This Chennai start-up's aeronautics summer camps are delivered using theatre, the epics and lots of Science

Vaayusastra, incubated at IIT Madras, is combining theatre, stories with Science in their unique summer classes for students aged 5 to 22
Vaayusastra combines theatre with learning | Pic: Jagadish Kanna
Vaayusastra combines theatre with learning | Pic: Jagadish Kanna

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the country for the second year in a row, students have not only been deprived of physical classes at school but have also been unable to go to summer camps. But what if these summer camps, like classes, could come online? Albeit missing some of the key aspects, an online summer camp at least combines learning and fun. And IIT Madras-incubated start-up Vaayusastra has done just that. An aerospace start-up, Vaayusastra, founded by Jagadish Kanna has been helping kids learn more about space and aeronautics in their Trigger the Spark classes. Through these classes, Jagadish uses the power of storytelling and theatre to tell children about the intricacies of space science.

Explaining the methods implemented at Vaayusastra's classes, Jagadish says, "Stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Greek mythology are combined with science. The curriculum is designed with stories that have an aeronautical aspect. In some of these classes, we use paper models to explain the concepts better. We have a holistic approach to teaching students. Each session is conducted jointly by an aeronautical engineer and a theatre artist. Both these individuals will enact the story." The camp lasts for 10 days with each class spanning 40 minutes. "We initially just expected students of Tamil Nadu to become more interested in space and aeronautics but when we launched the online classes, we received great interest from students in USA, UK, Singapore and Germany," says Jagadish. 

Jagadish Kanna

While the classes are online due to the pandemic, Jagadish says he prefers a more hands-on approach to teach students. "We were conducting offline classes till March 2020. We had to shift online during the lockdown last year but then we could again resume offline classes. Now, the second wave has again prompted us to take these classes online," informs Jagadish. The students' interest influenced Jagadish to launch a longer eight-level course that lasts around five months. "Once a student completes these levels, they get to present their research topics every week as part of the Young Researchers Crew," says Jagadish, who studied Aeronautical Engineering from Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science. At Vaayusastra, students between the ages of five and 22 can come and learn about aeronautics.

So why did Jagadish, who is an engineer-cum-actor, decide to launch these classes? He says, "There are plenty of classes for dance, music, drama or robotics. But if a child is interested in space, where will they go to? If you see the lives of legends in the field of aeronautics, you'll notice that they start really young. Be it the Wright Brothers, APJ Abdul Kalam or even Elon Musk, these men had been inspired by a moment in their lives that led them to become who they are. That is what I want for these children to find in the Trigger the Spark classes."

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