We asked Indian maker Abhijeet Khandagale to go to STEAM School—one week of shared prototyping for sustainable development between France and India at Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai.
What do you do with an empty wine case? You bring it to Maker’s Asylum and convert it into a birthday lamp for a friend! This is the spirit that Maker’s Asylum radiates to anyone who comes to the place filled with diverse people equally crazy about making things. Diving into its second edition on December 6-15, STEAM School, jointly organized by the Mumbai makerspace and CRI Paris, hosted a hundred participants from India and France to get into the spirit and learn digital prototyping skills for sustainable projects. The initiative came under the umbrella of Bonjour India 2017-2018, an Indo-French partnership that organized some 300 events around technological, social and environmental innovation in India.
STEAM School encourages participants to use design thinking, hands-on experience and problem-solving skills to solve “global sustainability challenges with local perspective” driven by the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030. Topics included good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities.
The participants worked in teams under the supervision of mentors such as Anand Damni from the Indian design agency Briefcase and Rickie Moore, director of the Global Entrepreneurship program at EM Lyon Business School. The jury included Navi Radjou, author of Jugaad Innovation. In total, about 50 mentors worked with the students in dedicated mentoring sessions.
In parallel, every evening featured open talks, where Navi Radjou once spoke about “how to do better with fewer resources”. Industry representatives hosted meetups on gamification (Ubisoft), upcycling (Global Shapers and CII), textiles… Speaking on sustainability at Khar Antisocial club, the researcher and founder of Needlab in Barcelona, Sameera Chukkapalli, and sustainable materials expert Shubhi Sachan shared their work, which was followed by an after-party.
STEAM School Meetup Series with Gamify It: Gamification Meetup, hosted by Zigor from @Ubisoft. And a big thanks to ZMQ, Includo for their talk on Gamification #STEAMschool #makersasylum #BonjourIndia #innovation @IFInde @criparis @includoPL @M4Dev pic.twitter.com/qpaH4jxye0
— Maker's Asylum (@makersasylum) December 9, 2017
The STEAM School students and researchers were divided into 19 teams, each of which developed its own project. The idea was not so much to create a product that can be taken to market as to make participants understand the process required to come up with solutions to sustainable development challenges: applying design thinking, forming multifunctional teams with different strengths, deciphering problem statements, making use of available tools, making and presenting a rudimentary prototype.
The “sustainable cities and communities” team, a.k.a. Grandma was an upcycler, prototyped a trendy game application to promote upcycling in Mumbai and around the world. Other prototypes included a pop-up toilet, empathy boxes and a low-cost guitar training game.
One of the days started with push-ups and squats, stimulating not only the brain but the other muscles as well. In the talk sessions, Vishal Dubey, an alumnus from the previous year, offered some powerful advice: “Make memories as well as prototypes. Do what you’ve always wanted but have been scared or embarrassed to.”
The first days focused on learning, from using power tools to 3D prototyping, electronics and design. The participants were encouraged to make field trips to understand the problems and validate their solutions at an idea stage; at the end of a long day of field visits, they discussed what they learned.
Revealing an “additive manufactured masterpiece”:
— Maker's Asylum (@makersasylum) December 9, 2017
Projects and solutions created as part of STEAM School Season II had the opportunity to be showcased at the Tech 2017 conference organized by Unesco in Visakhapatnam on December 16-18, 2017, which aimed to develop digital pedagogies for peaceful and sustainable societies. Maker’s Asylum will also incubate and accelerate projects in collaboration with industrial partners such as Dassault Systèmes India.
At the closing ceremony of STEAM School 2017, Bertrand de Hartingh, director of Institut français in India, encouraged young people from India and France to partner further on innovation and creation. Vaibhav Chhabra, the founder of Maker’s Asylum, described the “truly humbling experience” of “seeing the energy within Maker’s Asylum on the last day of the program, even after the project presentations were over and done with.” He hoped that “the seeds of change have been planted in the minds of everyone present during the program” and that “our makers, both old and new, will take what they’ve learned and bring about positive changes in society by innovating and spreading their knowledge to as many people as possible.”