This talk looks at "Build Robots Create Science" or BRiCS, a project motivated by the urgent need to introduce the Indian schoolchild to more hands-on activity as part of her school experience. The pedagogic process involves mentors (college students) who run workshops where students are encouraged to use common materials in uncommon ways and to take ownership of what they are doing. Learning is anchored on a theme of interest to the cohort. This initial exposure is followed by a process of using sympathetic teachers to have the students incorporate these processes into the normal teaching curriculum. The tools used are at three levels of interaction: a) Toys from Junk, b) robots from kits c) low cost electronics kits. BRiCS is into its third year and has been able to influence a number of state education ministries and many schools. BRiCS is partly funded by Media Lab Asia, an initiative of the MIT Media lab with the Indian government.
Amitabha Mukerjee is a Professor in Computer Science at IIT Kanpur. After a career in robotics research, he began wondering if the intense curiosity aroused by robots in school children could not be used to help implement the "learning by doing" motto, which has remained largely a slogan in most Indian schools. He has a PhD from the University of Rochester, and was influenced by the constructivist ideas of Seymour Papert and his students, esp Mitchel Resnick.