Author – Ayushi Ingole
They say – ‘India Is Innovating’ in all the fields; be it technology, intelligence or sports. Over the years, India has been developing in leaps and bounds, thanks to its excellent human resources. Thousands of engineering, medical and management graduates are passing out each year, but their employability skills are pretty low. Various employability surveys have shown that engineering graduates actually lack analytical and logical thinking. A culture of rote learning for exams has caused students to become engineering graduates but not engineers!
Problem – Lack of Practical Learning
Children are not learning science through practical methods, but only through books. They are not testing each scientific theory they learn and understand the concepts behind them. Thankfully, many individuals and organizations have been developing educational kits and hobby learning over the years. Among these, Arvind Gupta has reached the epitome of excellence through his educational toys from trash.
Solution – Toys That Teach
Way back in 1970s, Arvind Gupta passed out of IIT-Kanpur and joined Telco in Pune. Being a passionate science educator, he was perplexed by the lack of teaching material for science. In those days, science lab equipment was expensive and schools didn’t allow students to handle them. In 1978, he participated in the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme, where he realized that there is a need to make teaching aids that are easy to make and fun to learn.
In India, there is a living tradition of indigenous toys that are popular. Yet despite this tradition, learning crafts for children is the most neglected aspect of our cultural heritage. Understanding this tradition, Arvind Gupta emphasized on creating simple toys from trash. He created simple innovations to turn recycled waste material into seriously entertaining, yet well-designed toys that people can do it themselves — while learning the basic principles of science and design. He believes that children mainly learn by doing things. By helping in organizing tools from trash really well, he enables them to have a hands-on experience with the basic concepts of physics.
The types of toys that he makes covers a wide variety of topics such as: air and water; flying toys; electricity and magnetism; toys based on the concepts of pressure, light, mathematics, sound, Newtonian concepts; spinning toys; paper toys; motor and generator-based toys, etc. These are some of the basic toys developed by Arvind Gupta:
- Matchstick models
- Powered Bottle Car
- Simple Balloon Boat
- Balancing Ballerina
- Ball Trampoline
- Polythene Parachute
- Dugdugi – Drum Rattle
- Cola can Digestive System
Through these amazing innovations, Arvind Gupta has become a renowned toy inventor in India. His simple toys have fascinated children across India and he went on to make these as the hallmark of his mission for popularizing science and technology. He realized that students in remote rural areas are unable to read English and understand scientific concepts. To make sure that language does not become a barrier, he has translated 150 books of his own work into Hindi.
For those who do not have an idea of where to start, Arvind Gupta has published a wide range of books on this topic and also runs a YouTube channel. These include Ten Little Fingers, Thumbprints, Little Toys, Hands on: Ideas and Activities. His first book, “Matchstick Models and other Science Experiments” has been reprinted in 12 languages. He draws inspiration from a number of people, including Gautama Buddha, George Washington Carver and his own mother.
Apart from these books, but his educational toys are also for sale. He has numerous videos uploaded on YouTube to help people in management of trash in an eco-friendly manner. His popular TED Talk of converting trash into toys for learning explains his work in this field and gives an idea to beginners and people interested in making such toys.
In order to innovate, people don’t really have to be different; they just need to think differently. These days, the art of craftsmanship is losing its importance. So, Arvind Gupta’s initiative promotes homemade handicrafts as well. Such an innovation urges us to innovate even more.