With Amazon, children in a Maharashtrian village build a weather station to solve farmers' problems

With Amazon, children in a Maharashtrian village build a weather station to solve farmers’ problems

This article is sponsored by Amazon India.

The summer of 2022 has been unforgiving for India, and even more so for its villages, which often bear the brunt of the sweltering heat. One such village is Nanded in Maharashtra.

While the farmers wished for some respite from the scorching sun, they dreaded the coming monsoon season because of the heavy rains it could bring, which could be equally devastating. Year after year, farmers are devastated because their crops are flooded and their crops are destroyed.

So, this year, the class 8 students of Zilla Parishad School in the village decided to make a change.

The school recently had an Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) lab equipped with a raspberry pi and Physical Computing Sensors Created by Pi Jam Foundation. Along with the technical resources and tools needed to give students hands-on computer science experience, the AFE program has also provided a dedicated mentor that helps children learn computer science.

The students began to wonder if they could make more use of their time in the lab.

“Why not use these tools to help farmers?” they thought.

A weather station brings hope to Nanded.

Under the guidance of their mentor Manomeet Paikroy of the Pi Jam Foundation, the students started Thinking and troubleshooting.

The problem they wanted to tackle through innovation was simple – help farmers get information about the weather ahead of them, so they have plenty of time to prepare their fields and secure produce.

The children relate the knowledge they gained in science class—the scientific principles of temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind speed—to the tools available in the AFE lab.

Within a month, their innovation was ready to be tested.

What influenced this drastic shift in children, where they no longer see a problem as an obstacle but as a challenge?

The students had a mentor who provided them with tools and knowledge of computer science principles. Photo credits: Stills from Amazon’s “Tools for Tomorrow” video.

Their teacher says their confidence stems from their access to various resources.

“Children in these rural schools have limited access to Various learning tools. Because of this, they were not able to explore new learning opportunities,” he says, adding that that reality has changed today with the association with the Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) program.

The Pi Jam Foundation, a non-profit project, has been improving the quality of computer science education across India since 2017. As the Foundation’s Pranjali Pathak explains, “They envision a world where all children have access to excellent and relevant computer education.”

The foundation is dedicated to bringing computer science to kids and Amazon is supporting them in creating labs as innovation centers to demystify technology education for students, teachers, and public school systems.

Pranjali asserts that these labs are hubs where kids can learn to code and also Building live projects With adherence to the school curriculum.

“The labs have sensors, computers and more that the kids can use while they work on the project,” she adds.

The students applied the scientific concepts they learned in school to build a weather system
The students applied the scientific concepts they learned in school to build a weather system.

Detailing how the weather system was built in the lab, Pranjali says a series of steps led to the final result.

“The kids knew how they wanted the final weather system to perform and they worked backwards. They knew they needed to fully understand concepts like temperature, humidity and pressure, and they were taught that in their classes at school. They would do that then.” Tool planning They will need from the Pi Lab and also think about how to write the codes for the different functions.”

From getting to the bottom line: bridging the gap in technology

“We want to democratize the learning of computer science,” Pranjali said when asked about the purpose of these labs. “The goal is to remove barriers to accessing high-quality, affordable computer science education for disadvantaged students.”

She points out that the first step is to empower teachers – by arming them with the necessary knowledge and skills so that children can learn key concepts in class rather than relying on an external source.

The weather system built by the children is able to predict the upcoming climate and warn the farmers of Nanded
A weather system built by children is able to predict the upcoming climate and warn farmers in Nanded. Image credits: Stills from Amazon’s “Tools for Tomorrow” video.

But it doesn’t end here. The problem is deeper,” she says. “Even with teachers having the right knowledge, there has to be a way they can communicate the same thing to students. This is the place The role of laboratories. Unfortunately, the public schools we are talking about either do not have computer labs or have labs that are not working.”

“AFE Labs is a space full of innovation and ideas and we achieve this at a third of the cost because of using Rasberry Pis. The labs allow for a lot of tinkering and hands-on training, enabling students to explore possible problems and solutions and learn computer science in the process,” she adds.

Students at Zilla Parishad School in Nanded
Students at Zilla Parishad School in Nanded. Image credits: Stills from Amazon’s ‘Tools for Tomorrow’ video.

“Students are encouraged to discover problems in their surroundings and come up with solutions using the resources in the lab. For example, the weather station they built was a solution to the summer heat.”

In partnership with AFE, 15 such labs have been set up in schools across Maharashtra, and they claim to have “transformed students”. These labs, together with the Voluntary Computer Science Fundamentals course for educators, build the overall capacity of the education system to deliver High quality education in computer science.

Pranjali says they are now using technology to solve the problems they face. “The curriculum is also on par with national and international schools, and I can see an improved level of skill,” she concluded.

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