The Hindu article about the STEMLAND

Making, tinkering and engineering their way to knowledge

School uses theory of constructivism, which says knowledge is not taught to a learner

At the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Land and Resource Centre at Udavi School in Auroville, young Hemasundar is busy tinkering with the robot he has made using a kit. “We can make different robots with different functionalities . I have picked up some programming with this, and how to give different commands for the robot,” he says.

The class-VII boy dreams of becoming an archaeologisit, he says, and wants to design a robot which can used at excavation sites. His friend Vignesh adds that he wants to become a scientist, and make a robot that can help in astronomy.

The STEM Land and Resource Centre that was inaugurated on Friday has been created by Aura Auro Design (a technology unit in Auroville) and is a project of SAIIER (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research). It is supported by the Bengaluru based comapany, Aura Semiconductor.

Heading the initiative is Sanjeev Ranganathan, who has worked at Silicon Labs, NXP, ST-Ericsson and volunteered with Asha for Education and worked on innovative education projects with them. For the last two and half years, Mr. Ranganathan has been in Auroville and teaching Isai Ambalam School. On his team are Vaidegi G., Sundranandhan K. and Bala Anand.

STEM Land and Resource Centre takes from the theory of Constructivism, which implies that knowledge is not taught to a learner but recreated by the learner on his or her own. It encourages learning by doing and discovery learning.

“When you build something outside your knowledge, you learn something better. At STEM, the learning is through the ‘Making, Tinkering, and Engineering’ concept. The idea is to make the child understand the principle and give her the ability to predict a situation. They are equipped with implicit knowledge that can be applied to different situations,” says Mr. Ranganathan. While the centre primarily targets children between class VI and IX, the resource centre is also for adults to experiment and create at its ‘maker space.’

With a material room and a building room, it is equipped with 150 puzzles and strategy games, apart from variety of learning materials in maths and science. The students get to use the Arduino technology, an Open-source electronic prototyping platform to create interactive electronic objects.

Maniyammai, a system engineer with Saracon in Auroville, is one of the adults who have come to interact with the students and learn in the process.

“The children learn programming and coding. It is good to come here and share our knowledge,” she says.

The center has come about with help of several youngsters in and around Auroville, like Arun who is working on an oscillator circuit that can be used in radios, and audio and video signalling.

Education today

Mr. Ranganathan says the present education system has oversimplified learning where undergraduates have to be trained from scratch. “The purpose of education has been narrowed down to just getting a job,” he says.

Education must be geared towards not just fitting in, but also standing out, he says. And in Auroville, education is also about figuring out what one wants to do, he adds.

The purpose of education should not be about just getting a job”

Sanjeev Ranganathan, teacher, Udavi School and Isai Ambalam School

Dated: 10-10-2015


Getting ‘officially’ started in STEMLAND

The inauguration of STEMland has just happened. It feels good to be part of something different and useful for children as well as adults who are into math, technology, electronics etc… Over the past month and a half STEMland has given me the space and opportunity to learn and grow with the children. This process of learning(peer learning) in STEMland will always grow as I think there is enough scope there. This place should get well used and benefit everyone related to STEMland!

Area with GeoBoards

I was doing shapes( squares, rectangles and triangle) with 4th and 5th grade children. Then I thought of introducing areas also to them. Doing areas with formulas would be a little difficult for them as they are not yet fully comfortable with multiplication. Then I got to know about GeoBoards. Geoboard is material where children can make all kinds of different shapes they want using rubber bands. It has 64 little squares. Once they make a square or rectangle, all they need to do is to count the number of squares present inside the shape they made. For triangles, we needed to make a rectangle and draw a diagonal so that it makes two triangles inside the rectangle. Area of one triangle is then half the area of the rectangle. As they got more used to it, they didn’t count the little squares anymore and instead they counted the rows and columns to find out the area. Children found it pretty interesting and they could get it quite easily. With material in hand the class is never boring!


At Isai Ambalam

For the first few weeks I decided to teach and learn with the 5th graders at Isai Ambalam middle school, at class we worked out many logic puzzles. The class was at the stage of working out multiplication and division. Speed,distance,time and interrelating each other to form stories of multiplication and division were introduced…

e.g.: if a car travels at a speed of 25 km/hr, what will be the distance covered by the car in 4 hours?

indexScreenshot from 2015-04-11 15:12:12

The students multiplied and came up with a solution, by saying that the car would cover a distance of 100kms. The same story was made into division

e.g.: if a car covers 100km in 4hours, what is the speed of the car? The speed of the car is 25km/hr

Screenshot from 2015-04-11 15:04:11the students were able to make out the stories, as we got into creating many different stories I started to realize that not all students did understand what they were making up, some got confused or did not understand the units..

I asked the students how far was their home from school, well there were many loud answers, but each answer terminated with a unit of distance( the lesson learn ‘t was to never ask a general questions to the whole class, or else expect a chorus answer if you don’t want that to happen, be more specific and select a random child to question) . They all knew that time was in hours, but the units of speed and distance always seemed to confuse them until they came to realize that speed is the amount of distance covered over a certain period of time….

the real reason was that the majority of the students did not understand English very well, being bilingual is very very important. But once the conversation starts in Tamil( mother tongue) its easy to forget the conscious of switching back to English…

by the time these few weeks passed the relation with the class grew stronger, I came to realize that there were some four students who seriously did not know what they were doing in mathematics class… every class has a few slow learners, but having students who could not multiply, or even added by using their fingers seemed a little bit odd. I decided to take into consideration these four members of the classroom.

The five of us would sit together and start to solve some multiplication problems, after a while they seemed to get a handle of the multiplication… but the problem showed up in the addition part after multiplying two, two digit numbers… simple additions required finger counting, they could not do mental calculations. If asked what is five plus six they would take five fingers and then start to count six fingers, to see that number 1 was left after adding five plus five and the answer was 11 was not that obvious.

DSC_0523To create a change the abacus was introduced and still it was a little hard to see the fives, as the whole ten beads were the same colour. Now the abacus was taken apart and every five beads were altered so as to see the simple pattern of fives. After this, the pattern was seen that when one adds five to seven the remaining number of beads is two and the answer is twelve. To have broken the pattern of finger calculation which they were stuck with for all these years felt awesomely superb. But after a few days with the abacus rigorous training was difficult and the student seemed to be getting a littler tired of beads counting….

that is when introducing scratch programming seemed to ignite a little spark, as a team we came together and built a small script that added two digit numbers. The children were so excited and eager to solve the sums in scratch than before with the abacus. Now doing mental calculations seemed to easier than before.

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Scratch stories with Udavi 8th graders

Scratch stories with Udavi 8th graders

The 8th graders at Udavi had made stories on the theme ‘ if i had wings ‘ , they were wanting to depict their stories with scratch. The time offered was four English class hours on that week, and so the fun began… on the first day all the students had worked through an idea of what they wanted to depict with scratch programming, and when asked to pair up as a team and do their work, the usual boy-boy and girl -girl teams appeared. To make things more collaborative and interesting we mixed up the pairs into boy – girl.., asked on what aspects , criteria they were willing to do evaluate the work. They came up with the following





-Using Proper Language



The class was just so amazing, all the children were totally focused on their work as a team there were no cross talks between teams.

DSC_0512The students used the Internet to get their characters and backgrounds. Gimp was introduced to them as and editing tool.



DSC_0513On the 2nd and 3rd day the children continued working with their script. They were also engaged in giving feedback with the mentioned aspects. Towards the end of the last assigned day all the projects were decided to be merged as to make a single video. The students amongst themselves coordinated and went along other teams that were still engaged in their scripting, and started to explain the process of merging files.

Simple Motor With the 4th Graders


DSC_0455 DSC_0457DSC_0459To design a simple motor all we need is a number of batteries, neodymium magnets, metal screws or nails, and some copper wires (they do not get attracted by magnets, and they conduct electricity).


The 4th graders were super excited when Bala and I entered the class with a box on our hand. Then i explained that we would be doing a small experiment with magnets and some batteries. We split the class into four smaller groups and handed each group the required number of components. The explanation on how to connect the components was shown, and the children made their own motors. While doing the motor they realized that when the batteries polarity were reversed the direction of the spinning screw also reversed.




water-bowlsOnce the children were done with the motor, they did a puzzle on water and weighing.

” If you had a 5-liter bowl and a 3-liter bowl, and an unlimited access to water, how would you measure exactly 4 litres. ”

all came up with interesting ideas and explanations.

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My First Interaction with Children

My First Proper Interaction with Children (6th graders)

We made a device called ‘SpeeDE’ that measures the speed of an object. We thought that taking this device to school and showing it to the children would be something new to them. One day I took the device to the sixth graders. Everyone saw SpeeDe in my hand and were very eager to know about it.
I started with telling them simple stories on speed and distance.
Eg, I travelled at a speed of 20km/hr, how much distance would i have covered for 3 hrs?

Then i asked the students to make up their own stories. Lots of new stories were made up.
But they had difficulties in the units(km/hr, m/s). They were not completely comfortable with the units.
After most of them had finished telling thier own speed and distance story, it was time to measure something from our device. I started with dropping a pencil case from about a metre to measure the speed of that and asked them to guess the speed. All types of random answers came up.
Then i dropped it from about half a metre and then dropped it from close to the device. The students who were pretty close to right answer were really happy and excited.
Then i asked why does the speed vary when I drop the pencil case from different heights. Some managed to tell that as the height increases the speed of the object also increased which was pleasing to hear.
Then at the end of the class we measured the speed of their punch and kick etc..
Everything was totally a new experience for me. I came to know that handling a class is not that easy as i expected.
Students tend to get more engaged in the class when we bring hands on stuff or else its not that easy to handle a class !!

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Cartesian Coordinate System

Scratch cartesian circle_s pdf

To draw a circle using Cartesian coordinate system






A Cartesian coordinate system is a coordinate system that specifies each point uniquely in a plane by a pair of numerical coordinates. Considering two points x and y on the x-axis and y-axis which meet at (x,y), this produces a right angle triangle with base of length x and height y. Here we could implement Pythagorean theorem which states ; The sum of the areas of the two squares on the legs (a and b) equals the area of the square on the hypotenuse (c). now applying to the above fig we get.

x,ywhere ‘r’ denotes the radius of the circle, which can be drawn by keeping either x or y a constant and varying the others value.

To run the script ;                                                                         Script ;


  • the step are defined to 40.
  • setting radius of the circle to r
  • defining x position to 0
  • defining y position to -r ( i.e.. To start the circle from the point (0,-r))
  • determines the centre of x and y.Pen down starts to draw
  • the first loop repeats for the number of steps i.e..40
  • y value is changed with respect to delta of y .
  • x is set to the modified equation of circle i.e.. x= √(r*r) – (y*y)
  • this draws only a semi circle starting from the point (0,-r) to the point (0,r)
  • hence we require a second loop to draw the other half of the semi circle.
  • the second loop repeats for the number of steps ie.40
  • y value is changed with respect to delta of – y.
  • y is set to the modified equation of circle i.e.. x= – √ (r*r) – (y*y)
  • this draws only a semi circle starting from the point (0,r) to the point (0,-r)
  • hence the other half of the semi circle is dawn.

Now this whole script is user defined to perform 3 concentric circles around each points (0,0) and (100,50)

The Drawn Circles;


reference : – image 2