Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Repairing-Restarting-Reusing: Teaching Innovation in schools

Everybody swears by innovation and wants innovation. We have numerous anecdotes and stories about how innovation happened...How some people created some new things/ideas/processes. But nobody knows how does anyone teach innovation.

There are exercises and activities to initiate people into thinking and creativity...But innovation is still far far away. But outcomes of these activities dont lead to innovation.

One thing that I noticed early on was that one key element in many innovations is a problem and then creating a solution to it. Another thing that I realised is that 'repairing' something is a key innovation activity.

Was glad to read about the 'Restart Project' being run in UK somewhere...where people get together to restart or repair something...(restart)old transistors and other electronic gadgets. The founders knew that this was a regular affair in developing countries but had perhaps died out in the developed world.

Also, repair has a lot to do with the environment as wonder the tweet that led me to Restart project was tweeted by a environmentalist. 

But right now my effort is to bring environment, innovation and education on the same platform...and actually talk about the interface of all the three.

In my book...To, The Principal...Yours sincerely, I have talked of the idea of a 'kabaaad se jugaad' innovation lab...a lab at the interface of environment, innovation and education.

A lab full of all the tools (read screw drivers, spanners, springs, pulleys etc) and full of kabaad (read junk) old machines etc which are now junk. Using all of these to first get acquainted with how things work first and then using some of the material available to make something knew.

If children and left with constructive material to work with...even if it is dont need a Lego. Just old junk can work wonders with children and even adults. And the process of repairing leads to innovation. It could be even as simple as repairing a chair with a broken leg. 

My father was an Aeronautical engineer and often used to tell me that there are so many innovators in Old Delhi and Ludhiana that they could make a plane if asked to do. Dont think it was an exaggeration.

What the Restart project is doing is intrinsic and embedded in developing economies. 

I started on one such innovation lab in a school in Delhi. We asked students to get old material from home and we got some basic tools, screw drivers and spanners. It was fun dismantling stuff for all of them.

In subsequent classes we went on to take some specific items. We got a locksmith to our lab and got him to show us whats inside a do levers work. It was all fun.

Found out later that a Sweden based organisation called Snilleblixtarna is doing similar activities with children even in Grades 1 and 2.

Its just activities like these, which will get us to innovation as there is no specific path.

If we can teach innovation embedded in repair (reuse or recycle) will be best for the planet as we would be addressing the two most pressing needs of the planet envisaged in environment and innovation.

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