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Moulding the future scientists of today

As part of a nationwide young scientists’ meet, three students from Goa were selected to take part in a 15-day intensive residential programme by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). NT BUZZ gets you the details

ANNA FERNANDES

In tune with the government’s vision on ‘Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan’, earlier this year, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched YUVIKA (YUva VIgyani KAryakram), a ‘catch them young’ initiative aimed at creating awareness among students about the emerging areas of space activities.

Based on class 9 academic performances and scientific aptitude, three students from each of the 29 states and seven union territories, were selected under the state boards, ICSE and CBSE, with a special focus on rural students,

A total 108 students from all over India were chosen for the 15-days residential programme held simultaneously at four centres, namely, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram; U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), Bengaluru; Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad and North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC), Shillong. From Goa, the students selected were Steve Nathan D’Sa (St Rosary High School, Cujira), Brijali Dergunkar (Government High School, Taramata, Bhile-Surla) and Sanad  Baligeri (Dr K B Hedgewar High School, Cujira).

For the three Goan students who spent the 15-day programme at the centre in Thiruvananthapuram, it was a “thrilling” experience.

“There were about 24 of us at our centre. We were divided into groups so that we could bond with each other as well as work together based on our strengths and weaknesses. It was a very intensive and hands-on programme with a variety of interactive activities,” says D’Sa

Diverse science topics ranging from environment science, renewable energy, astronomy, rocket engineering, space applications as well soft skill improvement modules such as teamwork, communication, leadership, etc. were selected as part of the course curriculum, shares Dergunkar. The participants also visited Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Shriharikota, the spaceport of India, as part of the programme.

At Sriharikota, the participants met with the chairman of ISRO, K Sivan where they were felicitated with medals and handed tablets with details of the course curriculum.

“As part of the programme, one of the activities we had was a rocket building competition. Each team was given a kit with equipment such as water-bottle, paper, etc. We had to build a rocket and then launch it from a launchpad. It was truly memorable,” says D’Sa.

Listing out the high points of the programme, Baligeri mentions the cultural programmes, the friendships, the interactions with eminent senior scientists which helped the students gain knowledge, the live view of a rocket launch, and the visit to Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota where he got the opportunity to launch the miniature rockets made by the team.

“But the most amazing experience was getting the opportunity to see the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle of the spacecraft Chandrayaan-2,” he adds.

Baligeri credits his success to his support system at home and school, in particular, he thanks his headmaster Vilas Saterkar and lab mentor Chintamani Shirodkar. He adds, “My teachers, parents, friends have all been a big support to me without whose encouragement it would not have been possible to be a part of such an inspiring programme.”

Dergunkar, too, recognises the support of her family and mentors in the role they played in her journey. “My teachers have been so supportive throughout. They have always been ready to clarify any doubts I had. They motivated me to go forward. It is because of their support that I was able to participate in this programme.”

D’Sa expresses his appreciation towards his family for their constant support as well as the efforts of ISRO and team. He says: “The VSSC campus was equipped with state-of-the facilities, a doctor along with very qualified staff. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.”

As a first-of-its-kind initiative, the programme was successful in enriching the students and providing them with a world of exposure. “ISRO is a big organisation, and to include us students in their operation – it is quite humbling. It was an innovative initiative and a huge opportunity for students to explore their own capabilities. Through programmes like these, youngsters are given an opportunity to work for their country itself rather then look for opportunities and resources outside India. I think that was the main aim of the programme,” says D’Sa.

With their sights firmly on the future, the students have big plans in the pipelines.

For Dergunkar, the biggest take away from the experience is that it opened up a whole new frontier to study science and explore space science as a field. “I used to dream of being a teacher but now I want to grow up to be a scientist,” she says.

“This programme has paved new ways for me in terms of career options in science and technology. I would like to pursue my degree through IIST (Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology) and explore my passion for space applications,” adds Baligeri. While D’Sa says he is currently gearing towards computer engineering as a career and hopes to build a business someday.

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