“There is nothing like waste, it is just that we have not looked at it well enough,” believes this Indian toy inventor and expert in science.
Arvind Gupta is a graduate from IIT Kanpur (1975 batch) and a Padma Shri Awardee, working towards making science interesting and accessible for children.
He believes that “science is not about going into the laboratories like the stereotypical advertisements shown on TV depicting people with white coats! These are just examples of silly gimmick that are used to sell some products.”
For Gupta, every child is a born scientist, irrespective of caste, class, creed or social status.
In a span of 11 years, he has made more than 1500 toys all from waste literally turning trash into treasure..
Pune365 caught up with this unique inventor who shared amazing insights into his work in this arena..
“I have been working in the field of making science easy and fun for children for a fairly long time now. In the year 1978, (I used to work for TATA motors then) I took a year off from work to attend a science teaching programme for children in the tribal district of Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh.
Then, Dr. Anil Sadgopal (senior microbiologist) and Late. Prof Yash Pal (Indian scientist, educator and educationist) tried a lot of low cost science experiments in the municipal schools of Mumbai and then went onto Madhya Pradesh and with the permission of the government joined the HOSHANGABAD SCIENCE TEACHING PROGRAMME.
They were granted permission to work for 5 years in 16 government schools and examine the possibility of imparting science learnings using very simple material. Till then, no one had tried that. Hence, I joined the bandwagon,” says Gupta, reclining on his couch.
“There was a weekly hatt (market) that was spread over the village. So, I decided to buy one specimen of each of the locally available things and then the challenge was to try and design something meaningful using these materials.
As I was getting the air filled into the tyres of my bicycle, I noticed a valve tube hanging at the shop, it interested me and I bought 10 ft of this tube. While fidgeting with a couple of match sticks, I took a small piece of this tube and made a flexible joint of two sticks and decided to use it to teach angles to children by adding and subtracting the match sticks and tubes onto it.
Within two weeks, I came up with this and this idea had me elated and it seemed better than designing trucks,” Gupta remarks.
“I just got hooked on to this. My first experience in rural India fascinated me. But after a year, I returned, but eventually got fed up of my, job and since then I have been making simple toys and doing basic science experiments, writing books, translating them, making videos and more.”
Whenever he went outside, he carried a bag to collect junk outside. He was very fascinated with how much people throw away. Things like lollipop sticks, ice-cream sticks, straws, crown caps, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, old tubes, newspapers and ball point refills attracted him and are all used now as important parts of his experiments.
“I am fascinated with materials that have great potential. Today we live in a mountain of garbage. It’s a consumerist society and the credo is to buy more and throw more, hence there are heaps of junk created and the city is unable to cope up with this junk.
Even 20 years ago, when I started experimenting my motive was to reuse the waste generated.
“When I lived in Delhi, there was a time when the tetra packs had just come in. The multilayered plastic, aluminum and card sheet fused together is quite awful a material for the environment. The multiwalled material wasn’t easy to recycle as well.
Hence, they would remain in a dump yard for years together. So, I collected them and made around 30 toys using tetra packs.
I would tell the children to stop buying these tetra packs and pick them up off the road and bring them to me. In return, I would teach them how to make toys out of them.
Speaking on the recent plastic ban in Maharashtra, he says, “Plastics are hazardous for us and the environment.
To keep them out of the system, we have done a hundred of experiments using plastic bottles that are scattered all around. It is akin to a geometry laboratory for children and a good way of getting children interested in science.”
Such Toys and Science Help Build The Right Values In Children:
Inculcate the sensitivity in children so that they learn to pick up the garbage
Try to do more with less
Societal waste should be transformed into societal good.
As future citizens they must know that they must use less.
Even the poorest can afford the toys made from trash.
Reuse of trash which is thrown away to burden the ecosystem.
Reminiscing about his childhood and early education, Gupta shares “I never had access to high end toys but ended up being very resourceful.
We improvised with whatever things we had and in the process learnt a lot.
That is the kind of sense I want to inculcate in the current generations. In schools, students hardly get the chance to go to the lab and experiment for themselves with a variety of materials.
“Today, Parents pressurise their kids with high expectations. I would suggest, they spend more time with the child and understand their likes.
Expose the child to various things and support the child when they show some inclination. Children must understand that this is your only life and it is important that you don’t live someone else’s stale dream. Find what interests you and pursue that.
Inspired by his mother who found hope in his silliest and bravest decisions, his mantra in life is what many of us should take notes from. “What better in life if you can make your passion a source of your livelihood. I always say that I play all the time and get paid and I think that works for me,” he signs off.
#There are 1100 videos in English on the ‘toys from trash’ YouTube channel. His videos have been translated into 18 languages taking it to a total of 8,600 videos on YouTube. These videos have more than 4 million views. Arvind Gupta’s books can also be accessed online on www.arvindguptatoys.com.
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