The five-day teacher and student training programme, conducted by the three professors before the expo, focussed on breaking down scientific principles into easily understood experiments that we use in our day-to-day life.

A bowl that contained a little potassium permanganate, copper chloride, calcium oxide, borax, glycerine, and alcohol automatically burst into multicoloured flames to declare open Apoorva Vigyan Mela held at Sivananda Balalaya.

Inaugurated on Saturday by T.M.Alagiri Swamy Raju, Project Director, Anna Science Centre-Planetarium, Tiruchi, the two-day hands-on science expo put together by students, explored low-cost and no-cost ways to experiment with laws of chemistry and physics.

With dedicated spaces for chemistry and physics experiments, walls covered with scientific trivia and tables full of experimental paraphernalia, Ramalinga Nagar campus of Sivananda Balalaya seemed to be bursting at the seams with a reinvigorated scientific temper.

The guiding force behind the expo was the scientific troika from Kolkata, Prof.S.K. Bagchi, former director, Birla Industrial Technological Museum, B.N. Das, visiting professor, Presidency College, and Arindam Rana, professor in chemistry, City College.

“While information that is available to us is doubling every decade, our wisdom has fallen and this expo is an attempt to engage students with understanding science rather than reading science,” said Prof. Bagchi.

The five-day teacher and student training programme, conducted by the three professors before the expo, focussed on breaking down scientific principles into easily understood experiments that we use in our day-to-day life. “Out of the nearly 150 experiments in physics and chemistry that can be easily demonstrated, we have trained students in 60 experiments,” added the host of Quest, a scientific quiz programme that was a rage during the eighties.

At the chemistry section of the expo, which displayed 18 experiments, students used test tubes, chemicals, natural indicators like red cabbage juice and hibiscus flowers and much more to demonstrate concepts like the acidity or alkalinity of various substances; the presence of starch in different foods; Boyle’s law; and the various chemicals we use regularly.

Through the experiments the students proved that aluminium foil, which reacts with both acidic and alkaline substances, it is not advisable to cover food using aluminium foil; that raw foods contained more starch, which breaks down into sugar upon ripening; and that anti-oxidants are essential for maintaining the alkalinity of our bodies.

Physics side

The physics side of the expo occupied five whole classrooms with its 42 experiments on principles like centrifugal force, Bernoulli’s principle, air pressure, the effects of vacuum, Newton’s three laws, electricity, magnetism, sound, light, cohesion and adhesion, surface tension and heat among others.

“Though we did give them information about the practical applications of many of these experiments, the students have discovered other connections by themselves,” said Mr. Das, who also lauded the proactive efforts made by the students to cover the walls with posters doling out scientific information.

“When students learn fundamental scientific concepts through practical experimentation, it is bound to stay with them for longer,” said K.G. Meenakshi, correspondent, Sivananda Balalaya.

While nearly 180 students of the school took part in the expo, select students from class IX and X would be taken to other schools to demonstrate their experiments to explore the benefits of peer teaching, according to Ms. Meenakshi. All students were given participation certificates at the end of the expo.