Published: 28th March 2019
Why Robotix girl Aditi Prasad believes that every girl can be a kickass coder
Aditi Prasad, who heads up Chennai-based Robotix Learning Solutions, talks about how she got girls to code without gender bias and barriers, ahead of her TED Talk
While many of us tend to get into jobs related to the courses we have studied, Aditi Prasad has been working in a sector that's different from what she studied — Law. She pursued a Law degree from the Indian Law Society Law College in Pune and a Master's in Public Policy from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, but what's she up to now? She's teaching robotics, coding and STEM education to school children in South India! The young COO and CIO of Robotix – Learning Solutions opines that it's her experience while pursuing higher studies that drew her to teaching robotics. "When I was in college, I realised that there was a gap between what was taught in school and what the industry requires. On top of this, there has been continuous development in the world of Science and Technology. It's important that schools equip students with the necessary skills so that they are on par with the workforce. But most schools struggle to provide even basic education. This is why I wanted to make tech studies like robotics and coding more affordable for poor students especially girls," she explains.
In 2014, Aditi started a programme called Indian Girls Code to teach coding and robotics to rural girls that aimed at preparing them for future jobs in the field of Science and Technology. She first implemented it in Annai Ashram, Tiruchy. Initially, there were only 25 girls in the orphanage who took up the programme but now, it has made an impact on the lives of hundreds of girls. "These girls come from poor families. While some of their parents are in jail for various crimes, some others were left at the doorstep of the ashram. They study in the nearby government school which is just 100 metres away. I believe that our programme can empower these girls to have better career options. Thus, I started teaching robotics using digital tools, Android apps and much more," explains Aditi. The Indian Girls Code programme takes place for more than three hours every week, not only in the ashram but several other places in rural India as well. According to Aditi, every year, around 25 new girls from the ashram are included in the new batch.
Keynote speaker: Aditi Prasad will be speaking at the TedxGatewaySalon: Breaking Barriers on March 29 at TATA Theater in Mumbai (Pic: Aditi)
Having achieved success, Aditi went on to implement the programmes in several South Indian schools. But how easy or difficult was it for her to convince schools to take up the programmes? "When I first asked schools to implement our programmes for girls, they said that there was no necessity. Back in 2014, not many people knew about robotics or coding as subjects at the school level. Both parents and teachers were sceptical and expressed their concerns over children being burdened with another subject. I made them understand that the younger generation needs to learn 21st-century skills. Now, we are present in over 15 schools in South India, touching thousands of lives. These days, people understand the importance of learning skills. They take the initiative to enrol their children in a robotics academy. Even the government is taking an initiative to push STEM education into more schools these days," she states.
Aditi Prasad was invited to be the speaker at UNESCO's Policy Forum Cracking the Code: Girls' Education in STEM, held at Bangkok in August 2017. She was honoured by the Government of Singapore to be one of the 15 Young Societal Leaders, selected from around the world
Keeping in mind the capability of learning for different age groups, Aditi has divided her programmes into different levels. While the Indian Girls Code is implemented at the age of four, there are other programmes that are implemented as young as three years old. Initially, they are taught about simple things like the functioning of fans and lights. "To teach these simple things, children are provided with a snap circuit kit that consists of coloured wires and instructions on how to connect the circuit. As they connect the wires and switches, the light/fan comes on," says Aditi who hopes that when these kids grow older, they will develop bigger devices that can provide actual solutions to the real problems in the world.