‘I feel like an inventor, a scientist in just 2 hours!’
A class 7th student, Atal Tinkering Lab, Govt. School, New Delhi
It was a beautiful windy cold morning, in the southern part of New Delhi, where school students were finishing their morning assembly at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Some students who did not seem to enjoy the routine school time table, were ardently looking forward to this day, where the teacher had organized a hands-on workshop in their Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL). Apparently, they were galvanized by their previous immersive experience at the Atal Tinkering Lab, and hence were eagerly waiting for yet another one.
The Atal Tinkering Lab team reached the school 60 minutes before the workshop was scheduled to start. It is a good practice to reach early, so that one can informally interact with the students and teachers, learn about their aspirations of life, find out what they like and dislike about the Atal Tinkering Lab. Getting first-hand perspective of beneficiaries (and customers) is very crucial, and forms the core of the iterative design thinking and innovation process. Also traveling at the grassroots is both adventurous and inspiring, full of a plethora of stories of struggle, failure, jugaad and success. It transforms one’s perspective towards life and helps to evolve as a human being.
Students were eagerly waiting inside the lab for the workshop to begin. In fact, they expressed their interest to visit the tinkering lab more often, but could not do so because of their extra classes and exam pressure. And in few minutes, Jim who had flown from Stanford University, arrived with a huge box full of the 100 microscopes. Yes, these are paper microscopes that weighed no more than 10 gram each. Can you imagine carrying those old conventional bulky microscopes outside the Biology lab? Well, this is the power of frugal innovation that paper microscopes now cost less than Rs 200 INR, and can be carried around almost everywhere. These have been developed at the Prakash Lab, Stanford University. Students started assembling the microscopes, took them about 30-45 minutes to do so. And finally, they were all immersed into a whole new ‘micro-innovative’ world. And that was the moment when two girl students stood up and expressed how they felt:
‘Ma’am, we want to come more often to this Atal Tinkering Lab and we want more such Do IT Yourself (DIY) workshops, it makes us believe that we can be an innovator too!’.
Such moments are what inspire ATL team to work harder, to give equal opportunity to all students to learn and experience technology innovation. Such are the kind of experiences that Atal Tinkering Labs are providing to thousands of students across the country.
Yet another experience is with the teachers, when full day long ATL orientation programs for more than 150 ATL teachers were conducted, one in Gujarat and another in Haryana. Before the session, while the teachers walked into the room in the morning, were little scared, not sure what to expect in the orientation, did not know their fellow members, and were wondering if there is more work coming their way. Slowly as the session progressed, the questions started to roll, and as the responses helped clear the air of uncertainty and ambiguity, their eyes started beaming with joy, facial expressions displaying more smiles, the forehead muscles which had layers of curiosity and uncertainty looked more flat and relaxed, the body language eased out and gradually they started answering for each other, sharing thoughts and suggestions of how they will create an army of young student innovators in their respective tinkering labs. There was a stark difference in the teachers before and after the session and they emerged as extremely confident teachers who had a clear vision of the ATL. More importantly, they had all become friends, formed a social support community discussing and sharing their challenges and helping each other. In fact, the following day, during a visit to one of the ATL schools, this is what an ATL incharge had to say:
‘Ma’am, this time we lost the national level robotic challenge, but when you come back in 6 months, our students will have the winning trophy.’
ATL incharge of KV Gandhinagar, Gujarat
Over the last 1 year, ATL has conducted several events and challenges to actively engage the students and teachers. One of the first initiative launched was ‘ATL school of the Month Challenge’, where students showcased their vision of Tinkering Labs and how they are leveraging technology tools to solve community problems. The winners of the challenge were invited to attend the Maker Faire in November 2017 in Bangalore, which was first of its kind of faire being organized in India, organized by Workbench Projects. Another successful event was the Atal Tinkering Marathon, a four month long nationwide challenge to identify India’s top student innovations across six different focus areas that align with national mission. Thirty best innovations have been identified from 20 different states and Union territories in India. Over the next few months, India’s best innovative minds will be mentored by partners to take their innovations to the community. Recently, ATL students from across the country including the remote states of Port Blair, Jammu and Kashmir and North-Eastern India participated in the 2nd edition of Nobel Prize Series in Goa in February 2018, where they met the world’s leading Nobel Laureates, and needless to say, themselves felt like ‘Nobel Laureates’. This was organized in partnership with Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. Additionally, more than 800 teachers and 50,000 students have been introduced to tinkering and innovation, with support from partner organizations such as Intel, Dell, IBM, Learning Links Foundation, Encube Labs, India STEM Foundation, Microsoft and several individual contributors.
These are some examples of how Atal Innovation Mission is working at the grassroots level in different parts of the country, with Atal Tinkering Labs, to help students and teachers transform into innovators, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, which will pave the way forward for developing a ‘New India’ by 2022.
The more one travels to different Atal Tinkering labs across India, the more one realizes that there are numerous geographical and demographic variations, which translate into a multitude of on-ground implementation challenges. Despite all challenges, the aim is to provide equal opportunity to all regions, to all children irrespective of the rural-urban divide, government-private divide. Atal Innovation Mission believes in an inclusive model for Tinkering, where the existing tinkering labs are also providing opportunities to nearby school and community children to explore, learn and experience innovation. By providing equal opportunity to everyone, the Atal Tinkering Labs are taking a small step towards developing a ‘New India’. As an ATL school, are you taking your small step towards equally participating in this journey?
Unless we all walk together in this journey, the mission of creating 1 million neoteric innovators with Atal Tinkering Labs will remain unaccomplished.
As a child, I would easily get fascinated by different eminent personalities, different professions and would change my goal every few months. On one occasion, when I saw Kiran Bedi on TV, I would want to become a police inspector, on another occasion I would want to become a doctor. Well, isn’t that how children are when they are young, energetic, curious, still exploring life and understanding their talent and potential? Atal Tinkering Labs will provide equal opportunity to all children, and empower young minds to identify their true talent and unleash their innovation potential. So, dear Principals, Teachers, Students, Parents and Mentors, let us together explore the world of Atal Tinkering Lab, and empower our young minds to innovate!