Western India Science Fair 2010

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 16, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The better part of today morning and early afternoon was spent at the Nehru Science Centre, Worli attending the Western India Science Fair. Now, in its 23rd edition, the fair has been conducted every year in Mumbai. This is one of the few opportunities that students do get to show off their talent in hands-on projects. As for the student projects, I saw that students have picked up on themes relevant to today – anti-terrorism, renewable energy, waste management and agriculture.

The guests did walk into the hall a full 40 minutes late. The inauguration began with an opening by Anil Manekar. He spoke about the Fair being a great platform for students to showcase their creativity and also learn the important task of science communication, by communicating their theoretical and practical understanding of science to the visiting members of the public. This, he stressed was vital and was the need of the hour.

We then learnt that the 2009 edition of the fair saw 120 thousand visitors to the Fair.

The Chief Guest of the evening [thanks to Srinivas for correcting me] was Dr. H C Pradhan of the Homi Bhaba Centre for Science Education. I have made his acquaintance as a higher secondary student when I wrote the Physics Olympiad. I visited his offices (he was Assistant Director then) on the recommendation of my late Professor Prasad Iyer (in Mathematics) of Atomic Energy Junior College. He was really helpful at that time and he is still as humble and soft spoken today. He shared with students who he said were “really good with their hands” avenues such as the Olympiads and the Intel Fair. For the teachers in the audience, he also went into some detail on teaching and its modern forms. He said that project based learning was now believed to be better than Teacher based learning. He said that learning and hence the student had become more important than teaching and hence the teacher’s job was now to provide more opportunities to the student for learning. He told them that the next step is likely to be peer-to-peer learning. He urged the participants to go home and share their experiences with fellow students in their schools and in their neighborhoods.

Of all the student projects that I witnessed, I enjoyed one on rain water harvesting, one on testing water for fecal contamination using a Rs. 24 Hydrogen Sulphide strip, one on aqua robotic reconnaissance system (based partly on 26/11 terrorist strikes), one on Maglev trains (the fascinating thing about this was that they used their Nokia mobile phone battery to power the model 🙂 ), one on robotic excavation system (based on recent news of the Chile miners), an elaborate satellite-assisted coastal monitoring system (based on 26/11 terrorist strike), a system for converting plastic waste to useful substances like wax, fuel etc.

There was even a section for educators on some of the interesting ways they taught to science to students. Didn’t spend much time here as I was hungry :).

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