IIT-ians give school students glimpses into the life of an engineer

Every classroom in every school today has a large number of aspiring engineers. But how many of them know what it is like to be an engineering student? Addressing this crucial question are a group of IIT – Madras students who have been visiting different schools and interacting with students of class X - XII, kindling their interest in engineering and regaling them with stories of life in IIT.

“It all starts with basics,” explained Vivek Raghuram, a second-year engineering physics student at IIT – M. Vivek, along with his classmates, conducted experiments at different city schools for the programme called ‘Junior Shaastra’ as part of IIT- M’s ongoing technical fest ‘Shaastra’.

Consider this. A volunteer lies down on a bed of nails, and another student places a wooden plank and then, a brick on him. “You break the brick with a hammer but nothing happens to the student on the bed of nails. The concept is simple. A person weighing 65 kg lies on a bed of 1,000 nails and his weight is divided in such a way that the nails do not pierce the body,” he said. “The students were amazed to see this. What we wanted to highlight were real-life instances of the scientific concepts they learned in class. They register it in an entirely different way when they get to see it. And of course, it is also more fun,” he said.

As part of the programme, a group of over twelve students went to different schools and also arranged trips for the school children to ‘Shaastra’. “We organised some design games for them and took them to mechanical labs. They were thrilled to see the work that happens here, and the way students assist teachers in experiments. Many of them became very keen to study here and even sought tips to clear the JEE,” said Chaitra Mallela, a second-year civil engineering student.

The key to igniting their imagination lies in a particular approach to explaining science, said Vivek. “For instance, they became really excited when told how ‘7 am Arivu’ was shot in one of our bio-technology laboratories. Similarly, when showed how polymers like rubber act like glass under different circumstances, it was magic at first, but then science at the end,” he added.

The idea was mooted by T. S. Natarajan, a professor at the physics department at IIT- Madras. “The idea is to get over the programmed teaching of science that takes place in schools. Most students are trained to learn, never to think,” said Prof Natarajan.

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