Robotics in Konark & Climate Emergency



It is time to work with the young minds of Konark, amidst FANI ravaged psyche of the communities. FIDR, the non-profit think tank, has started Citizen School in Konark to equip young people with the skills, access and beliefs they need to thrive as students and succeed as adults in the modern economy. We envision a community in which schools and families partner to provide students with a set of real-world learning experiences that put them on a path to college and career success.

Rishav Singh, a school student in Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, California, USA, is the young teacher for students most of his age who are from low-income families. These students have not been exposed to DIY (do-it-yourself) technology models to help them understand robotics in simple ways. With the help of the Citizen School in Konark, students all across the network would have the opportunity to do many experiments, to meet the curiosities of their brilliant minds. Minorities are particularity underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We have to give kids exposure. We have to give them a glimpse into what exists outside of their block or their neighbourhood and it is this exposure which would help build the young characters, in a disaster-affected environment. After FANI, the schools, buildings, and houses have been destroyed, and the infrastructure has been damaged. It has been about a month after FANI and while the communities are gathering courage and gumption to rebuild their lives, the young ones need creative engagement to pull them out of the trauma and the aftermath of destruction.

Although Robotics in times of disaster might sound superfluous, it is one of the strongest ways of diverting the energy of the kids to creative work and one which fires their imagination. This positive imagination would help support their psyches to be tenacious, think laterally and surmount day-to-day struggles with positivity and dreams. Young minds need to dream big and pursue their dreams to be able to build their characters. Climate emergency brings with it the debilitating aftereffects of intergenerational sense of loss and deprivation. It is our responsibility to encourage the young minds and shape them in a way which would be interesting for them, as well as preparing them for the future. When Rishav wanted to intern with FIDR for a Robotics coaching session, it was obvious that FIDR with its pioneering experience in ICT for development work in India designed the initiative.

Natural disasters leave their mark on children who live through them. As these weather events increase, implementation of preparation strategies is key. These traumatic events impact everyone, but what is still unknown are the long-term effects on the children. Though the schools have support programs in place, the lack of understanding of long-term effects of the disasters on children significantly reduces the effectiveness of these programs. The importance of extended support cannot be emphasized enough, but it’s not just something that needs to be there on the short term. FIDR, with support from Rishav and other members of his school Amador Valley,  would endeavour to forge a partnership to make this initiative a continuous one.

This is one-of-its-kind initiative in the state and perhaps in the country and widespread support is expected from all stakeholders both in Konark and the state.

Getting Robotics into rural and underrepresented communities is a social justice issue. The students are very passionate about Rishav’s ‘course’. They see being intersectional with being able to do good in the world, either in their communities or in the larger global community. This program has helped make it a school or classroom mission to fight back against the access issue and to pursue, with vigor, the skills and career fields of the future. If they can see Robots doing the impossible to help mankind in sci-fi films why can’t they create one to help them in their own communities. What can stop them from creating their own superhero to fire their own imagination and unique creation.

The pilot program, Introduction to Robotics will take place at Venkateswar School in Konark, Puri, and will have a batch of twenty students, who will work together in a workshop environment to build and program a basic robot. Through this experience, they will learn the basics of mechanics, and building, as well as how to program the robot to do simple tasks as well as learning to plan and visualize tasks. The program will teach basic building techniques, coding tasks such as simple movement, creating sound and using sensors to accomplish tasks by sensing colours or distance.

FIDR with the help of Rishav is planning for a pre and post training assessment and to document the changes in the students. This feedback would help strengthen the program and also help the state explore large scale interventions like Robotics to drive young minds to cutting edge originality & inventiveness.

After all, this is about the future of our country, state and communities.