Chennai

Retired DGP turns to cyberspace to teach students principles of physics the fun way

Anoop Jaiswal during a session. Photo: Special Arrangement  

The physics-experiments play out in the Goldilocks zone, with the principles kept complex without being confounding, and the process of execution kept straightforward without being boringly facile.

The dramatic component of stage performances is brought to these scientific demonstrations, but a thick, unmistakable line is drawn at sleight-of-hand trickery.

That is how retired police officer Anoop Jaiswal, aged 67, describes the free science programmes — infused with fun elements — that he was conducting for school students till the pandemic put the four-year-long effort on hold.

“I would mainly cover Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi, and have visited 127 schools for the four years immediately preceding the pandemic. In each programme, I would address 250 to 300 students, a mixed group spread across standards VI to XII,” explains Anoop, who retired from the police service as Director General of Police.

For these experiments, he fashions scientific toys, tinkering around with rejects picked up at the flea market around the Lily Pond Complex (erstwhile Moore Market) and household items (old cutlery, broken tubes and empty bottles) that could be salvaged from the bin and oblivion.

“I have a compact workshop at home where I work on scientific toys. There is a reason behind why I make these toys out of rejects. I do not want children to think that they need a lot of money to carry out these physics experiments. The message is: Look at the world around you,” says Anoop. “During the pandemic, as I could not go out and run these programmes, I kept the focus on creating more scientific toys.”

Anoop underlines that these programmes are kept dramatic to pique the children’s curiosity; and upfront, the children are presented with a true picture of what it is all about.

“I would tell the children that I would not show them any tricks, by hiding something. I tell them I am not a magician.”

Having served the police department for 35 years with little exposure to science teaching, this foray was certainly out of the ordinary for Anoop, and he expected detractors to pour cold water on it. However, to his surprise, he found one who shared his dining table day after day.

“Initially, my son Manu Jaiswal, who is a professor of physics at IIT-Madras, was sceptical that a policeman could teach science. However, when he saw the scientific toys and the ingenuity that had gone into them, he warmed up to the initiative. In fact, it is he who has been goading me to take these programmes online.”

Manu is helping Anoop videograph these physics experiments and put them in a YouTube channel.

“I would be sending the links (of these experiments) to the principals of these schools. I am a physicist by passion, not by formal training and so, I have always asked the principals to show their teachers the experiments that I would be conducting for the students.”

Would the online programme take precedence over the in-person programme when things return to normality?

“There is a huge lacuna in online teaching. When I go to a school — a village school, a city school, a boys school, a girls school or a mixed education school, I tailor my programme to the audience before me. I will change the stories I need to tell them to be able to connect with them. When I go to a public school, I will show them a fidget spinner, and when the same experiment is being performed at a village school, it would be an old spinning top. The students should be able to relate to it. This flexibility, level of interactivity and sense of immediacy are not possible in an online session, as I do not know my audience. So, online is just a stopgap thing.”

Besides, he feels intimidated by the person recording these sessions. Laughing, he explains:

“Manu is a physicist and it is intimidating to have him around me. He would be holding the camera and often correct me. ‘Double-verify it!’ And then ‘How can you make a statement like that?’ ” For a little over two weeks, the father-son duo has been posting videos on the YouTube channel (Science at Play by Anoop Jaiswal) and at last count. there were eight videos and they point out many others are in the making.


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 11:19:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/physics-in-a-digital-space/article34983222.ece

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