Pioneering Science Expo Brims With Stalls That Ignite Curiosity

New Delhi, Dec 6: Two carrom strikers are placed on a glass pane that has its edge slightly raised, and whichever direction you finger-flick one of them, it strikes the other after rebounding.

This exercise is intriguing fun for the average visitor at the ongoing Science & Technology and Industrial Expo in the national capital, though the dynamics involved in the system have far serious applications.

“The same technique is used in precision targeting of missiles. It is also valid for the dish or antenna that receives signal for television sets,” says Rakesh Kumar Tripathi, Education Assistant with National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), explaining that the strikers rest on foci of the elliptic board, thus making the trick work.

The government-allied NCSM, the world’s largest chain of science centres under a single administrative umbrella, is among the 240-plus organisations that have set up stalls at the country’s biggest-ever such expo, running parallel to the December 4-8 India International Science Festival (IISF).

IISF 2015 is being organised by the Ministries of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences in collaboration with Vijnana Bharati, the largest science movement in the country, with the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) as the nodal agency.

If the basic idea of the five-day event being organised at IIT Delhi is to bring science to the common people, the NCSM stall is among those which best exemplify the spirit.

The stall also features an installation that proves a basic point: light per se is invisible. “It is only when a beam of light hits an object that you get to see it,” points out 1965-founded NCSM’s education trainee Sunil Dubey. Driving home his point, the youngster inserts his palm into the darkness of a longish cut across a vertical tube which has light actually streaming from the top, but this light can only be seen when it strikes the obstruction.

Inspiring a new generation to join the practical side of science is another aim of the first IISF. Taking a cue from it, Indian Institute of Technology Indore has a stall trumpeting its Student Entrepreneurship Support Cell. The 2012-launched initiative promotes, for instance, smart manufacturing that facilitates intelligent planning to run an industry with meticulous functioning of its various units in harmony.

The system, called ‘Industry Smartware’, features dynamic decision-making, machine/plant analytics, customisation capability, improved asset management and advanced optimisation capabilities, point out students of the 2009-established institute in Madhya Pradesh.

“Also we have a competition where students are asked to come up with ideas. The ones selected qualify to become product-oriented companies. We already have five such entities,” says Vibhor Pandhare, an M.Tech (Production and Industrial Engineering) student.

Chimes in his junior Namit Agrawal: “We also have a ‘tinkering lab’ where students can go for random experiments—some of which would click.”

Another IISF motive is to preserve age-old assets around science-related activities. For instance, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Kerala has a stall that displays more than 300 varieties of traditional paddy from the southern state.

“We collected them over the past decade. What’s more, we now have a genome bank of all these rice seeds,” points out Prof M. Radhakrishna Pillai, director of 13-year-old RGCB, Thiruvananthapuram. Adds George Varghese, RGCB Senior Manager (Technical Services): “Any farmer looking for the traditional variety can approach us; it’s there with us forever.”

At the stall of AYUSH (the ministry promoting Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy), pamphlets speak of traditional Indian solutions to a variety of diseases. “Of late, these wellness systems are making a stronger presence in our medicinal choices. They are relevant to current and future generations,” says A. Jayakumar, Secretary-General of Vijnana Bharati—India’s biggest science movement which organises the World Ayurveda Congress.

The 1988-instituted TIFAC, functioning under the Department of Science & Technology is digitising its Patent Facilitating Centre to ensure speed to the process of clearance, informs the Mann Bardhan Kanth, who heads the Communications and Publication wing of the autonomous organisation which has its stall set up at IISF.

The 240-odd stalls inside a spacious venue spanning over 100,000 sq ft is attracting crowds, who are also visiting other participants which include Defence Research and Development Organisation, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited and National Thermal Power Corporation.

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