the pain of deaf people and invented smart glasses. With the help of Transcribe Glass, deaf people can easily understand what a person is saying in front of them.

Safety issues of women and older people are always a matter of concern. Siddhi Pandey, a student living in Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh, has created a device to solve the problem of molestation. This device will surprise the maniacs who harass women and bring them to the ground by giving them an electric shock. Parv Kapoor, a student living in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, saw his grandfather’s troubles and significantly made a digital security alarm watch to help the elderly.

It is heartening to notice that our young minds have touched upon every issue an ordinary citizen of our country encounters in their daily life. The vast area of their research shows that India indeed has big brains for the future. Their only satisfaction is that they have developed something for the society, something for the nation.This is evident from their smiling faces. The instincts create curiosity in these young people, and we need to carry forward these basic scientific instincts to build a self-reliant country.

(Dharmapalan is a science writer. Tripathi is as Scientist F at Vigyan Prasar, Govt.of India, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.)

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