At the Centre of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (COESME), the focus is on inquiry-based teaching rather than rote learning. Researchers here are engaged in developing low cost interactive hands-on toys that can be used by teachers in their classroom practice.
These include simple motors, generators, experiments based on light, heat, sound and pressure. The Centre has designed an experiment using fidget spinner, one of the most popular toys this year. “The reason behind its popularity is its simplicity,” explained Ashok Rupner, Programme Manager, Science Activity Centre at the COESME.
“Due to the easy availability of this toy, we added an educational and scientific angle and converted it into electricity generator,” Rupner said.
Set up under the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission for Teachers and Training, the centre aims at improving science education and is working with both school and college level science and math teachers. The aim is to encourage students to arrive at scientific concepts themselves.
Rupner, along with Dr Apurva Barve and Dr Shanti Kalpatnapu, who are part of COESME at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, engage in several outreach activities aimed at making teaching and learning of science exciting and more enjoyable and effective. 300 teachers from government schools have been trained in how to make science easy, they said.
Explaining the experiment about converting a toy into an electricity generator, Rupner said that the fidget spinner is a ball-bearing gadget with a multi-lobed flat structure fixed with iron balls or disks that increase its moment of inertia.
To play, one holds at the centre and pushes the arms so that they spin very fast. As there is very little friction, the arms spin for a very long time and children do many tricks like balancing it on their fingertips, throwing it in the air and catching it while it is spinning.
To design this generator, researchers used two strong magnets, a thin insulated copper wire and an LED along with a fidget spinner. “By winding the copper wire on a central cylindrical pipe, we make a coil and attach a small LED light to it. Strong magnets are fixed on to the arms of the spinner. When the coil is placed under the strong magnet at a small distance and it is spun very fast, electricity is generated, which lights the LED. This is a very simple demonstration of Faraday’s Law, which can be easily understood by the students,” Rupner said.
“With the use of these simple gadgets, we can demonstrate experiments based on light, heat, sound and pressure, among many other things,” Rupner added. COESME is also conducting workshops to train teachers with these tools to help develop students’ analytical skills and problem-solving abilities.
A series of workshops for college teachers from all over India is currently underway at various locations in the country, in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology and the Newton Bhabha Fund (British Council). So far, over 700 teachers nation-wide have participated in these workshops, Rupner added.