Since 2008, Agastya’s Young Instructor Leaders have been participating in the IRIS (Initiative for Research and Innovation in Science).
And every year since 2008, Agastya has been winning awards.
In 2011, over 10% of the total shortlisted projects were from Agastya. Agastya went on to win 3 awards at the final event. Bhargavi and Jyothsna, one of the award winning teams, won the “Broadcomm Master’s international delegate award”. They are being sponsored to visit the international science fair at Pittsburgh, USA this june.
Here is their story :
Bhargavi and Jyotsana are two very confident friends and classmates studying in class 8 at ZHPS, Chettipalli in Kuppam district. Bhargavi’s parents work in a hotel while Jyothsna’s father is an agriculturist. They have been YIL for a year having had several visits to the campus including more than 35 as preparation for their Intel-IRIS project ‘Growing Oxygen on Highways’.
In their village, trees were razed and a road was laid. The duo noticed that Nerium trees were planted on dividers. When they asked why these trees were planted, they were informed that these plants cut out the light from the headlights of oncoming vehicles. It then struck them that they could also place plants which produce a lot of oxygen. It was then that they approached Peshawari (?) with their idea. After receiving ample encouragement and support, they went ahead with the project. They tested six common plants using ‘Winkler’s method’ to find the most prodigious oxygen producer. After around 7 months of work, they zeroed in on Vitex Negundo or the five leaved Chaste tree.
The first time either of them stepped out of Kuppam was when they went to Chandigarh for the fair. Language was no barrier for them in making friends. ‘Speaking little little English, we made a lot of friends’ chirped the bright Bhargavi. Out of a 104 projects, 30 were lauded and fewer (Bhargavi and Jyothsna held very animated discussions but couldn’t come to agreement on the exact number) were selected to fly to Pittsburgh. Bhargavi stretched her arms wide to indicate how happy she was. They learnt a lot technically at the fair (‘Improving efficiency of cowdung cakes’) as they interacted with other students. Their parents and teachers were elated but got a real idea of what they achieved only after seeing their wards’ picture in Andhra dailies like Eenadu and Andhra Jyothi. Both of them are hard at work thinking of an idea for the next science fair where they hope to win a laptop.
Jyotsana remembers the Discovery lab most about her Agastya experience while Bhargavi particularly enjoyed the Optics experiments. The former commented that she liked Agastya for ‘the out of syllabus projects and the labs which are not there at school’. ‘Teachers are not strict here. We use our hands actively as opposed to simply seeing textbooks’ appended Bhargavi.
Jyothsna, because of her sheer love for Math, wishes to become a Math teacher at school. Bhargavi too wants to become a teacher at Agastya. When asked why they do not want to become Engineers or Doctors like most of their peers, Bhargavi wistfully remarked that their parents would be unable to bear the expenses. Jhansi Laxmi Bai is an important figure in both their lives. Bhargavi even claimed that she became more daring after hearing about the exploits of the heroic figure in her history class.
Bhargavi commented that teachers at Agastya explain things so patiently and make many topics accessible. At school, her teacher does little more than reading content out of the textbook. Jyothsna said that she can relate to various topics after listening to the explanation given here. They actively pass on what they have learnt here. Bhargavi taught her mother elements of counting so that she could run the hotel when her husband was away. Jyothsna’s father now practices crop rotation after being enlightened by his daughter. She even implored her father to continue farming so there would be food for all as she heard from her teacher at school that people were migrating away from the hinterland.
When asked if there was any issue in the world that confused them, they produced a veritable fountain of questions right from ‘Why is gold expensive?’ and ’Why are you asking these questions?’ to ‘Is earth moon’s moon?’
Compiled by Milind Rao, Intern, Agastya International Foundation