Arvind Gupta is a former student of IIT, Kanpur. After years of research and hi-tech work, his current passion is reaching science to young minds. He uses waste items like old newspapers, bottles, match sticks, threads and straws to produce simple play-items that can teach scientific principles. And his toys are popular among school children, creating an interest in them for science subjects.
Gupta’s parents never went to school. Though born in a poor family, he reached the level of the prestigious IIT by his own untiring efforts. He completed his Electrical Engineering from IIT, Kanpur in 1975 and was working in Telco. In 1978, he took leave for a year for studies, went to a village in Madhya Pradesh and participated in the programme for teaching science to children. That brought about a dramatic change in his life.
Continuing his efforts, he thought of making simple toys for teaching science to children. The village schools normally do not have proper instruments for performing scientific experiments for demonstrating to students. He however feels simple experiments can be performed even with the help of small things available locally. All one needs for this is some sensible thinking and effort.
Using anything easily available like old newspapers, bottles, cycle wall-tubes, plastic cans, used pencils, magnets, match sticks, unusable socks, broomsticks, threads, ink refills, straws, pins, gums etc. he has designed many items and explained scientific concepts to children through them.
He folds old paper repeatedly and makes different kinds of hats; he then changes it into a small box; he then folds a small paper and creates a book out of it; then designs wallets out of used tetra packs; he lights electric bulbs using small batteries, safety pins and magnets, and also operates a handy motor; then blows air through a straw and makes a fan work; later, blows air through a big straw from his mouth, while cutting the straw bit by bit simultaneously and this keeps changing the musical notes that emanate from it; connects a match stick to the wall-tube and makes an instrument for describing atomic principles; and also makes many other such contraptions using items like ropes, plastic covers, old rubber slippers etc.
Arvind Gupta is prolific. Like a magician he produces many toys helpful for learning science from useless, thrown-away materials, and amazingly, he makes us also do the same! Assembling sensible toys for children from redundant and discarded items and making them popular among school children have become his full-time assignments.
Children cannot at all forget this man, who is simple and highly cultured in his approach. The simple devices designed by him remain a godsend for the village schools and especially for the government school students. Even those who do not know him personally will turn into his ardent fans, once they have a look at his science-toys.
There is a scientific concept in every sport. By fabricating these play-items themselves, the children learn those on their own. This remains the fundamental principle behind his making of these toys.
There is no patent of any sort for the hundreds of toys produced by him and hence, those can be used by anyone for public causes and for teaching students. Their images and details can be downloaded from his website and explained to the children, and then, they can be made to repeat them.
Books on the making of such science-toys have been translated and published in many languages. Thousands of people are viewing the videos uploaded on his website on a daily basis and are benefiting from it. Details about hundreds of toys that he has assembled are also available in the site in several languages including English and Tamil. Interested people can help to translate the contents of this site; and we ourselves can play the videos and do the translation.
Recognition has come flocking to him. A national award was conferred on him in the year 1988 for his efforts in creating a scientific temperament among children. He was also given the IIT best student award in 2001; Indian National Science Academy’s Indira Gandhi prize for making science popular, in 2008; and Padma Shri during this year.
For the past 30 years, Arvind Gupta has been continuously engaged in the efforts of spreading science among children, untouched by appreciations and awards. For more than a year now, he has been living with his daughter and grandchildren in Chennai. His service of teaching science to children with the help of toys is however continuing here too.
Recently, Bharathi Puthagalayam’s Book for Children had sponsored a teacher’s workshop in the Anna centenary library, which Arvind Gupta conducted.He was carrying with him only two shopping bags. There were some boxes in them. Samples of items he had made, old newspapers, and some other materials for making new things, were all that he had in them. In the programme, he had very little to talk, but a lot to do. His experiments and practical demonstrations made the audience, consisting of teachers, activists and even small children, lose themselves completely in the proceedings for hours together.