Sunday, June 16, 2024

“Atal Tinkering Labs Contribute To A Skilled Workforce For India’s Electronics Manufacturing Aspirations”

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Established in 2016 under the Atal Innovation Mission, Atal Tinkering Labs have played a pivotal role in nurturing STEM interests among students in India. EFY’s Yashasvini Razdan recently spoke with Suman Pandit, Young Professional, Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog to delve into the impact of these labs over the past seven years.


Suman Pandit
Young Professional, Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog
Suman Pandit Young Professional, Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog

Q. What spurred the establishment of Atal Tinkering Labs for school-going students?

A. The Atal Tinkering Labs programme envisions nurturing over one million innovators in India. In a nation facing diverse challenges, these labs impart crucial skills such as innovation, creativity, and design thinking. This vision aligns with preparing students for the future workforce and encourages them to address the unique challenges in India through innovation.The first ATL, operational since 2016, was set up at a girls’ secondary school.

Q. How do students, tinkering with wires and resistors, contribute to India’s future workforce?

A. Atal Tinkering Labs, a flagship programme under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and electronics education through practical, project-based learning. Equipped with robotics tools, sensors, and 3D printing equipment, students tackle real-world challenges. They serve as dedicated Makerspaces equipped with tools related to robotics, electronics, various sensors, mechanical tools, and 3D printing equipment. The labs also host a variety of collaborative competitions. Many students from these labs have presented their projects to the Prime Minister of India’s Office. Ultimately, these labs help contribute to a skilled workforce for India’s electronics manufacturing aspirations.

Q. Is there a mandated curriculum and timetable for students in Atal Tinkering Labs?

A. AIM has designed a three-level curriculum to help students develop and hone their innovation skills. The time allocated for students in Atal Tinkering Labs can vary depending on the school. While the recommended time is one to two periods, flexibility exists based on the school’s schedule and resource availability. Of over 200,000 senior secondary schools in India, only a few have ATLs, with time allocations varying based on school resources.

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Q. How is the creative output of students assessed in Atal Tinkering Labs?

A. Exams focus on conventional subjects, but ATL emphasises creative output through competitions fostering essential digital skills. Our flagship challenge, the ATL Marathon, introduces a theme and provides various problem statements based on that theme to the students who craft significant projects within their Atal Tinkering Labs. They record the project’s video and submit it to us for evaluation. This year’s ATL Marathon has been conducted in collaboration with UNICEF.

We have introduced the National Space Innovation Challenge. In this challenge, students build projects centred around a specific space-related theme. Recent advancements in space exploration have spurred enthusiasm in this domain. In collaboration with Israel’s National Space Agency, we encourage students to identify and address space-related problems.

The Atal Tinkerpreneur is a digital bootcamp and competition introduced during the pandemic. It has various sessions and workshops where students are taught essential digital skills, such as creating business plans, mastering digital marketing, formulating go-to-market strategies, and venturing into entrepreneurship.

Q. How do you track students pursuing STEM education post-ATL exposure?

A. The ATL community, though evolving, witnesses success stories. The impact is tangible, with students winning global competitions, securing funding, and even attaining patents. For instance, one student won $200,000 in the IBM challenge, and another student, Ravinder Bishnoi, recently received ten million rupees in funding through the Atal New India challenge. Students have turned their projects into patents, started their own companies, and gained recognition from major companies such as Microsoft. However, I cannot provide an exact number, as these stories continue to surface through our extensive network of WhatsApp groups and knowledge-sharing channels that connect teachers and principals from every state. Ongoing research studies aim to quantify the program’s long-term effects.

Q. How do we assess the number or percentage of students who move on to STEM-related fields?

A. To be honest, we do not have a specific tracking system for this purpose. We have yet to have the opportunity to assess the exact impact or percentage of students who have participated in the ATL programme. While it is mandatory for every student to have access to ATL, we have not conducted formal assessments to measure the outcomes or long-term effects on students. There are some ongoing research studies aimed at evaluating the impact on students who have been part of ATL for a few years, but as of now, we do not have specific data that quantifies the assessment of students. The research process has already begun, and we expect to have results in two months.

Q. How are ATLs funded?

A. The government of India provides ₹2 million for establishing an Atal Tinkering Lab. Out of this, ₹1 million are allocated for capital expenses, while the remaining ₹1 million cover operational expenses over five years. Schools apply, and after selection, they receive a grant of ₹1.2 million. This is divided into two parts—₹1 million for capital expenses and setting up the lab with all the necessary equipment and infrastructure and ₹200,000 for operational expenses. After this is exhausted, they can apply for an additional ₹400,000 for operational expenses. This funding pattern continues for two years with ₹200,000 each year and then for the subsequent four years with ₹400,000 each year. The school must apply for the funds at each stage.



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