IN AND OUT OF CLASS – the change makers at IISc Alumni Global Conference 2015.

The recently concluded IISc Alumni Global Conference, Bangalore, was a celebration of coming together, reliving old times, reconnecting with friends and of taking a forward look at how the alumni could transform lives.

IISc alums, who at one point pursued lucrative career options or left India to achieve success abroad, are now helping poor students in the country. The meet brought together several distinguished people to deepen the collective understanding of the ways and measures to make learning a better prospect.

It also put the spotlight on a versatile global community of IISc alums who are helping communities in the country to learn better.


Nurture the School that Nurtured You (NSNY), a programme started by the IISc Alumni Association of North America (AANA), has adopted 15 schools in different parts of the country and is working towards making learning a better prospect. Prof Arkal Shenoy, nuclear scientist and president of IISc AANA, was among the first to sponsor a programme in a government school in Ujire about a month ago.

Nasa scientist of Mars Curiosity fame, Dr Gajanana Birur had adopted schools near his home town Birur in Chikmaglur district 10 years ago. He has also adopted a government school in Bovipalya near Rajajinagar in Bengaluru. “It has only 45 students as the area now has developed from when I saw it decades ago and parents prefer private English schools. I want this school to become a symbol of desire,” said Dr. Gajanana.

It is here through his own story and that of the children at Viveknagar Government School, that Sridhar, who is in-charge of Akshara Robotics Lab, talked about creating value and addressing questions that are both urgent and daunting.


Robotics labs in schools where almost exclusively the children of poor study, are unheard of. Into this, Akshara brought in the idea of structured creativity in a lab under someone who could deal with robots and children, knowing the difference.

It is here for these kids our very own Sridhar, an IISc alumni, found it worth his while to junk his cushy job and instead work in an atmosphere where he has to stack carton-boxes over one another to place his laptop since there is no table of proper height. Together, school children and Sridhar, create enough enthusiasm for the robotics classes to become a craze where students vie with each other to take a seat, and hands go up with lightning speed when ‘robotics’ sir’ asks a question.

A story of hope and inclusivity – also a story of the way forward. This is a story that needs to be told, to be shared to be narrated by each one of us… and we are happy we had the opportunity to share it at the IISc Alumni Global Conference, 2015. It’s just a matter of time before we see a social change brought about by the difference makers who believe in their own potential and remove barriers to create a more inclusive world.

Thank you, IISc for giving us Sridhar.

N.B. – Two weeks ago, inspired by the way Sridhar has introduced government school kids to robotics, Dr Gajanana Birur has set up a robotics lab at an education centre run by social activists in Chettanahalli, a small village between Birur and Tarikere. In his own words – “I have now realised that robotics helps imbibe a spirit of curiosity and I have seen it work through the work of another alumni, who is working with a school in Bengaluru.”

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Authored by writer@educationjams

National Science Day at IISc

Following National Science Day, Akshara Foundation took students of the Seva Bharat Trust Government Kannada, Telugu, Tamil Higher Primary Schools, Viveknagar to the Indian Institute of Science campus for a Science Tour. The Robotics Lab team from Akshara, forty-four school children, along with two teachers and fifteen volunteers from Robert Bosch, Bangalore began their field trip in the morning.

The first stop was at the Department of Physics at IISc: Enthralled by the live demos of magnetic levitation, line follower robot, fibre optics and Tesla coil, students were able to learn fundamental physics through experience. After a short pit stop for refreshments, the group marched on to the airfield at IISc campus to watch unmanned airplanes performing somersaults in the air. Their next welcome was at the Combustion, Gasification & Propulsion Laboratory (CGPL) department where they could watch a live demo of a rocket launch: from ignition to take off.
The research scholars at the inorganic and physical chemistry department took up the job of entertaining and education our students next. After a round of experiments with explosive hydrogen gas, acid-bases indicators, surface tensions in liquid and its neutralization, children also participated in a simple quiz and won goodies such pens and periodic tables.
After a quick lunch and a visit to the R&D center collaboratively run by IISc and Robert Bosch, we called it a day and set off home.
Worrying that a hot day may have erased some learning, we met these children on Monday (03 Mar 2014) for a session of recap. It was rather overwhelming to see that the children remembered most of the demos. The Robotics Lab team spent a few minutes discussing the demos, listing the ones that can be replicated by the children at the school and making plans to do so.
We cannot end without expressing our heartfelt gratitude to the team from Robert Bosch. Not only did they graciously sponsor and make the arrangements, they were also incredibly supportive in escorting the children and motivating them to learn some more.
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