Bindu Upadhyay is a fourth year student in the Department of Engineering Design. She narrates her experience as a Teaching Assistant for a professor from Duke University.
I spent my summer at the Infosys campus, Mysore. I was recruited by Educational Initiatives (EI) as a Teaching Assistant for the course ‘Design Challenges: Physics and Engineering’, for students of standard VIII. The program was conducted by Duke University. My work involved teaching design in theory, setting up practical experiments, executing them, conducting evening sessions, and ensuring all students were keeping pace with the teaching.
I applied for this internship after receiving an email via smail. My resume was short listed by EI and then confirmed by a professor. The next round was a telephonic interview with the HR representative of EI. The questions involved dealing with homesickness, academic pressure and bullying, among others. The experience of being a GCU Counselor significantly helped in the interview, and I was selected for the internship.
The Infosys campus is in the outskirts of Mysore. Apart from comfortable accommodation and good food, it offers a nice environment for academic pursuits. I had an instant bonding with my colleagues. The instructors were from USA. They were highly curious about the Indian education system. My students were an inquisitive and tech-forward lot. I could even sense a generation gap sometimes. Fortunately, they still looked up to their seniors. The cultural diversity in our team led to lots of enlightening interactions.
I taught them the basic design process, and Design for X, which they had to apply in all design projects. Our students were taught to brainstorm and critically analyse ideas. They then had to make relevant calculations and convince us (the professor and TA) about their designs. We also showed them interesting movies about engineering failures.
We designed experiments to measure the acceleration due to gravity, coefficient of restitution, BCD to seven segment display and logic gates. Among the big design projects were Popsicle bridges and catapults built with PVC pipes, which were a huge success. I went a step ahead to help them understand and love mathematics. I asked them to draw triangles and measure trigonometric ratios, and confirm their answers using calculators. They used this understanding to make simple inclinometers to measure the height of buildings.
In the evenings, we had problem-solving sessions pepped up with games to build their creativity. Music, arts, crafts, dance and sports were all focuses of the evening. “Uses of a toothbrush” was an exercise where the students came up with over 30 uses! Weekends were full of treasure hunts, lip-sync sessions, dances with a DJ, and sports fests.
The program was so eventful that time flew, and three weeks quickly passed. Everyone got emotional while bidding their goodbyes. The students expressed their happiness, saying they had fun and learnt a lot. I am proud of having made an impact on bright young minds, getting them enthusiastic about design. I will cherish this experience forever.