Love For Science Took Me To MIT, Now I’m Trying To Remind School Kids How Fun It Can Be

Posted on May 19, 2016 in #WhyITeach

By Ayush Sharma:

ayush sharma
Image posted by Ayush on Facebook

India is a fascinating ground for education in today’s world. With increased awareness about the value of education across the country, more and more people are dedicated to getting the best education and attending the best colleges in the country. However, their dedication is not supported by a system of equal opportunity.

Secondly, majority of students enter college with little to no exposure to the plethora of interesting academic fields that lie beyond school. In the pursuit of high exam scores, there is rarely any opportunity for students to explore beyond the given school curriculum, resulting in high-school students graduating without any intellectual passion or drive.

I myself am a product of this system, and wrote about my own struggles and the limited exposure that comes with studying in a small town in India. Lucky for me, I was able to turn things around and secure admission on a full scholarship to MIT, the best technology school in the world.

To address this disparity, I propose to travel to India in the summer of 2016 to implement a challenging and fast-paced seven-week long science programme for students from underserved backgrounds in Kanpur, Delhi and Mumbai.

Through this initiative, which has been developed in collaboration with Avanti Learning Centres, I hope to be able to expose at least 100 such students to a wide variety of exciting, cutting-edge scientific ideas, especially in Physics and Computer Science.

I want students to perceive science as a meaningful intellectual pursuit rather than a difficult subject that they are merely tested on. I want to be able to inspire them to think analytically, systematically, and forge critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I would also like to enhance a student’s ability in scientific communication – both in written and verbal expression, an aspect often ignored.

My first stop is Kanpur, the town of my birth where starting June, students will experience a month-long immersive, challenging and fast-paced summer programme. We will kick it off with a variety of foundational ideas/topics in Physics, Math and Computer Science, including game theory and its applications to real world and Quantum Mechanics and its counterintuitive nature.
Then we move on to explore computer programs and algorithms. The focus will not be as much on syntax of a particular programming language but instead on systematic, algorithmic thinking. I’d integrate content from my class 6.S04 (Fundamentals of programming) and present students with challenging puzzles and problems such as of finding all possible paths in a maze.

The third and fourth week, will further advance us into more complex problems both in Physics and Computer Science. In addition to presenting more advanced topics, I’d incorporate sessions about the recent discovery of gravitational waves. A final project to create an Arduino compatible robot rover from a pre-packaged kit, would conclude the Kanpur session, which will be conducted at Avanti Learning Center.

Though I would like to have replicated this model in other cities, I will be taking condensed versions at Delhi, Mumbai and one other yet-to-be-finalised city. The purpose of these week-long sessions across various cities is to reach out to as many students as possible. They will be intense as I aim to condense everything in my original month-long programme into them. To know more about the workshop, all students are welcome to apply.

I’d like to end by saying that these workshops are a labour of love, and alongside my course work at MIT, I have been dedicating five hours every week to prepare for them. The idea is to revolutionise how students in this country view science and I hope to inspire others to join me in this journey of transforming education in India.