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IIT-Bombay launches initiative to mentor rural girls in STEM

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IIT-Bombay launches initiative to mentor rural girls in STEM

First event under the mentorship programme held recently as a part of which 160 girls from 40 schools in Maharashtra, Bihar, Odisha stayed at IIT-B and got hands-on experience at the labs

IIT-Bombay has introduced an outreach initiative called WISE (Women in Science Engineering from Rural Parts of India) to combat the skewed gender ratio within STEM courses. The first event under the programme, which will now be an annual affair, was held recently.

Targeting rural girls studying in the ninth grade, the initiative aims to introduce STEM courses and includes a periodical mentorship structure through which student volunteers at IIT Bombay will follow up with the girls.

As part of its first event between May 22 and 26, 160 girls from 40 schools studying in the rural parts of Maharashtra, Bihar and Odisha were at the IIT Bombay campus. The students got to stay at the campus for a week – in hostel 15 – and got a special peep into the IIT life.

They had an intensive schedule that included hands-on experiences at various labs at the institute. Exercises ranged from building a simple light bulb circuit to a complex FM radio, building various sensor and actuator circuits controlled by a simple microprocessor, and working on a remote-controlled rover robot from scratch. The schedule also packed in motivational interaction sessions with inspiring women in STEM fields. The girls also got to experience Virtual Reality (VR) using a state-of-the-art VR headset. At the end of each day, India’s top speedcubers taught the girls how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. A majority of the girls were able to solve the cube within five minutes. The concluding event involved drone-building.

Shivstuti Sambhare, one of the participants said, “I am good at Mathematics. But I was not sure how one would make a career in the subject. I am grateful for this program as I got to meet a professor of Mathematics at IIT Bombay. She shared how she was also good at mathematics in her school life and decided to study engineering. I will now appear for the JEE for engineering admission.”

Sunita Gund, her teacher at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Sangli said, “Even if ten of the girls take up STEM, this program will be successful. But what is more rewarding is how it has been able to broaden their horizons. Children who were thinking of taking up job-oriented, vocational courses are certainly re-thinking their paths. These girls have been able to relate with the inspiring personalities, some of whom also had rural backgrounds. We could see a great difference in the level of confidence among students after the visit to IIT Bombay.”

Shruti Pawar, also a student at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Sangli, said she had decided to study medicine for higher education, adding that an interaction with a neurosurgeon at IIT Bombay has been an “enriching” experience for her.

“But a learning lesson for me is that you cannot leave an area of your choice, under the impression that there is no room to make a career. There are so many opportunities in various sectors. I am happy to share this with a friend who is on the verge of choosing a vocational course.”

Professor Rajesh Zele from the Department of Electrical Engineering, who led the programme with a team of 70 student volunteers from IIT Bombay, said, “In rural parts, many girls are encouraged to get married early and focus on the family instead of their careers. They choose disciplines which can enable them to work part-time while supporting family needs. Apart from having little or no exposure to STEM courses, girls from rural areas tend to drop-out of mainstream higher education, due to societal pressures.”


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