Bringing the universe to hinterland schools

BENGALURU: Imagine gazing at stars and moon in your classroom, that too during the day! In fact, imagine the Universe in your school! It is possible, says this post-graduate student from Mysuru. He says that he has taken the stars, galaxies and planets to rural schools with the help of technology.
Prajwal M, a resident of Mysuru and a post-graduate student of physics in the University of Mysore, has, through his portable planetarium, called ‘Cosmic Egg’, opened up the wonders and mysteries of the universe to the students.

Cosmic Egg, till date, has educated over 1,000 students in government schools and schools for the disabled in Mysuru, Mandya, and Pandavapura. As many as 20 students can gather inside this planetarium at a time.

How Cosmic Egg took shape
Prajwal says that when he was a student of physics in his 2nd PUC, he grew interested in  the subject and started to read more about astronomy. “We were told about stars, planets and galaxies through Power Point Presentations. I wanted to educate students in a better way and worked towards it. While going through the website of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), I found that there was an open software called ‘Stellarium’ which can be downloaded on your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye or a telescope. But I wanted to present it in a better way.”

He says his dream got a big boost, thanks to the Deshpande Foundation. He says they had come up with a programme called Leadership challenge (LEAD) to which he applied and shared the idea of getting a planetarium at a lower cost. “My physics professor Kathyayini played a vital role in making Cosmic Egg.

My friend and I created the planetarium using tarpaulin, a table fan, a projector and a computer, totally costing around `4,000. Stellarium was used for the project. Cosmic Egg was shortlisted during the Leadership Challenge. We took the help of the NASA educational website to refine our model. The whole process took us less than four days to complete.”

He says they began to promote their planetarium at government schools and schools for the physically disabled.

Prajwal says, “Science is not a subject to be learnt for exams, but an approach towards life. My dream is to create a society where kids are not forced to learn science as a subject, but apply it in their daily life. There is equipment in rural areas but we need teachers who have to take the initiative and apply minds to educate students.”

Prajwal plans to make his planetarium more interactive in the coming months. He believes that the Cosmic Egg can bridge the gaps in science education, especially in rural schools. He says, “My aim is to promote the wonders of cosmos to the children through the  planetarium. Through my projects, students will be able to understand the planetary system and the science behind cosmic events like eclipse, and transits of planets.  I want to eradicate superstitions around astrology among young students through my planetarium shows.”

Sundar M N, founder and co-ordinator of Parichaya group, an outreach programme has taken Prajwal to government schools in Mysuru, Mandya and other districts. “First, we take a theoretical class about astronomy. Later, Prajwal shows through the planetarium. Some students in rural areas have shown interest in astronomy after classes.”

[Source:-The New Indian Express]

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