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IRIS Experience - Shop Talk at ISEF

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					                       Initiative for Research and Innovation in Science




                Encouraging and mentoring research
                based science/engineering projects:
                       the Indian experience

                 Observations from “Intel STDF” 2001-2005, “IRIS” 2006-2008



                                 Arnab Bhattacharya
                       Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
                                     Mumbai, India

                                        arnab@tifr.res.in
Arnab Bhattacharya                Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy              1
                                                Outline


             • Why give this talk ?
             • Problems with science fairs in India, and finding
                     research based projects
             •       Creating the right awareness / mindset
             •       Finding and mentoring good projects
             •       Projects for ISEF – some things that seem to
                     work
             •       Discussion



                                                   Try to convey the big picture today…
Arnab Bhattacharya                Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                          2
                                    Why this shop talk?
        • India has been participating in ISEF since 1999
        • From 2001, 6 projects (4 Individual, 2 Team) have
          represented India at ISEF
        • ISEF participation has been successful / useful
           – awards won
           – possible ISEF participation as a motivating factor
        • Observation : certain types of projects are generally
          more "likely to win at ISEF“
        • How to identify, and mentor these

                     Share our experience, might be useful, particularly for other
                     countries with similar constraints and limited access to resources
Arnab Bhattacharya                    Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                      3
                                    Two major issues



             • Creating awareness, mindset for “research”-
               based projects
             • Creating framework for selection, evaluation, and
               mentoring



                     Two key issues requiring the “scientist’s” inputs, lots of other
                     issues – logistics, timing, affliation, awards… which are
                     equally important!

Arnab Bhattacharya                   Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                     4
                       Research based projects?


           Challenges:
           • Almost all local/national science fairs encourage
             model-making, pedagogical posters
           • Students, and teachers, not aware of simple
             research based ideas that can be turned into
             excellent projects
           • Evaluation of projects at school level fairs do not
             emphasize criteria appropriate for research
              – Prospective projects often get missed out!


                                     How to get around this?
Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy         5
                       “Running” a science fair


           Challenges:
           • Selection: choosing projects for the fair
           • Guidance: helping selected projects improve their
             level before the fair
           • Evaluation: judging projects at national fair
           • Mentoring: improving (scientific content,
             presentation) of projects selected for ISEF



                                + other unforeseeable issues…
Arnab Bhattacharya         Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy        6
                               Target audience


           To popularize innovative research-based projects, need
           to work with
      •    Students (easy!)
      •    Teachers (tougher…)
      •    Parents (think it’s a waste of time…)
      •    Curriculum developers, school boards, governement
           (resistance to change…)




                                 has to be sold appropriately to each group!
Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                     7
                             Main selling points


           Why do such projects?
      •    Much more fun and excitement
      •    Not as difficult as you think
      •    Doesn’t require huge investment ($, not effort/time)
      •    Can get you (big) prizes
      •    Looks good on resume…
      •    Declining level of students entering university
           programmes in science




Arnab Bhattacharya           Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy       8
                      Not a standard school lab expt.!

            #1 Pitfall – most students/teachers think a research project is like an
            experiment done as part of the school curriculum!


       Experiments typically done (shown?) in high-schools are
       • Very routine and predictable
       • Usually planned to be completed in fixed time, with a
         pre-determined result that has to be demonstrated for
         “success”
       • The best way to turn off kids from science!




Arnab Bhattacharya                Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                      9
                      What is “research-based”?


      Usually
      • We don’t know the answer before starting out…..
      • So we ask questions, make hypotheses, make
        observations/ do experiments to prove or disprove our
        hypotheses…

      • No fixed end-point, can modify path of depending on
           what is done, and upon making interesting observations




Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy          10
                          My favorite example: Pendulum


            Lets take a simple example

            Typical school experiment: Oscillating pendulum – used to
            find the value of “g”, accl. due to gravity (we know students
            will somehow get g=9.8m/s2)

                                  No fun in this!


                     What if….
                     The pendulum bob is immersed in a bucket of water?



Arnab Bhattacharya                 Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy           11
                     The modified pendulum experiment

              ….the pendulum bob is immersed in a bucket of water?!

              • What will happen???
                – - Will the period change? How do I measure this?
                – - Will the amplitude change? Why?
                – - Will it depend on the amplitude of oscillation?
                – - Will the calculated value of “g” change?
                – - Will it be different if we use oil instead of water?



                       Now we have questions to ask ourselves and think about

Arnab Bhattacharya              Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                  12
                            Modified Pendulum…




            • Most school teachers are themselves quite
                 aghast at the problem!

            • Probably the most important job of a teacher /
                 mentor is to provoke students to ask questions…




Arnab Bhattacharya             Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy      13
                                India’s Performance at Intel ISEF


                      2007          2006           2005        2004         2003        2002         2001        2000         1999
                Albuquerque,     Indianapolis   Phoenix,     Portland    Cleveland   Louisville,   San Jose,    Detroit,   Philadelphia
                New Mexico       Indiana        Arizona      Oregon      Ohio        Kentucky      California   Michigan   Pennsylvania

     Total           7 awards        7              3        8 awards    10 awards      6             4         1 award      1 award
   rewards                         awards         awards                              awards        awards

  Grand              2 awards     4 awards       1 award     4 awards                 1 award         3         1 award         1
                                                                                                    awards                    award
  awards
   Govt.             1 award                                 2 awards     3 awards
  awards
  Special            5 awards     3 awards          2        2 awards     7 awards   5 awards          I
                                                  awards                                             award
  awards



              • India has been participating in Intel ISEF since 1999
              • Reasonable performance


Arnab Bhattacharya                                Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                                                       14
                                 Steps to ISEF in India

                                  Program Process
                      June- August            RECEIVING OF ENTRIES FOR
                                                    PARTICIPATION



                     September (1st
                                                  PRE-FILTER ROUND
                            week)               (ELIMINATION ROUND I )


                     September (3rd
                            week)                    SRC ROUND
                                               (ELIMINATION ROUND II )


                         December
                                                    NATIONAL FAIR


                     January – April
                                                 COACHING CAMP FOR
                                                   INTERNATIONAL
                                                    PARTICIPANTS
                               May

                                                INTERNATIONAL FAIRS
                                                  IEYI and INTEL ISEF




Arnab Bhattacharya                     Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy    15
                      IRIS – Indian National Fair


         • The IRIS fair is the (so far only...) fair encouraging
           research based projects, and following ISEF
           judging criteria as far as possible
         • IRIS – typical numbers:
            – Approx. 1500 entries, only 250-300 worth evaluating
            – 100-150 projects finally show up at fair
            – Choose 6 for ISEF (can be tough!)




Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy          16
                                Filtering out…


      Try to eliminate projects which are just
      • Repeating a standard school science expt.
      • Making a wild hypothesis without personally doing any
        experiment
      • Writing an essay on science topic
      • Making unsubstantiated claims that violate known laws
        and principles of science
      • Simple posters and models explaining
        science/technology principles
      • Lifted directly from “science-fair” websites etc.



Arnab Bhattacharya        Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy        17
                                      Age Categories


         • 3 age categories are defined for IRIS participation:
                – Category I: Std 5 – 8, Age <13 years
                – Category II: Std 9 – 12, Age < 20 years (ISEF)
                – Category III: College, Post Graduates, Research
                     Associates Age < 35 yrs

         • Cat III is not evaluated at IRIS National Fair. It will have
              separate evaluation process as set up by CII & DST…




Arnab Bhattacharya                Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy          18
                     Participation Details for IRIS

    Groups: Individual or in Team of 2
    Subject categories: Bio-chemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science,
    Earth Science / Space Science, Environmental Science, Engineering,
    Mathematics, Physics, Zoology
    Call for participation: Entries to IRIS come through two routes




Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                    19
                         Direct Entry – Lifeline!


           • The direct entry route to the national fair has been
             the major source of most “winning” projects
           • Allows projects which do not make it in regional
             competition to still get a “fair chance”
           • This has been a lifesaver for many a project!




Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy          20
                         Workshops and Mentoring




 Workshops are held from for science teachers &             IRIS has a resource of over 100 mentors
 students across the country by eminent                     and have tied up with over 55 science
 scientist & academicians to popularize                     labs across the country for project
 science and research!                                      improvement and mentoring.



Arnab Bhattacharya               Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy                                       21
                          Target the teachers!


           • Experience shows that the science / math
             teachers play a key role
           • If they understand what a research based project
             is, a large student pool benefits
           • Teachers also usually “assign” students projects
             or determine who would participate
           • However, have to get around the “what’s in it for
             me” attitude…




Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy       22
                     What makes a good project?



          • Innovation / Novelty / Creativity (has to be
            there somewhere, maybe in a very limited way)
          • A structured, systematic approach to the problem
          • Well-documented work (log books)
          • An appreciation of the “what is so exciting about
            this”




Arnab Bhattacharya         Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy       23
                     So what gets through to ISEF?


          • often, rather simple projects…

          Some key “categories” that are seen repeatedly
          • analyzing traditional knowledge in a modern
            scientific context
          • locally-relevant "low-tech“ solutions to problems in
            the student's immediate environment
          • comprehensive mathematical/physical analyses
            of physical phenomena.



Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy         24
                       …and what typically doesn’t


         • “Not scientific” – measurements in teaspoons, not
              grams…
         •    “significant digits” – my calculator has 9 decimal
              places…
         •    “statistics” – A = 183.5, B=183.6, C=120.5
         •    “internet science” – I saw this on the net, and hence
              it must be correct…
         •    “black box” – the instrument gives this number…




Arnab Bhattacharya            Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy          25
                                       Mentoring!


         • IRIS – December 1st week
         • Exams – mid Dec. / mid March

         • Usually 9th and 11th grade participants are more
           “free” to work towards improving their projects
         • 10th and 12th grade students are completely
           focused on their exams (can’t help it…)

         • Project level in April is FAR better than at the fair



Arnab Bhattacharya          Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy         26
                                      Mentoring!


         Opportunities for interaction with SRC
         • At national fair – comprehensive list of improvements
         • 3 coaching camps – Jan/March/pre-departure
         • Individual mentors often needed
         • Expt. – select 8 national fair winners, only 6 get to go
           to US – perhaps cruel, but the pressure works!




Arnab Bhattacharya         Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy             27
                                  Common tips


      Helpful hints
      • Use available resources fully – anyone can be a guide
      • Maintain a log book – record of the thought process, and
        original data is a must!
      • Starting off with a hypothesis and proving it is incorrect
        can also be good science
      • Control experiments are often forgotten
      • Appropriate measurements – e.g “V only, no I”
      • Solid conclusions – repeatability, practicality, knowledge
        of limitations of data



Arnab Bhattacharya         Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy            28
                            Example 1 : Simplicity


           • A winning project does not always require
                expensive equipment, or a fancy laboratory to
                work in!

                ISEF 2006: Physics Grand Awards 2nd Prize
                winning project of Hamsa Padmanabhan




Arnab Bhattacharya            Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy    29
                     Simple projects: levitating pencil


  • What did Hamsa do?
          – Exquisitely detailed analysis
            of the physics of a simple
            arrangement of magnets on a
            pencil, demonstrating the
            basics of static magnetic
            levitation
          – All the “experiment” needed
            was a pencil, some ring
            magnets, thermocole etc.,
            (but it was followed up with
            some very rigorous
            mathematical analysis!)


Arnab Bhattacharya               Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   30
                     Specific mentoring issues: 1


       For projects that rely on math./physical analysis…
       • rigorous testing and detailed understanding of all
         relevant background
       • Thorough checking of alternative solutions, prior work
       • Some thought into “could this be useful?”
          – “No” is perfectly acceptable!
       • Appreciation for why the understanding of the
         phenomenon is important



Arnab Bhattacharya        Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy          31
                     Example 2 : Engineering Innovation


           • Innovative Engineering Design – must work out
                all the nitty-gritty details and have final working
                product

                ISEF 2006: Engineering Grand Award winning
                project of Apurv Mishra




Arnab Bhattacharya              Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy        32
                     Innovative Engineering Design

  • Apurv Mishra, ISEF 2006
          – Designed a sensitive device
            to pick up small movements
            of the muscles above the
            eyebrow
          – This enables patients who
            cannot speak, or do not have
            limbs to communicate
          – Made a variation that would
            enable them to use a
            computer mouse!
          – “Engineering” – not just
            science – actual prototype
            fabricated and tested on
            patients

Arnab Bhattacharya             Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   33
                     Specific mentoring issues: 2


     For engineering projects where “gadgets” are made
     • ENGINEERING design – why this length, why this
       voltage, why this particular chip used…
     • rigorous testing under field conditions –
       feasible/practical
     • thorough checking of alternative solutions, prior work
     • Cost?
     • Who did it?



Arnab Bhattacharya        Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy        34
                        Example 3 : Traditional Knowledge

           • “Ancient wisdom” re-analysed
           • Traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) or cultural
                references to a lot of natural remedies,
                procedures etc. which have not been analyzed
                using a modern “scientific method”

           • ISEF projects:
                     – Custard apple seed/leaves
                     – Coconut flower extract
                     – Spices
                     – Kusha grass
                     – 2008 – see papaya leaf!

Arnab Bhattacharya                 Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   35
                       Termite resistant grass mats


     • Vaishnavi Vishwanathan,
          ISEF 2007
          – Detailed analysis of
            termicidal properties of
            “kusha” grass
            (desmostachia bipinnata)
          – Analysis of various
            extraction techniques,
            attempts at identifying
            active component, control
            experiments…




Arnab Bhattacharya                 Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   36
                     Specific mentoring issues 3

     For “traditional knowledge” projects
     • thorough checking of prior work – recently lots of
       work thanks to new patent regimes
        – Many plants etc. studied comprehensively
     • Why does it work? – often a synergistic combination
       of many factors, isolation of single ingredient can be
       close to impossible
     • Comparison with “alternative” (incl. cost)
     • Access to labs – beyond a point, need sophisticated
       standardized equipment
     • Statistics

Arnab Bhattacharya       Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy         37
                        Example 4 : Local Relevance

         • “Appropriate Technology” – typically low-cost
           solutions using easily available resources to
           solve local problems
         • Might appear “crude” or elementary but these
           projects are often the most useful ones

         • ISEF projects:
                 – Foot operated 2-wheeler
                 – Artificial limbs
                 – Modified wheelchairs
                 – Currency identifier


Arnab Bhattacharya              Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   38
                                Modified wheelchair


   • Mukund Tiwari, ISEF 2006
           – Modified a wheelchair to
             provide forelimb exercise
             for cerebral palsy patients
           – A cost effective solution
             that filled a need in his
             local environment
           – Used available contacts
             effectively




Arnab Bhattacharya               Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   39
                       Specific Mentoring Issues: 4


          • Most of these are crude – poor engineering
               design – drawings? rationale? materials?
          •    Insufficient testing of device
          •    Cost issues particularly for manufacture
          •    Appropriate safeguards as human subjects are
               invariably involved
          •    Standardized tests for benchmarking




Arnab Bhattacharya           Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy   40
                                   Summary - 1


          • Finding and mentoring good projects is easier if
            you know what to look for
          • Standard troubleshooting list sent to participants
            prior to fair can often help
          • Target the teachers! Once they figure it out,
            generations of students benefit
          • Direct entry of projects to a fair is a good idea




Arnab Bhattacharya         Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy        41
                                            Summary - 2


            • Standard recipes that have worked
                     – Simple project analysing physics/math
                     – Locally relevant innovative designs
                     – Traditional knowledge analyzed scientifically

            • Finally, its not winning at ISEF that counts, it’s
                 the journey!




Arnab Bhattacharya                  Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy     42
                                  Thank You!


                                       Questions?


                     (feel free to email arnab@tifr.res.in anytime!)


Arnab Bhattacharya                Shop talk ISEF 2008 Ed Academy       43

				
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