At STEM land -AAD our tag line is learn, grow, work, teach. We work in various ways on our growth. I recently participate in a Vipassana course. I found it useful in various ways.
I am noting my understanding of the technique of Vipassana based on my experience, the evening discourses and from the conversations about it later.

1) What is taught at Vipassana is Sila, Samadhi and Panna.
a)Sila is the morality.
* Do not kill any living being
* Do not tell lie
* Do not steal
* Do not take any type of drugs
* No sexual misconduct
When we break Sila it needs a strong volition of the mind. This is the volition we are trying to dissolve through Vipassana.

b) Samadhi is concentration of the mind
Anna-panna helps us to concentrate by concentrating on breath. We choose breath to concentrate because it is the universal Truth and everyone can experience it.
It also links with breath which changes with emotions and allows to notice ourselves.
This is Samma-Samadhi the right kind of Samadhi.
It can also teach equanimity by not having attachment to breath that comes in or goes out.
It also helps us to understand the law of nature that is impermanence (Anicha) that is ‘constantly changing’.

c)Panna is wisdom
Suthamaya panna – wisdom I get when I listen to someone I respect or have faith in
Chintamaya panna – wisdom from thinking about something and understanding intellectually
Bhavanamaya panna – wisdom gained from the Truth experienced by me
Vipasana focusses on Bhavanamaya panna
We notice that mind and matter are related

2) We have 6 sense doors – 5 external (see, hear, smell, taste, touch) and the mind that brings a thought.
Phassa – contact with 6 sense doors results in
vinnana- recognition
tanha – identify or gives decision
vedhana- sensation
sankara – craving and aversion. The subconscious mind reacts to the sensation in this way.
Phassa leads to vinyana leads to tanaha leads to vedhana leads to sankara
Vipassana gives us access to change the habit pattern of our subconscious mind of craving and aversion.
We are aware of only 2% of our thoughts, this gives us access to train the 98% of our thoughts.

3) The two important wheels of Vipassana are awareness of sensations and equanimity. Without awareness of sensations we cannot get to the subconscious mind. Without equanimity we cannot change its habit pattern of reaction.

4) Metta – share my unconditional peace, love and happiness with others and care for all living beings.
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epiSTEME 7 Conference

Homi Bhabha Centre
– Pratap

We attended a conference and also presented a poster at  epiSTEME7 conference in HBCSE (Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education) at Mumbai. It was an international conference held from  Jan 5th to 8th 2018. Many people from different countries had come and presented their research and review papers at the conference. The conference was about research on Science, TEchnology and Mathematics Education. We wrote a paper on “Fostering Responsibility in Learning in Rural Schools”. Our paper was selected for a poster presentation. Five of us from STEM land – Aura Auro Design Arun, Poovizhi, Pratap, Sanjeev and Sundar went for the conference.



IIT Bombay

On Jan 5th we attended the conference and in the evening we went to IIT Bombay. There we met students from Educational Technology department. We met Prof. Chandan who is with the Educational Technologies group. Two years back the group had interacted with them and we wanted to re-establish a research relationsip with them. Chandan had recently joined the fledging department and had volunteered with Sanjeev with Asha and was interested in our research. We presented our work to the department PhD students and professors. Sanjeev started the presentation with 2 videos of STEM land talking about how we started and then the four of us presented our epiSTEME7 poster to them. We also shared about our research topics which we have been working on. Arun’s research topic is Deep learning of Mathematics through materials and real life projects”, Sundar’s topic is Developing leadership via STEMLand” and Poovizhi and my topic is “Altering Factors Influencing Student’s Attitude Towards Thinking Mathematically”.

We got a very positive response about our work and some of the students were interested in helping us refine our research to make it relevant to upcoming conferences.

TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences)

On the second day we went to TISS to present our work with some students. There were about 25 students and 4 teachers. They were inspired about what we do. After the presentation students asked many question and we answered those question. Some of the questions were about scaling STEM land. We showed the news letter and got all their email address in order to send a soft copy of the newsletter. Some of the youth wanted to visit STEM land. One of the youth remarked that her entire perspective on education had been rattled and it was still sinking in that children can be responsible for their own learning.


The 3rd day we were in the conference the whole day. Every day they start with a review talk which lasts for about 45 minutes. We had breaks after every 2 – 3 papers were presented. During the break time we interacted with as many participants. During the conversations we exchanged information about what we do and our research. We were the youngest participants in the that conference and rest of them were older than us. One of the participants a dean from South Africa made a video about us to show in her country. We had a buffet system during dinner. We met a person who was making puzzles with binding wire. We all took some puzzles from him for the children in STEM land and his contact and have invited him to visit us a teach us wire art.

Then on the 4th day we attended sessions till the afternoon and Sanjeev also chaired a session.

Later in the evening we again went to TISS this time to present to the professors of the school of Social Work. Their perspectives were very different and probing and it helped us understand our own work differently. When they realized that at Isai Ambalam most of the children we work with are Dalits they were very interested in the relevance of this work to children with difficult backgrounds in homes, institutions and on the street. After the presentation the teachers were willing to help in our research paper especially the surveys. They asked us to create a program package that can be offered to other school teachers as a workshop.


STEM Land News Letter Oct-Dec 2017

STEM Land Newsletter

Volume-1, Oct-Dec 2017

STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Land
STEM Land are resource centres located in Udavi school and Isai Ambalam school, two outreach schools of Auroville. Children come to STEM Land for Math and science classes and even during their break times.They learn Mathematics, Electronics, 3D Printing, Programming, Mindstorms and play strategic games that enhances logical thinking. Children take responsibility for their learning and plan their goals. They only ask support when needed. This self directed learning is based on Sri Aurobindo’s first principle of education, “Nothing can be taught”. We believe a nurturing environment can support a child learning and taking responsibility of his or her learning.
How we begin everyday
We start with a gathering where children, volunteers and visitors sit in a circle and have a minute of concentration. After this we share updates/announcements, and plan the day.
Tracking progress

Children used to create their plan in Excel. They had various difficulties including formatting, accidentally deleting their data and the process taking too much time. They now use a software that we created for filling their plan for the week. The software allows children to quickly select their plan and track their progress.
They fill a daily and weekly update of their accomplishments. Children submit assessments at the end of week. Based on their assessment they are able to see their progress which is represented pictorially.
i-SMART classroom
We received a grant from Bajaj through SAIIER to renovate a factory building into an i-SMART (Intelligent and Smart) classroom, where we record the projects of children, make videos, train teachers and conduct courses for youth. The 9th graders at Udavi measured the room and came up with ideas, on how the room should look like. They took responsibility to paint the walls.

On 25th November 2017, we inaugurated the room. Children from Udavi and Isai Ambalam had a sleep over the previous night to collaborate and share what they have learnt.Their interaction was one of the highlights of the year. Isai Ambalam children had brought their projects for demonstration. The whole room and the path was decorated by children. The creativity of their projects and the enthusiasm of their presentation and interaction was an inspiration to all.Courses offered in STEM Land
We conduct courses on electronics and programming for interested children and adults in and around Auroville.We ran a companion hands-on basic electronics in parallel with an on-line certification course over 8 weeks course. Around 22 youth and 4 children attended this course. Although, we had two days for videos and one day for theory the practical hands-on sessions had the most attendance.
Since everyone enjoyed the practical sessions Siva (Isai Ambalam) and Raghu (volunteer in STEM land) who attended the course are conducting a short and intense course on the hands-on electronics activities. This course in Dec is seven two hour sessions. It is being conducted in the i-SMART classroom in a comfortable setting with enough equipment to explore electronics including voltage sources, oscilloscopes and signal generators.
Project work
This term children did projects on statistics, algebra, practical geometry, Cartesian product and recorded them. Children have also created mobile applications in MIT app inventor. Some build a mind-cuber, a robot in Lego Mindstroms to solve Rubiks cube.
Bamboo Torch

During sleep over children needed a torch when there was no power. They connected a circuit with a switch and 1 watt LED to get maximum light. They used bamboo and coconut shell and made a torch. One of their teacher got inspired and learnt to make one by herself. They gifted the torch to some visitors.
Education by Design
At Isai Ambalam we have been looking at education by design including creating a herbarium of plants found in the school and studying and creating models for the honey bee. We also took on real life challenges including creating a pond and refurbishing a clay room. This term 4th graders did an EBD about honey bees with the question, ‘
Can honeybees create a forest?
This included studying about the honey bees way beyond what is expected of them visits to apiaries and creating charts, materials to display their learning including this large model of a honeybee.Here are some reflections from the children:
Harish: I feel really happy. Want to do the same kind of project. Want to grow honeybees. I want to tell what I learnt about honeybees to everyone. I learnt how to make projects. Learnt what honeybee gives us and its importance and its threat. It is used for medicines also. I learnt how to draw and do honeybees and where they live. Honeybees can create forest.

Mithrasri: It was fun. I learnt how honeybees collect nectar, and how honey is produced and stored. I learnt about life cycle of honeybees and types of honeybees. How many eyes a honeybee has. Honeybees can create forest.
Sleepovers with robots
This term with the opening of the iSMART classroom we created enough space to work with the mindstorms robots we also brought out a large number of spare motors, gears and connectors that had been donated to us by Future school.
The activity for Isai Ambalam children was kick-started with their interaction with the Udavi 9th graders showing them how to build and use the robots the night before iSMART classroom opening. This has continued into two more sessions going late into the night experimenting and building small creative robots on their own using spare parts.Volunteers in STEM Land
This year, we had two volunteers, Pranav (who left Google) to volunteer with us for 4 months and Raghu who holds a masters degree in VLSI design and embedded systems. Pranav generated interest in children to work on mobile apps and helped with the visualization software for children to track their progress.

Multiplication tables
We identified multiplication tables as one of the stumbling blocks in children’s ability to do calculations. This in turn made children feel they were not good at Mathematics. We attempted to use Vaughn Cube methodology including the videos and soon found that it was exhausting for children. We adapted it by creating laminated sheets for the objects that need to be mastered so children could touch feel and work with the sheets instead of watching videos. We also identified where the children needed help and focused on these. Many children who struggled with the tables have been able to master it now.

About us
We are eight engineers working with children in STEM Land. Three of our team members are going through a D.El.Ed program. We use leadership tools to maximise growth of children and us. We have presented a paper on STEM Land in epi-STEME6. We spend 3 hrs a day volunteering at schools and the rest learning and working on programming and electronics.

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