Sameer Kumar Misra, a real life Rancho who Quit His job to develop Innovation Labs in schools of rural Odisha
Sameer Kumar Misra a Mechanical Engineer had been working in Metal Recycling Industry in Jaipur when he realized that he had a different calling. Leaving the job was difficult. Here, he shares his story with us. Quoting Peter Thiel, he says,
“I realized that quitting means just walking out of the 6 ft door. Yet people’s aspirations and responsibility don’t let them do it, sometimes forever. Because psychologically this was not what people were capable of because when their identity was defined by competing so intensely with other people, they could not imagine leaving.”
Sameer, an SBI Youth for India fellow considers that it is by chance he landed in the fellowship by applying one night seeing the advertisement in the SBI ATM. Yet it was what he wanted to do.
He came to Odisha to work with Gram Vikas. There he saw how rural schools function. He could notice that there is a lot to be done.
Sameer who himself has been recognized by NASA for one of his models quotes Narayan Murthy,
“There has not been a single invention from India in the last 60 years that became a household name globally, nor any idea that led to “earth shaking” invention to “delight global citizens”
And his experience in design projects in the college told him that a lab needs to exist where a student from a very young age could make models using the locally available materials which could gradually increase their levels to more complex models. With this vision, he started working with middle school kids in Gram Vikas Vidya Vihar, a small school located in a remote village called Rudhapadar between the scenic Eastern Ghats in Ganjam district of Odisha.
At first, he collected all the materials by himself and gave it to the kids guiding them to make simple models like the models of school, a collage of personalities, pollution. Then he noticed a group of students making a windmill using straw and paper. It struck to him that why not focus on scientific things. With sheer effort two of the students developed Periscope using pipes, broken pieces of mirror and chart paper. He says when the kids made this they said that this so easy to make so why it was invented in Europe and not India. The idea was that if kids make models of the things that are invented in other countries using local material all by themselves it also enhances their creativity and gives them the confidence and vision that they can invent something for their own country when they grow up.
Two kids Deepak and Sitaram have been instrumental in making many models like U-tube manometer, cup anemometer using coffee cups, Newton’s disk using the motor from old toys. They have built a section in the computer lab of their school called “Navonmesh Prayogshala” a Sanskrit-Odia name for Innovation Lab where all their models are kept.
Seeing the success, the Principal of the school has also introduced science model making in their project work according to their syllabus.
These students have now passed out to senior school in another school of Gram Vikas in Kankia village where they have started collecting materials to build their very own Navonmesh Prayogshala.
The impact is such that people from Regional Museum of Natural History visited the school and on seeing the activities here they have decided on setting up a Biodiversity Centre there. A headmaster of a nearby government residential school has invited him to train the students to set up a similar lab in his school as well. Pratham Education Foundation has collaborated with the school to conduct workshops on model making in Biology involving a digestive system and skeletal system.
Sameer who has learnt to speak as well as read printed Odia has also taught Google Voice to students with which they search personalities like Abdul Kalam, Arvind Gupta and his toys by merely speaking and learn more with less effort. This has drastically increased the students’ love for learning and has been added on for working on scientific models by bridging the language barrier.
“I believe that if all school had such labs we would certainly have a breakthrough product coming from India in coming years.” he says.
He hopes that with the active support he can replicate his model to other schools as well. He thanks his college and schoolmates who have been proactively providing him support for the labs.