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The Science of the Toymaker
Arvind Gupta (IITK71)


In contrast to the trajectory that most IITians choose, Arvind Gupta decided to leave his mark on the world not from the top, but the very bottom.

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.

So, he made toys.

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]

Do you like it?

5 Comments

  1. Atul MathurSeptember 10, 2013 at 9:58 amReply

    Arvind Ji is an IIT Kanpur ’75 grad and was awarded its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001.

    http://www.iitk.ac.in/drpg/d_alumnus/disp_url.php?tInput=d23

    • adminSeptember 10, 2013 at 2:35 pmReplyAuthor

      Thank you for the correction. Much appreciated.

      Regards,
      TheEditor.

  2. Amit DhruvOctober 25, 2013 at 4:13 pmReply

    Dear Arvindji
    I am Amit Dhruv, IIT-D grad of 1975, currently settled in Vadodara. My wife Sonya, graduated from NID, has also been working on designing of such toys.
    She would be more than happy to communicate with you via email. Will be glad to have your email id, if possible.
    Warm regards
    Amit

  3. Gaurang MishraOctober 31, 2013 at 3:07 pmReply

    I have seen his programmes aired by Doordarhsan. He demonstrated that how a postcard folded like cyclinder can hold weight of a big book on it!!!. He thus tried to show that how science teaching can be made simple with fun. His work should be greatly appriciated by all. NIF and NID and MHRDect should support his work.

  4. Rakesh SharmaOctober 31, 2013 at 10:05 pmReply

    Arvind Gupta is not only a great in making Toys, but a social entrepreneurs who worked in Bastar with Shankar Guha Niyogi in the dense forests of Bastar, close to Dalli Rajhara. He taught the village children many skills. He was working in early 1980’s in that area and had written Science Books for the Schools of Madhya Pradesh. I accidently met him while coming from a Village visit and was looking for a some direction to go to Main Road. Arvind gave me direction and started speaking English. I asked him where did you learn English, he said what is such a big deal about English. I said you look like an educated person and he said yes. I said where did you study. He said at IIT Kanpur. As soon I heard IIT K, I got out of my Motor Bike and was able to stay with him for a day and met other volunteers. He is a true Gandhi, a seflless person with highest ideals. He should get Bharat Ratna for his outstanding work for humanity.

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