Published: 19th July 2020
How this e-learning platform on Astronomy can answer all your questions about the universe
Shweta Kulkarni, the first Indian woman to become an RAS fellow speaks about her e-learning platform that focuses primarily on Astronomy and educates people of all the age groups
Everybody is curious to know about the universe but in the process of knowing it, we also learn and develop some superstitious beliefs. Shweta Kulkarni was also curious to know more about the universe but she channelled her interest in the right direction. That's how she was able to start the digital platform AstronEra. This 24-year-old, who is a Royal Astronomical Society fellow, tells us about her interest in the subject, "I was only 16 years old when my parents bought me my first telescope. I would show my friends the stars and other interesting things in the sky. They were really impressed with me. Gradually, I read more and learnt more about astronomy through various platforms. When I was 18, I co-founded a non-profit organisation called Astron-SHK."
While educating youngsters about astronomy, she met several experts like Dr Govind Swarup, Professor Jayanth Narlikar and many others. That's when she got the idea to create astronomy-based videos, which eventually won her international fame. Shweta explains, "I wrote to the Department of Science and Technology about the lack of astronomical videos available for learners and our interest to create some of them. They gave us a grant of `2.5 lakh and we were able to produce five videos especially for the beginners in astronomy. We were invited to the International Astronomical Youth Camp held in the UK and were surprised to see that most of the people had already watched our videos. What they liked about them was the contribution of Indian scientists in the field of Astronomy."
Shweta Kulkarni, Founder of AstronEra
With this newfound popularity for her videos, she decided to start AstronEra, an e-learning platform, in 2018. "Everybody has the right to learn about this subject and develop a scientific temperament, and AstronEra facilitates the same. This digital platform, incubated at IIMB's NSRCEL, provides a wide range of astronomical courses for people of all age groups." Currently, Shweta who is pursuing a BSc in Astronomy with Honours from the University of Central Lancashire through distance learning, builds the content for these courses with the help of mentors and her friends who are also experts in the field. She explains, "There are different courses including space exploration, Hubble space telescope, a guide to buy a telescope, exploring the solar system, astronomy without a telescope and so on. As many students have shown an interest in studying Astronomy during the lockdown, we are offering most of these courses at half price. Over 2,000 students have taken up these courses so far."
Shweta also goes to government schools or schools in tribal regions to create awareness about the universe and various eclipses so that they don't follow superstitious beliefs. A few months ago, Shweta's team visited around 500 tribal schools in Maharashtra with a telescope and helped students observe the Moon. "They were surprised, happy and found it amazing. What more can I ask for? We also gave them two of our online courses for free which were translated to Marathi and Hindi. All I dream is to spread the knowledge of Astronomy and bring that interest for this subject among the youngsters," she concludes.
To know more about their interesting courses, you can check astronera.org