Empathy and creativity together can help students solve the problems of the society

  • 1 February 2022

As we slowly emerge from the dark clouds of the pandemic, finally it appears that we are going to have plenty of sunshine as Oakridge International School, Visakhapatnam students are gearing up for the 3rd annual edition of the Nord Anglia Education – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (NAE-MIT) STEAM Challenges 2021-22. “The NAE-MIT collaboration is a unique partnership between the school and MIT researchers that aims to improve the student learning experience via a variety of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) engagements throughout the year. The program aims to develop a culture of excellence and innovation within the school community by encouraging active participation and shared dialogue between students, teachers, parents and experts”, explained Mr Amit Jain, Director, Oakridge International School.

This year’s challenges revolve around the theme of ‘Extreme Weather’, with the first challenge focusing on ‘Tropical Cyclones’. The challenge is posed by the prominent meteorologist and climate scientist, Dr. Kerry Emanuel, who is a Professor at MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). 

In his interaction with the students from grades 4 to 11, Dr. Emanuel shared his first-hand experience of flying for hours into the eye of cyclones. He believes that cyclones are a great laboratory for just about everything that is happening in atmospheric science and that they are the best places to gather accurate information about variables that allow us to model complex weather systems with great accuracy. 

Why then, we wonder, are we humans so ill-prepared, in terms of taking the necessary precautions, when faced with real extreme weather? Oakridge students this year will explore phenomena pertaining to climate change using an interdisciplinary approach and will innovate new ways to tackle challenges that come with the inevitable uncertainties of weather forecasting and its implications on disaster management. 

The launch ceremony was graced by Principal, Mrs. Shaila Bhamidipati, who enthused students with an interactive session where they discussed recent events such as the Cyclone Gulab or the destructive power we experienced in Vizag back in 2014, with Cyclone Hudhud. She motivated students to empathize with the needs of society at a time of dramatic global change, and to use their knowledge and skills to come up with small solutions to problems that are relevant to them and their communities. In a show of creativity, and in the spirit of MIT ethos of Mens et Manus, grade 11 students of the IB Diploma Program conducted a hands-on STEAM activity, where grade 5 and grade 8 students were challenged to build a windvane using simple materials like straws and paper cups. Senior students then presented their ideas for ways to extend their project using microcontroller Arduino Uno, sensors, and coding to convert their devices into mini-weather stations. 

“Overall, the MIT challenges are an excellent means to deliver all the benefits that come with authentic inquiry and project-based learning. Our students have the unique opportunity to put their creativity into real-world practical use, while being actively supported through regular interactions with the global community of Nord Anglia schools and MIT experts” added Dr. Pallavi Joshi, IBDP and MIT STEAM Coordinator.

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