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The Clarion Call

We have not inherited Mother Earth from our ancestors but rather borrowed it from our posterity. The onus is on us to hand it over in a fairly responsible manner.” The awakening call for students, the youth of today and the future of tomorrow, to be the change-makers and save the one world that there is, was heralded at the workshops conducted at Prayoga Institute of Education Research, in association with Mercedes Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI). The students of chemical sciences and allied subjects were motivated and empowered to be part of the solution if not of the precipitate, and definitely not part of the environmental problems (pun intended). 

In addition to education research, Prayoga also conducts cutting-edge research in five different thematic areas. In its pursuit to augment the quality of learning that inculcates critical thinking and other higher-order thinking skills, the development of an innovative mindset is central. To this end, Prayoga’s association with MBRDI encourages the participation of young researchers in science, providing access to resources and guidance from senior researchers, and empowering the next generation to take up the mantle of scientific research. MBRDI through the launch of “Sustainability Garage – a Mercedes-Benz initiative” aims to create platforms and research spaces to promote concepts of Sustainability in classrooms and beyond. To this effect, an academia-industry engagement will result in enthusiastic passionate students conceiving sustainable resource management methods/new methods on sustainable practices.

The workshops are a step forward in furthering the efforts and launch of the Sustainability Garage, an initiative to foster education and research on Sustainable Materials for a greener future. The Sustainability Garage, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, will seek to serve as a hub to conduct transdisciplinary research to create an ecosystem that nurtures sustainable materials and a circular economy. The objective of this initiative, a first-of-its-kind, is to create awareness about sustainability, and ideate and innovate on new methods to develop and produce sustainable alternatives to existing products. This initiative aims to drive research and innovation in sustainable materials and technologies. Under this program, over 150 students from six universities in Karnataka participated in curated workshops with specialised course content and experimented with research equipment. 

An introduction to the program through a context setting was provided by MBDRI representatives. An insightful session on Green Chemistry and Sustainability set the perfect prelude to the lectures from resource persons. Talks on “Carbon Capture and Storage”, “Green Biorefineries Towards Circular Economy In Search Of Healthy Alternatives”, “Sustainability and Sustainable Materials” from professors at IIT Bombay were mind boggling and had many revelation moments. Subsequently, the much awaited hands-on activities where students got to experiment with research equipment  followed. 


A broader perspective, away from the textbooks, on realities of the environment, chemistry of materials, utilisation of so-called waste substances and associated concepts were deliberated and students were encouraged to propose remedial solutions. Realisation of the fact that it is impossible to make a transition to the kind of life that existed 200 years ago, was made.  And that the way forward is to use sustainable resources in a sustainable way, employing the principles of 3Rs, underscoring the vitality of supporting our existence through sustainable innovation. 

Participants  acknowledged that any step from now on has to be from the lens of Sustainability. There is no perfect solution and that it is not right to wait for one either. A balanced trade-off is to be achieved.

Through all these discussions and the practical sessions that ensued, the intended goal was reached when a student said that she became aware of the different areas in the field and that she is now “motivated to do research”, during the feedback session. Yet another captivating response we got was, “The building was nice but the classroom was interesting”.  In their own words, “ The practical sessions had scope to make mistakes, know and were slow impactful learning, as against their regular ones which are with a defined agenda and rushed”. Their understanding of advanced instruments was enhanced because they got to see and work with it first-hand. 

The education research department at Prayoga which has been engaged in the workshop series in its entirety, has captured the learnings of the participants. From curating the workshop and lectures aligning with the principles of andragogy, to designing questions for monitoring the progress of students till analysing the findings through its keen and meticulous observation of the proceedings. The assessment on awareness and kinesthetic sessions were based on verbal information, intellectual skills and cognitive strategies respectively. Insights gleaned from semi structured interviews with the research mentors shed light on student background and prerequisites, challenges faced by students, mentors’ strategies, integration of sustainability, and impact on students. This comprehensive triangulation approach aimed to better understand learners and refine future workshop curricula.

Now that awareness has been raised and students are eager to participate in furthering the cause, for the subsequent steps, hackathons will be conducted for students and stimulate them to provide solutions to the existing environmental challenges globally. The passionate students with the most promising ideas will be given opportunities to work in that direction, until proof of concept and commercialisation, with ample support and guidance from MBRDI and Prayoga. 

Deepika S


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