Sai Priya, studying in a government school in Hyderabad’s Malakpet, had a serious problem at hand. Her mother wasn’t preparing her proper breakfast and Sai Priya often had to leave for school feeling hungry.
She had a younger brother who was a toddler. Sai Priya’s mother kept waking up at night to cradle the baby and her exhausted self couldn’t manage to wake up on time every morning. Sai Priya’s father also used to leave for work early in the morning. She was quite unhappy that her mother stopped making breakfast. The 10-year-old wanted to help her mother and other new mothers.
She developed her own prototype of a cradle with the help of magnets. She attached magnets on the two pillars and on either side of the cradle, with similar sides facing each other. A slight push and the cradle would start swinging on its own because of the magnetic repulsion. Although this is basic science, Sai Priya managed to put it into use to solve a problem that perhaps was bothering her the most. The 10-year-old got the idea during one of the sessions conducted by Inquilab Foundation, a Hyderabad-based science foundation, at her school.
“Though the prototype wasn’t practical in the beginning, Sai Priya learnt more about magnets and how electromagnetism could be a better solution to her problem. We don’t know if Sai Priya’s mother started making her breakfast, but we know that the experiment has turned the girl more curious of her surroundings,” says Eshwar, the founder of Inquilab Foundation.
Inquilab Foundation is a science foundation that helps trigger inquisitiveness in young minds, pushing them to find solutions to their everyday problems using science. Today, the foundation holds design and innovation classes in around 30 government schools in Telangana, including 15 of the Telangana welfare residential schools.
When young minds inspired Inquilab
Inquilab was founded in 2017 by Eshwar Bandi, Sahithya Anumolu and Vivek Piddempally, who were former colleagues at Teach for India, an NGO that offers educational services to low-income schools.
“Teach for India changed my perspective on education. I began to realise why it was important to understand problems from the grassroots level and stop looking at education as something binary,” Eshwar says.
The trio held their first design and innovation class at Diamond Mission High School, where, Eshwar says, a child came up with a bright idea to prevent tyres from getting punctured.
“Hasan’s father was a truck driver and he knew how anxious the drivers are when their tyres getting punctured. He developed a magnetic strip, which when attached to any vehicle’s bumper will attract metal pieces that often pierce tyres. Can you believe a ten-year-old came up with this idea?” Eshwar exclaims.
And at that point, Eshwar, Sahithya and Vivek knew this was what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. Today, Inquilab has around 10 staff members who conduct design and innovation classes at around 30 government schools across the city and in five schools in Bengaluru, too. This year, they are organising classes for students from Class 7 for an hour and a half every week in each school.
Identify problem, create own solution
In the first four sessions, the team encourages the students to identify problems in their communities, which they call ideation. “For example, a group of students in a government school at Amberpet had this funny yet pertinent problem of children stealing boiled eggs during mid-day meals. Because certain students took extra eggs, some of them didn’t get eggs at all. The students brainstormed and came up with the idea of a sensor-tray that would detect hand movements. So no student can grab an egg from behind the tray while the teacher is busy distributing them,” Eshwar laughs, adding, “The idea worked and now I hear that students aren’t stealing any more boiled eggs.”
From the fifth session onwards, students start preparing their own prototypes. “We provide them with tool kits that contain magnets, workbooks, batteries and small knives,” he adds.
The students have come up with a host of bright ideas, which include developing magnetic buttons for shirts so that their friend, who has a disability in one hand, can button his shirts using a single hand.
“A girl at one of the welfare schools developed a hands-free umbrella attached to her backpack. Unable to carry a bag and other things while holding an umbrella, she came up with the solution all by herself,” Eshwar says.
Students with a prototype of cloth lines with rain sensor
Inquilab Foundation is different from other foundations that are encouraging innovation in schools. “Firstly, we do not stress the need for a solid infrastructure. We help them upcycle products that they find in their surroundings. Secondly, we encourage innovation and not churn prototypes. If a student comes with a plausible solution (which may or may not work), we consider it a success,” says Eshwar.
Speaking to TNM, RS Praveen, the secretary of Telangana welfare schools, says that the partnership with Inquilab is aimed at breaking the monotony in classrooms and encourage critical thinking.
“This is the age of rote learning. Students check for facts, but not for ideas. We are turning into a gig economy. If you do not encourage students to think out of the box or find solutions to their own problems, they will turn out to be misfits in this world. This is the way to tell students that there is no single answer to a problem, which knowledge generation is all about,” he adds.