The Atal Tinkering Lab program is leveraging the skills, abilities and experiences of dedicated Indian professionals called Mentors of Change – who volunteer their time for on-the-ground activities to engage students and teachers in identifying problems in and around their communities and creating innovative solutions leveraging the ATL technologies to achieve the objectives of the program.
Atal Innovation Mission’s (AIM’s) Regional Mentor of Change, Prof. Mohini Naik Gadekar, with an experience of seven years in the education field, is currently working as the Assistant Professor at ETC Department, Don Bosco College of Engineering, Goa. In November 2020, she was honoured by the Chief Minister of Goa, Dr. Pramod Sawant, at the CM’s Residential Office to recognise her efforts in various ATL projects.
When Prof. Gadekar joined the AIM mentor’s team, there were only five schools that were allotted the Atal Tinkering Labs. By 2021, there are over 20 schools that began collaborating with AIM.
During a hearty conversation with ScooNews, Prof. Gadekar informed us about the initial struggle she faced as a Mentor of Change. She single-handedly organised workshops and training sessions in more than 350 schools across Goa for the management and students to explain ATL's mission. She remembered, “It was a new concept back then, not many people knew about ATL. Hence, it was difficult but the association with these schools and support from the college I was working in made it easier.”
Right from teaching about AIM and the goal of its tinkering labs to the process of fund application and set up of these labs, Prof. Gadekar did it all by herself. She did not just need to speak with the school managements but was also required to counsel the children and their parents to give them a sneak-peek into the innovative culture of ATL. “Since the ATL sessions are usually held post-school, parents have the need to know how exactly all this will help their kids shape their creative minds and attain entrepreneurial skills,” she explained.
Initiating the process in the set schools wasn’t just enough, Prof. Gadekar also made efforts to bring in more schools to join the army along with keeping a check on existing ones so that the regulatory standards of AIM were maintained throughout. “When ATL marathons/techathons happen, I stay the entire day with the concerned school. Currently, I have about six-session per month with three different schools that I switch every half-year,” she said. The professor also enjoys spending time with her students and mentoring them on various projects from the fields of robotics, electronics, AI, STEM and much more.
During the discussion, she happened to mention some of the projects developed by her students from class 6-10 that have gained recognition in the past years. This includes ‘The Agro Assistance Drone’ project, in which the drone is designed to measure agricultural land and dispense pesticide without manual labour. Another of her students’ fascinating projects is the ‘Smart Blind Stick,’ designed for visually-impaired people, that comes with sensors to detect irregularity in the path, temperature change and other features to assist the users. Her students also made face shields via the 3D Printing technique during the COVID pandemic and distributed them amongst the medical staffs all over the city of Goa.
When asked about the difference being a Mentor of Change has brought into her life, Prof. Gadekar said, “It has made me aware of the other side of the education sector that caters to the less-privileged families. I strongly believe that ATL is doing an amazing job in the case of children and schools from rural backgrounds. I’ve seen how the confidence of these kids has gotten stronger and their ideas brighter over the years.”
Before signing off, the professor shared a message for fellow educators by saying, “I wish to say to the educators around the nation to stop and think for a moment. By simply spending a few hours as an ATL teacher, one can truly take multiple steps towards building a nation that we all want to see. With these labs, children are sure to get a more vivid perspective of what they wish to become in the future. Let’s help them sharpen their skills.”
Educators like Prof. Gadekar do not wish to be famed for their work, the happiness glistens in their eyes when they see the future of the country succeed.
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