Youth innovation takes wings in Tiruchi with the help of STEM programme

A student with a prototype of a robotic animal at Propeller Technologies, Tiruchi.

A student with a prototype of a robotic animal at Propeller Technologies, Tiruchi.

On this sunny Friday afternoon, the classrooms of Propeller Technologies in Tiruchi’s Karumandapam area is packed with dreamers and thinkers. Children from government and private schools are huddled around workstations, trying to create products that may one day change the world.

The Tiruchi-based edutech company has been conducting outreach programmes for school children in rural areas to increase awareness about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts and their use in the real world.

Aided by the launch of Atal Tinkering Labs in schools, and a desire to make the city a hub for regional innovators, Propeller Technologies has teamed up with bigger educational and scientific institutions to actively promote STEM education through its Young Innovator Programme.

Students from private schools in Tiruchi — Montfort School, Kamala Niketan Montessori School, Sri Sivananda Balalaya, Alpha Wisdom Vidyashram and The Indian Public School — are collaborating with kids from Thiakesar Alai Higher Secondary School, Manapparai; Government Higher Secondary School, Thanjavur; Government Higher Secondary School, Manachanallur and Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Ariyalur, as part of the summer outreach programme.

“After interacting with thousands of students from government and private schools, we have realised that there is a wealth of talent among rural communities. And to ensure that promising rural candidates get an equal opportunity to grow, we have requested parents with children in city schools to sponsor them, and follow their progress alongside that of their own kids,” says Aashik Rahman, founder-CEO, Propeller Technologies. “Our in-house team of engineers will be mentoring the children in the projects.”

A student working on a project.

A student working on a project.

“I am part of a team designing robotic animals, and I got interested in this field through the Atal Tinkering Lab in our school,” says Lingesh Kumar, a 17-year-old student of Thiakesar Alai Higher Secondary School in Manapparai. The youngster, whose father runs a teashop, has been travelling 40 km from home everyday during vacations to work on creating a robotic dog.

With the extension of the programme to Saturdays, the students can keep working on their ideas on the weekends.

“Studying how animals move their limbs is crucial to understanding how they can be made mobile and agile. Our robotic dog could be a pet animal or a mechanical bodyguard for those living alone,” says Lingesh.

Eight-year-old S.N. Shayan, got inspired during the lockdown to start working on an autonomous delivery drone that could help people get medicines or food from nearby shops without human interaction.

“Our drone will be able to hold 200 grams of food and fly in the range of 25 km. We are still calculating how the load can be adjusted to the mechanism’s movement. It can be programmed for pre-set flight distance and destination, but we will also have a person monitoring the drone’s progress from the ground,” says the precocious Shayan, an alumnus of The Indian Public School.

R Boobathi Raj, 16, (Class 12, Thiakesar Alai Higher Secondary School) and A Aadhav, 13, (Class 8, Kamala Niketan Montessori School) are working on a hybrid e-bike that will run on both petrol and electrical charge. “The driver can shift fuel options according to their travel requirements on our bike. The main challenge is to find the space to fit in all the components in the chassis,” says Aadhav. “We are now actively looking for spare parts that can be used in our vehicle, on authorised online dealerships.”

Tutors at the academy say that the courses can be challenging on many levels, especially for children who have never owned or seen a computer. “The first few weeks are spent in orientation, literally from how to switch on the machine,” says Salman, one of the mentor-engineers. “Then to keep the interest levels high, we set aside some time for practicals before going on to the theoretical part of the project. The transformation you see in the students is rewarding in itself,” he adds.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2022 5:13:33 pm |