IIT Madras and Verizon India Bring Engineering Opportunities to Rural Students

Chennai: Through a unique mentorship programme called ‘1Lab-1 School,’ Indian Institute of Technology Madras is connecting top-notch graduate laboratories to the high schools of rural Tamil Nadu. The programme, now into its second year, has reached over 800 students of 20 schools in the districts of Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Vellore.

The initiative is fully funded by Verizon India, as part of Verizon’s commitment to empowering rural communities by addressing barriers to digital inclusion.

Mentor groups from IIT Madras research Labs comprising of M.S., M.Tech students, Ph.D. scholars and faculty from different science and engineering departments adopt rural Government Higher Secondary Schools. Each laboratory visits their respective adopted high school to train and mentor the students for two to three years through a structured and expansive curriculum that spans topics such as experiential learning, device engineering and skills development and career guidance.

The labs typically carry simple devices used in everyday life like Electric Iron, Calling Bell, and Vacuum Cleaner etc. during these visits. Dismantling and assembling of the devices by the school students, interactions through question and answer- and demonstration-based lectures by the graduate students of IIT Madras are some of the learning activities that happen during the training.

IIT Madras faculty also visit the schools with their respective labs at least once to inspire and motivate the young minds. All the participating labs have visited their respective connected schools ten times since 2018 and have spent a whole day with the students of the school during every visit.

Highlighting the unique aspects of this initiative, Dr. Pijush Ghosh, project lead and Associate Professor, Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, said “20 research Laboratories of IIT Madras have been connected to 20 rural schools since June 2018 with over 150 graduate students from the Institute having trained over 800 students studying in the 9th Grade.”

“Not just out of IIT Madras, we would like the higher education community to take up such models and implement them in schools in their regions so that together we can contribute towards the betterment and future of the children of rural India,” added Dr. Pijush.

Highlighting the impact of the project, Kalyani Sekar, Managing Director, Verizon India, said, “1Lab-1School programme stands apart for its potential to transform science education in India in the long run. We are confident that the programme makes quality science & technology education accessible for hundreds of children with a simple, scalable model.”

Such a unique mentorship model not only motivates the children of rural schools to pursue higher education, it also helps inculcate scientific temper and trigger them to think beyond. While the programme helps identify and nurture rural talents, it also helps IIT Madras graduates enhance their sense of responsibility towards the society.

In the next academic year (2020-21), the project will expand to 15 more schools. IIT Madras is collaborating with ‘Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan,’ a Central Government Scheme for universalising elementary education. its ‘Teach to Learn’ (http://www.teachtolearn.co.in/) team envisions a strong bond between educational institutions across India, particularly between premier institutes of the country and rural schools.

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