BIS #6554 DBIT Kurla Engineering Futures CrEAST with L&T support for underprivileged children

by Father Mario Vaz for BISMumbai

Can underprivileged children between the ages of twelve to fifteen, especially girls and students with learning disability be motivated to take up a career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths)?? Professors and students of Engineering at Don Bosco Institute of Technology, Kurla believe it’s possible. That’s how ‘Engineering Futures – CrEAST’, (Creative Explorations & Advanced Skilling in Technology) a unique training programme supported by Larsen & Toubro Ltd was born.

This Community Outreach program conceptualized by Dr. PrasannaNambiar and Dr. AshwiniKotrashetti offered four interesting technical courses. Every student went through two courses in a batch size of twenty for a period of fifteen to twenty hours per course. The ten hours of soft skills course was mandatory for all. The Heads of nearby schools catering to low income students and a school for children with learning disability enthusiastically welcomed the program.

The objective of this program was to increase the children’s ability to be creative and innovative thinkers and to equip them with some basic skills for their entry into science and technology careers.

The training that began on August 14 used a structured curriculum and appropriate pedagogies to provide hands-on training and practical skills. So the children had access to robotic kits, fast prototyping and machining, computer based modelling and web technologies. They thoroughly enjoyed exploring all this.

In Map Maker the Students were able to create, view, edit and analyse the geospatial data using Quantum Geographic Information System (QGIS). Assigned different projects, the students collected location data of schools, train stations, hospitals, etc., and using different tools like colour, labels, and shapes to differentiate the data points plotted these on the map. This enabled them to extract detailed information from the location data plotted. e.g., the density of hospitals and schools in a specific areas.

Build Your Web was all about how to Design and Build your Blog and Website using the WordPress tool. They also learned to assess the performance of their website using Google Analytics. Developing the website in local languages like Hindi and Marathiand how to integrate social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook etc. into the website was part of the learning. Every student designed a website all by themselves which was hosted live on the internet.

The NatureSense course systematically covered different aspects of microcontroller programming, working on LEDs, switches, buzzer, dot-matrix display, seven segment display, servo motors and finally concluded with experiments on environmental sensors that measured the temperature, humidity & carbon monoxide gas levels in the atmosphere. To make microcontroller programming easy, block-based visual programming editors were used.

In themeraApp course students were taught the basics of computational thinking using scratch they were introduced to the MIT App Inventor for app building. The apps developed took the students from a lower level of learning to a higher level of cognitive learning. They were challenged to create logical sequence thus prompting critical thinking. This course is a foundation to programming and logic building. Students with learning disability were equally excited to learn app development since it provided a visual base of logical thinking.

Activity based Soft Skills sessions were conducted to develop verbal and non-verbal communication of students. Public speaking, role play, newspaper reading,writing a gist of the allotted newspaper, articles and poster presentation activities were conducted through these sessions. This activity was designed to develop team building and interpersonal skills. Effective body language for public speaking and presentation was taught and students were asked to observe the performance of each group and give feedback. The role play, public speech and group presentation sessions were designed to help students overcome stage fear and communicate confidently.

The professors and the engineering students of Don Bosco who designed and conducted the CrEAST program felt immensely happy and fulfilled that so many disadvantaged young children could become aware of their own abilities to learn Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s true!! Even the underprivileged students given the opportunity can make a career for themselves and DBIT is always willing to offer a helping hand.