When most of us watched the recent Venus-Jupiter conjunction in the evening sky with our naked eyes, the students of the Thudiyalur Panchayat Union Middle School, near Coimbatore, enjoyed the celestial phenomenon through the school’s own telescope built by them.\
It was a thrilling moment for all the 20 students when they built a telescope and dedicated it to their school. This unique feat was made possible through a special workshop sponsored by Rotary E-club of Metro Dynamix, RID 3201, under Project Vinveli, at the government school in Thudiyalur, a suburb in Coimbatore. Technical experts from the Open Space Foundation (OSF) guided the young team from Classes 6–8 in constructing the telescope.
Our vision is to promote equal opportunities among government schoolchildren to make their learning at par with their peers studying in private schools.
– Ayush Agarwal, president, Rotary E-club of Metro Dynamix, RID 3201.
These children are not exactly new to astronomy, says project chair Vidya Thathamangalam. Their interest was sparked by their English teacher Chitra who, in 2019, helped them study the sun through a solar filter. She had arranged this through the OSF to ignite a scientific spark in these young minds. “That was the beginning of something wonderful in their school life. Some children even participated in the International Asteroid Search Campaign in September last year,” adds Vidya.
When the OSF approached the school to construct a telescope on its premises, “Chitra approached us to sponsor the project. She passionately explained how useful this workshop will be for the children. We readily agreed to help,” she says.
A night sky observation was conducted at the school during the inauguration of the telescope in which corporation commissioner Pratap M, district community service chairman R S Maruti and officials from the district education department participated. “Our members from across the world joined virtually in the event.” The students gave a PowerPoint presentation on how to detect asteroids through the Astrometrica software. Impressed with their enthusiasm the commissioner sanctioned additional classrooms for the school and promised them a visit to the Regional Science Centre in the city.
The club recently honoured Chitra with the Vocational Service Award for her dedication to her profession. “The workshop was a great success and will have a lasting impact on the students, inspiring them to continue exploring the wonders of science and technology,” says the teacher.
In September, the club installed a smart classroom in the school. “Our vision is to promote equal opportunities among government schoolchildren to make their learning at par with their peers studying in private schools,” says club president Ayush Agarwal.
The club, sponsored by RC Coimbatore Metropolis, was chartered in 2020 with 31 members “who were no strangers to Rotary as most of us are children of Rotarians,” says Vidya, who resides in Toronto, Canada. The club has 38 members from US, UK, Canada, Singapore, Netherlands and India. They meet virtually twice a week to discuss service projects and fellowship plans.
To address learning disabilities in children, the club, under its Project Ability, gave three C-Pen readers costing $950 and other tools such as pencil grips, reading strips and finger focus tools, all shipped from Canada, to Magizhvi Foundation, an NGO that helps people with disabilities. “These devices will be used for remedial education programmes in seven schools to benefit 80 students identified with learning disabilities,” says Vidya.
A C-Pen is an assistive tool commonly used in US and UK by students with reading and writing disabilities, she explains. It scans the text and converts it into audio, which can be easily followed by the user. The club has signed an MoU with the Coimbatore corporation and the Central Library to conduct reading camps in panchayat schools. Around 40 students attend each camp and volunteers guide them in using the C-Pen and monitor their improvement, she adds.
Addressing juvenile diabetes
Combat Diabetes is the club’s joint initiative with the Idhayangal Trust managed by Dr Krishnan Swaminathan, to address Type 1 diabetes in children. “Our members have contributed ₹50 lakh this year for this project,” says the club president. Mini refrigerators, each costing ₹8,000, were distributed to 50 village children for safe storage of insulin. Fourteen continuous glucose monitoring devices (CGM) with ₹5 lakh funding from the Bannari Amman Spinning Mills, an electrolyte analyser and a microscope were donated to Dr Swaminathan’s clinic for timely detection of diabetes. “The CGM is particularly helpful for children whose blood sugar has to be monitored throughout the day. It is a wearable device with a sensor and saves them from painful finger pricks,” says Agarwal.
A van equipped to monitor random blood glucose levels, HBA1C, thyroid, kidney, eye, ECG and diabetic foot, were donated to the trust to conduct camps in remote rural communities. Project director Reshma Ramesh was instrumental in getting the ₹35 lakh CSR funding from Rasi Seeds for the project.