Today, Rohit and Mr. Narayanan went to the Kendriya Vidyalaya School on the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras ( now Chennai), India. IIT Madras, where Mr. Narayanan (Rohit’s dad) studied, is one of the best engineering colleges in India. He still has lots of friends on campus. The IIT at Madras was set up with German assistance at the dawn of India’s independence, just over 50 years ago. The Kendriya Vidyalaya (which means “Central School” in Hindi) is a one of two schools within the 700-acre IIT campus, principally for the children of the IIT faculty and staff.
In preparation for the visit, we prepared some posters and a PowerPoint presentation at a local print shop. Here is Rohit’s report on the visit.
We addressed an assembly of about 250 fifth and sixth graders in the school’s auditorium. It had stadium-style seating that allowed everyone a perfect view. We first told them about what robotics is and why they should try it. You can see our PowerPoint presentation here.
The students got very interested when we showed them the Pi in the Sky video. We had taken our rover to the assembly. One of the students asked us if it worked, and so we gave them a small demo. Until then, all the kids had been sitting quietly in their seats. But once the rover started moving, the children’s faces lit up and many got up from their seats in excitement. The Principal asked us to pause the presentation and several teachers worked to get the children back to their seats. We were happy at the children’s level of interest in robotics. We hope they try out the Moonbots or FLL competitions next year.
We showed them our rover design on Lego Digital Designer. At the end, when the presentation was almost finished, we invited them to write a short essay (200-300 words) on one of three topics:
1. How can robots help India’s space program?
2. If you could design a robot, what would your robot do, and how?
3. How can robots make your home life easier?
We gave the school a couple of small Lego kits (the Lego Space Moon Buggy 3365) for the two best essays on any one of three topics. We hope they send us their essays so that we can post them on our team web site.
It was a very interesting experience. Many of the kids were really interested and came and asked us how they could keep in touch. We gave them our e-mail addresses. The teachers said that the students had never listened so quietly to any presentation and that our outreach event came at a very good time as the school was just planning to think about how to make their science education more practical. The teachers also said that they were very impressed by Rohit’s ability to address a large audience and the Principal told the kids that she and the teachers would like them to be more like Rohit and speak with a lot of confidence.
Finally, we got called to the Principal’s office! This time for praise, not punishment. She offered us a cup of tea and we took her picture.
The teachers said they would put up our Moonbots and Pi in the Sky posters in each of the three fifth and sixth grade classes. We had two copies of each in hand. We will take them one more set on Monday when we go back to the other school on the IIT Madras campus.