‘It feels like my brain develops ‘idea clots’ as I can’t figure out how to give a physical form to those ideas’, said Gyanig Kumar, class 12 student, DAV Bhubaneshwar, Orissa.
Gyanig Kumar and Amit Vaishnav are amongst the few technology geeks who have won several national science awards and participated in science research programs. Gyanig is presently in class 12, while Amit has graduated and is looking forward to joining his college program. For years, they have been exploring opportunities to learn research and innovation. The young boys share a common passion, they want to encourage road safety and change the way people drive two-wheelers in India. And they have been eagerly looking forward to joining a university, in order to access technology labs and develop their innovative solutions. Their unique individual experiences have motivated them to pursue their passion. While, for Gyanig, her mother had suffered from a severe head injury, when she fell off from a motorbike. For Amit, her sister had met with an accident, while driving a scooty. And unfortunately, both had ignored wearing a helmet, which is commonly observed in India. So, they wanted to design a solution that enables safe driving.
With this passion, both Gyanig and Amit began participating in several science exhibitions and competitions, with an objective of being able to convert their ideas into reality. They won several cash prize awards. However, theexcitement of cash prize awards did not last for long. What they had been looking for is an opportunity to learn the process to convert their projects into functional prototypes and products, that could be tested in field.
‘Our innovation story would end at projects and national competitions. We participate in them, win awards and then move on. We don’t get an opportunity to convert our projects into a reality’, said Gyanig.
However, in 2017, the boys got an opportunity to work in the newly established Atal Tinkering Lab, in their school at DAV Public school, Bhubaneshwar. Their school, is one of the 5000 schools, selected by NITI Aayog, Government of India to establish the Atal Tinkering Lab. The Tinkering lab is an innovation space that allows them to explore and create new technology innovations in school, without the fear of failure. The team participated in a national innovation marathon challenge, conducted by the Atal Tinkering Labs, and was selected amongst the top 30 innovations of the Atal Tinkering Marathon. The team has developed a technology solution based on artificial intelligence (AI), that enables a behavioral change, leading to careful and responsible driving, thereby reducing the associated morbidity with road traffic accidents.
Though cash prize awards are a great beginning to create an exponential wave of innovation and entrepreneurship amongst young students, children are keen to receive mentoring support to create working prototypes and test them with potential users. The top 30 innovation teams of Atal Tinkering Labs have been enrolled into a three to four month Student Innovator Program (SIP), where around 90 students are working with subject matter experts and mentors to convert their innovations into minimum viable products (MVP), that can be tested in the local community.It is a new and an evolving program where high school students are being offered a business incubation program, to learn concepts of entrepreneurship, Intellectual property (IP), effective communication, how to make a business plan and so on. It is running in partnership with seven different organizations across the nation, including four business incubators namely C-CAMPCentre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, TREC-STEP Tiruchirappalli Regional Engineering College Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park, Amrita Technology Business Incubator andAartech, along with other partners Stratasys, Intel and Learning Links Foundation. It is a joint effort to institutionalize a mechanism, where high school students are getting an opportunity to pursue their innovative and entrepreneurial ideas along with their school education. The overall goal is to drive extensive forward and backward linkages within the stakeholders in India, to create a paradigm shift in the student mindset and prepare them to become young innovators and entrepreneurs.
‘Innovation needs to be constantly cheered, constantly encouraged and creatively built upon at every possible opportunity for every young student of India. The Student Innovator Program shall provide that opportunity to our young innovators in high school’, said Mr. Ramanan, Mission Director Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog.
The students feel a sense of accomplishment. With exposure to design thinking and critical thinking, problem solving and prototyping in Tinkering Labs has become an integral part of their life. Conventionally, children were taught to think in a particular fashion, leading to pre-conditioning of the mind and uni-directional thinking. However, with innovation and start-ups becoming a household concept, young students in high schools are aspiring to disrupt the world. They have found a means to express their ideas into a physical form with the latest technologies of 3D printing, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, available in the Tinkering labs, and are developing a keen interest in research and innovation.
‘With the Student Innovator Program, we are getting a very unique opportunity of converting our conceptual projects into real world prototypes and minimum viable products (MVP). I was always interested in research and technology. With the Tinkering Lab, now I am living my dream in school and exploring the world of technology’, said Amit Vaishnav, who recently graduated from class 12, DAV Public school, Bhubaneshwar.
This is one example of how Atal Tinkering Labs are encouraging innovation at the grassroots, and enabling and empowering students and teachers to develop a creative mindset, which will pave the way forward for developing a ‘New India’ by 2022. Young children are getting inspired to dream big and innovate.