The Science of the Toymaker Arvind Gupta (IITK71)
His fascination with toys and their endless possibilities began from childhood, when deprived of the usual plastic amusements of boys, he began constructing his own. His preference for action over discourse strengthened during his years at IIT Kanpur, where he joined a political group, SAHYOG, and started teaching the children of the campus workers.
Five years after graduating IITK, in 1975, Arvind decided to quit his job at Telco (now Tata Motors) and endeavor into the heartlands of the country to educate the children of the poor and the marginalized.
That is what he has been doing for the past 30 years.
Without the lab equipment or the resources, science to the poor was at best a mess of jumbled equations and feeble explanations from teachers that were largely overburdened and underfunded, and completely unable to incite interest for the subject. The diagrams in the notebooks referred to situations and apparatuses the children had never seen, could not imagine, and were not interested in. This stale science had turned away, Arvind realized, so many children that could have contributed greatly to its enrichment.
What use are the human resources of the country that so many politicians jabber about, when they are being wasted by the millions? If genius is a roll of a dice, then how many have been lost in the multitudes that suffer under this education system?
Education is too important to be left to those without the imagination and the capacity to enjoy it.
Thousands and thousands of toys.
Utilizing common, cheap materials available in the remotest villages – pencils, pieces of tarp, of wood – Arvind began to build toys that encapsulated the various scientific theories in ways that children could both emulate and be delighted by.
What motivated Arvind was the fascination that blossomed upon the face of a child who, having picked up a toy of his, played with it and learned how the stale equations in his book connected so deeply and intimately with the physical world around him.
These toys were simple things that could be easily built by other villagers, in other villages to teach other children. The thousand plus toys that he has designed, each an elegant encapsulation of a complex idea, are all together a unique roadmap towards getting children to love the subject.
Over the years, he has spent a lot of time making videos of how to create these toys and conducting workshops in thousands of schools. Channels such as Doordarshan have occasionally aired both the videos and the workshops.
Is it even possible now to estimate the titanic impact that Arvind would have had upon the lives of so many people?
By no means is Arvind Gupta the typical IITian.
But perhaps his path is one that more IITians – more people – should aspire to?
To read more about Arvind Gupta: [Link]
To see his fascinating site: [Link]