Building an educational toy or for that matter any other toy from scratch is not something most of us think about - If we need a learning toy or something to just keep us occupied, we simply head to the nearest store and purchase it. However, things are not as easy in third world countries. With families struggling to even put food on the table, buying toys even if they are educational, is the last thing on the parent's minds.
So how can one get these kids exposed to and curious about science? This, was a question that concerned Indian engineer Arvind Gupta so much, that he decided to give up a promising career and devote his life to making . . . . . . . . Toys from trash!
Mr. Gupta's exposure to teaching began in the 1970's. While still an engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology, he volunteered to tutor the kids of the janitorial staff because they could not afford formal school. Upon graduation, he found himself a well-paying job at India's Tata Motors and spent the next five years, designing trucks.
But he soon realized that this is not something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. So, he took a year's sabbatical and enrolled himself in the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Program whose mission, is to make science fun and exciting for poor children using readily available materials.
Mr. Gupta found the whole project so fulfilling that he decided to leave his high-paying job and focus his attention on designing educational toys that were not only cheap and easy to build, but also, demonstrated scientific principles, so that kids could get hooked on this fun subject. He published several books that became instant hits with parents and children from all walks of life.
When the Internet started becoming a more widespread learning tool, the enterprising man created a 'Toys from Trash' website and also recorded over 250 YouTube videos. The site and videos demonstrate the 800 educational toys that he and his team of four at the Children's Science Center based at the University of Pune in India, have designed so far.
Today, over 50,000 kids and teachers visit the site daily to download instructions for the cool science based toy creations. What's even more satisfying to him is the fact that some young children have become so inspired that they have even won International science competitions with the help of his creations.
Mr. Gupta says that amongst the hundreds of scientific toys he has created, the most popular are the Matchstick Mecanno, the Simple Electric Motor and of course for those millions of Harry Potter fans - The Levitating Pencil. Be sure to take a peek at the site and see if you can build yourself a cool toy - Sounds like a perfect place to visit to win that school science challenge!
Resources: gizmag.com, toysfromtrash.com