Arvind Kumar Gupta graduated from IIT Kanpur in 1975. A Gandhian in Outlook and a socialist, Kumar had always believed in actions rather than empty rhetoric. When in college, he volunteered to teach the children of the mess staff who could not afford an education.
Arvind Gupta’s Journey
Born in a family that was economically not well off , Gupta always had a love for science, and liked experimenting and building things from material he found around him. As a kid, he used to have a trunk full off all kinds of discarded stuff which he used for conducting different experiments. The toymaker in him had found his calling. His mother did not discourage him, but let him be on his own. At IIT, he and his friend bunked classes and built working models of things they had learn.
He joined TELCO right after graduation and worked there for a couple of years. But he realised that he was not meant for a corporate job. In 1978, he took a one year break from his job to work with the village level science teaching program for poor children in the tribal district of Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh.
While he was teaching there, Gupta had the idea of making teaching aids and educational toys from low-cost locally available items and even stuff that is considered as trash. So whether it is used toothpaste tubes, tetra packs, matchboxes, used batteries, straws or pens, everything could be used to make toys. He realised that if scientific principles were incorporated in a toy, kids understood it better. These simple toys, he found, appealed to children and Gupta realised that here was a novel way of not only taking science to the masses, but also to make learning fun. He decided to dedicate his life to it. This was the beginning of a journey of over three decades that would revolutionise how science was taught to children in the years to come.
Arvind Gupta as an Innovator
His range of toys is vast and consists of meccano sets made out of cycle tubes, a variety of games from matchsticks and boxes, paper helicopters, coke-can aeroplanes, magnetic jumping frogs, gyro disks and many more. Made from everyday material, they are inexpensive and the best thing is that even children can learn to make them. Gupta does not do it for a monetary motive, he puts all the information in books which can be downloaded for free at his website www.arvindguptatoys.com, so that children can read them and make toys on their own and learn in the process. His life’s mission has been underlined by a motive to serve the poor, and he has done it in a way very few had done before him, by enabling children who do not have means to buy expensive toys to play with to have fun and learn the concepts of science at the same time.
His first book ‘Matchstick Models and other Science Experiments’ went on to become very popular. It was translated into 13 Indian languages and sold over half a million copies. His toys and models have been widely featured in the print and electronic media. Since then, Gupta has written ten books in English, Hindi and other Indian languages and translated numerous books on environment, science and education. He has featured in several TV programs, including over 70 films for UGC’s program for school children known as ‘Countrywide Classroom’, and ‘Tarang’, a popular children’s program on Doordarshan. He has further spread his concept of learning among students by conducting workshops at over 1,300 schools across the country. He has won several awards for his contribution to science and got known to the world when he was invited to speak at a TED (Technology, entertainment, design) conference in 2010.
Arvind Gupta’s Motivation
What keeps him going? Gupta says that it is the gleam in the eyes of the students that comes from the joy of learning something new. For the teacher in him, there can be no reward bigger than this.