As the world becomes more intertwined with technology, fostering this synergy between science and technology becomes not just an option but a necessity.
The synergy between science, technology, and society is a topic that has gained momentum, especially with the exponential growth of technology in our daily lives. At a recent grand event, the 2023 Brillio National STEM Challenge held in Pune, the importance of transitioning scientific knowledge into practical technology for the betterment of society was thoroughly discussed by experts in the field.
The Heartbeat of the Future: Merging Science with Technology
Anant Vishwanath Patki, the former deputy director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), articulated a vision for the future, emphasizing that it will be anchored in technology. He reinforced the urgency, stating, “The time to come will be based on technology and there is a great need to convert science into technology.” To do this, a comprehensive ecosystem, inclusive of advanced labs and experimenting infrastructure, is imperative to tap into the prodigious talent pool of our young students.
Beyond Academics: The Real Purpose of Education
While academic achievements have their place, their worth should not be viewed in isolation. Professor Jitendra Sangwai of IIT Madras challenged the students’ perspective, arguing that rather than simply chasing grades or the pressure of exams like the JEE, it’s crucial to focus on transforming knowledge into tangible benefits for society, the scientific community, and the nation.
STEM’s Pivotal Role in the Growth Trajectory
The importance of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – in shaping the future was a resonating theme of the event. As Parag Kalkar, pro-vice-chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University, aptly mentioned, “A strong STEM workforce is crucial for driving innovation and economic growth.” It’s not just about fostering a knowledgeable population but ensuring that this knowledge is accessible even to the underprivileged, thereby driving India’s international competitiveness.
Glimpses from the STEM Challenge Finale
The journey to the final event was intense. More than 2,500 students from 20 states battled it out through 70 rounds. Ultimately, 130 finalists showcased their prowess in model-making competitions, technology tinkering, STEM-related activities, and presentations. Organized by Brillio and STEM Learning, the event wasn’t just a competition but a year-long endeavor of engagement, activities, and skill-building involving students and industry experts.
A thousand children participation: Abhishek Ranjan, Director of Sustainability, Brillio
Abhishek Ranjan, Director of Sustainability at Brillio, said that in 2019, when Ashutosh, Deep and I were sitting in a small restaurant in Bangalore, the idea came to us that this program is very feasible for private school children. There are many opportunities for children in private schools. To provide this opportunity to government and trust schools, we started this initiative.
How many of you have traveled by plane for the first time, “The First Flight of Your Life.” The first flight of life is always a good and high flight, and it will always be memorable for you. Just as an airplane goes to great heights, you will achieve great heights in your life. We started a school in 2015 in Jayanagar School in Bangalore, and today we want to help 1.5 million children, and in the coming years, we want to expand our reach to 1 million children. When we implement this program in 2030, I hope a thousand children will be part of it. Last year, UNESCO chose us for this program, and UNESCO also honored us for it, he said.
Ashutosh Pandit, founder of STEM Learning, highlighted an alarming statistic: over 80% of jobs in the next decade will demand mathematics or science skills. Therefore, events like these play a pivotal role in equipping students with these essential skills, especially in the context of challenges faced by government schools.
While science has been an intrinsic part of our history, its real-world application in the form of technology has been inconsistent. Patki reflected on India’s rich history, referencing our advanced knowledge in the era of Aryabhatta and our prowess in astronomy. Yet, a lapse in transitioning scientific knowledge to technology was evident when juxtaposing our ancient achievements with our slower progress in more recent history.
By referencing the Ramayana and the disparity in technological advancements between India and the British colonizers, Patki emphasized the importance of embedding science within society and converting it into usable technology for growth and protection.
The Catalysts for Change
Beyond the competitive spirit and the accolades, events such as the Brillio National STEM Challenge serve as catalysts for a broader movement. They spark an interest in young minds, challenging them to think beyond the confines of textbooks. This real-world application of knowledge serves as a bridge, converting abstract concepts into tangible innovations. The blend of experimentation, hands-on learning, and peer interaction provides an unparalleled platform for holistic learning.
Creating an Ecosystem for Sustainable Growth
For India to continue on its trajectory of growth and global competitiveness, an ecosystem that nurtures scientific and technological exploration is essential. This means more than just advanced labs and facilities. It requires fostering a culture of curiosity, encouraging mentorship from experienced professionals, and building collaboration between educational institutions, the private sector, and governmental bodies.
Ashutosh Pandit‘s statement on the future job market underscores the necessity of equipping our youth with STEM skills. However, what’s equally important is fostering a mindset that is adaptive, critical, and innovative. With rapidly changing global landscapes, the ability to pivot, adapt, and innovate becomes paramount.
An Inclusive Vision
While the emphasis on STEM is justified, an equally important consideration is inclusivity. Ensuring that students from every socio-economic background have access to quality STEM education is crucial. This democratization of knowledge and opportunity will be the cornerstone for a diverse and skilled workforce. Parag Kalkar’s sentiment about providing STEM exposure to underprivileged students is not just a noble thought but a strategic imperative for a nation’s sustainable growth.
Bridging the Past with the Future
Patki’s historical insights serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of a disconnect between science and its real-world applications. While India has a rich history of scientific achievements, the lapse in technological advancements in more recent times serves as a cautionary tale. By acknowledging past lapses and actively working to bridge science with technology, India can reclaim its position as a global leader in innovation and technology.
A Beacon for the World
The Brillio National STEM Challenge is not just an event; it’s a beacon for students, educators, and professionals worldwide. It exemplifies the potential of combining education, competition, and real-world problem-solving. By placing emphasis on both the theoretical and the practical, and by championing the cause of converting science into beneficial technology, India sends a powerful message to the world: that the future is bright, collaborative, and inclusive.