Published: 22nd September 2021
The legacy of Dr KV Rao: How this Scientific Society in Hyderabad is redefining research for the young
Started by the eminent scientist late Dr KV Rao, Dr KV Rao Scientific Society is a must-visit for all those students who want to break away from theory and look at Science in action
After a very, very long time, a visit to Dr KV Rao Scientific Society made this writer dial back to her school days. Not because the three-storied expansive space in one of the nooks and crannies of Hyderabad's Siddhartha Nagar (near the Madhura Nagar Metro Station to be frightfully precise) has STEM experiments or models everywhere one turns. Literally.
The second floor houses the lab while their third floor has a 60-seater seminar hall and a classroom
For instance, the Periodic Table welcomes you into a space where it opens up into a display of all sorts of models from Lissajous figure (sand pendulum) to Newton's cradle. No, this certainly wasn't what triggered the nostalgic harking back to days where tight braids bound our hair and equally tight 'textbook' rules bound our head. After all, most educational institutions are too wrapped up in theory to focus on the practical, the latter is, needless to say, what society today advocates for. The visit had us mentally scouring our textbooks, classes, anything and everything whose responsibility it was to inform us about local heroes like Dr Kolluri Venkateswara Rao — the scientist known for establishing the chemical division for Geological Survey of India, pioneering work on fluorosis and the effect SO2 and NOx has in terms of marble environmental pollution, on monuments like Taj Mahal and Charminar.
Temple of learning
In 2001, he started Dr KV Rao Scientific Society, in a bid to realise his dream of building a scientific temperament among children. Today, it is a legacy that thrives in the 4,000 sqft premises that used to be where the great mind once resided. A legacy that is now being carried forward by his daughter-in-law, Dr K Ratna. But what's important is not that we did not know of him before, but that we educate ourselves about him now, in the hope to find some inspiration to ignite in our minds a sense of curiosity for learning, which is the very breath of life.
The conversations begin
So, as we admire Dr KV Rao's doctorate degree from Banaras Hindu University, his magnifying glass, typewriter and more memorabilia preserved in one of the many rooms there, we ask Dr K Ratna what the man himself was like and she smiles as she says, "He was a tiger when it came to work, but otherwise he was a gentle giant who felt the pressing need to encourage children towards Science, not just medicine, but Chemistry, Physics and Biology as well." The lady in question, who has a PhD from IIT Delhi, and his family members, have ensured that his vision has been taken forward.
The Science Innovation Lab
In fact, to deliver the 21st Annual Memorial Oration, former Chairman of ISRO Dr K Kasturirangan was invited and he also inaugurated their Science Innovation Lab, the latest addition to their space. It's a dream space for any mind who doesn't just want to read but actually understand scientific concepts with the help of various models — human digestive system, telescope, math puzzles, a model on sound waves and a whole set of diverse tools that open up the mind to the relationship between Science and the world, generously funded by Electronic Arts (EA). But the founder member of the society is aware that Arts and Science go hand-in-hand. Thus, the SMART (Science Meets ART) Awards were initiated just this year. "On National Science Day (February 2021), we asked students to visualise Science and Art together in the form of a painting or a drawing. We received over 660 entries from across India," she says, sounding delighted.
Science on the move
What's also news is that the society understands that their new lab might not be accessible to those in remote areas, and thus, they have initiated the Mobile Science Lab, funded by the Orange County Community Fund, (OCCF) California. A bus is in the process of being converted into a lab that will tour the interior of the state to make pit stops at schools where hands-on learning is much called for. Anil Kumar Kutty, the President of the society who joins us over a call, shares that as we speak, the bus is being fitted with interiors and standard experiments. This is how Dr KV Rao Scientific Society, even after two decades of tirelessly working with children, continues to reorient according to what the need of the hour demands.
Some of the models presented by students as SPARK Innovation projects are an automatic wheelchair with gestures, a smart lifesaver, a device to prevent electrocution, a light-powered charger and a lot more
Meanwhile, the society's Annual Research Award, a much-coveted one among the scientific community, continues to thrive. This year, from the 235 applications that they received (much more than any year), Arvind Kumar from IIT Madras was chosen as the winner who is working on the regularity of powers of quadratic sequences with applications to binomial ideals. Over the years, winners have advanced in their fields and still look back at the award as a milestone. The very first winner Dr Venkat Reddy is currently in Cincinnati, USA working on rare diseases. "He had shared that after he won the Award, his village welcomed him with a procession," informs Dr Ratna, who is the Convener of Indian Women's Scientists' Association, Hyderabad branch.
Anil Kumar Kutty, President, Dr KV Rao Scientific Society
That SPARK has been ignited
Anil Kumar Kutty speaks in detail about SPARK Innovation Awards, the tenth edition of which was conducted this year. This large-scale event encourages children to bring forth their most innovative ideas in the form of working models. "These annual events were conducted at various places like the BM Birla Science Centre and even BITS Hyderabad where a galaxy of scientists are also invited," reminisces the president. Of course, this year it was all virtual and they still managed to receive 285 projects from 19 states of India. The emphasis is on the innovation factor, he says. "Over the years, we have managed to create a culture where only original ideas have surfaced. We have even managed to mentor and financially support a few very promising ideas,” says the former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India (2002 to 2007). Take for instance the student from Nellore working on a robotic hand for paralytic patients and another from Karnataka trying her hands on a fuel-efficient missile.
Welcome to the society
As we prepare to leave the premises we bump into CB Lakshmi, a scientist working at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad who is also a member of the Society, who goes on to say, "Surely, there is no place like this in the city of Hyderabad." And after looking and seeing for ourselves the great Dr KV Rao dream in action, we have to agree. And whether the world knows the name of this venerable scientist is secondary because primarily, the vast number of students who have benefitted from all that the society has done has already left an indelible mark.
They are the champions
Joe Daniel, the device and Teja Narasimha Rao | (Pic: Joe Daniel)
I built an Electronic Security Braking System (ESBS) in class VII for which my team won the SPARK Innovation Award last year. After working on it for three years, Teja Narasimha Rao and Bodhi Satva joined in. Once the device is fitted onto a vehicle, it identifies human beings in its path and triggers the break which brings the vehicle to a halt. We have been working on this with the aim of doing something for society. It was my father, who is in the Indian Air Force, without whose support I couldn't have made this happen and the society, who recognised and supported our work
Joe Daniel, Class X, SBOA School and Junior College, Chennai
Bhavin Saurabh Gupta and his artwork | (Pic: Bhavin Saurabh Gupta)
Art is my favourite hobby and Science is my love. SMART Awards gave me the opportunity to blend the two. The idea I had was centred around evolution. I depicted how mere single-cell organisms can develop into a huge tiger, which is an animal I really like. I used colour pencils and alcohol ink markers to depict evolution, a subject that fascinates me to no end. Once I came up with the idea, it took me about five days to complete the artwork which won the first SMART Award. I was so happy when I got the news. I aspire to become a scientist and art is something I would like to continue as a hobby. This is because the creativity in arts helps me visualise Science better
Bhavin Saurabh Gupta, Class X, Manthan International School, Hyderabad
Math models you should get with:
- Lissajous figure: Depicts the several varieties of curves formed by combining two simple harmonic motions which are mutually perpendicular
- Newton's cradle: It is a device that depicts concepts of conservation of momentum and conservation of energy by using swinging spheres
- Galileo thermometer: It proves the principle thermometers are based on, that in the proportion of the temperature, the density of a liquid changed
- Balancing nails: Seen as a trick with a solid theory backing it. Find the balancing point or the centre of gravity of one nail to balance the other nails on it
For more on them check out kvrss.org