Exploring the cosmos with Open Space Foundation

Within the serene city of Theni, in Tamil Nadu, a younger Surender Ponnalagar launched into a every day 10-km journey to high school from the distant Decrease Camp. 

Nonetheless, one atypical day took a outstanding flip when he was launched to a chunk of kit that will alter the trajectory of his life — a telescope that captured the creativeness of the Eleventh-grade pupil, sparking his curiosity.

Quick ahead over a decade, and Surender has develop into a resident astronomer at Al Sadeem Astronomy in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

Reflecting on his journey, he recollects, “As a pupil, my first encounter with a telescope and my subsequent journey into the sphere of Physics led me to ponder how early publicity to the wonders of science might have expanded my horizons and enriched my life experiences.”

Surender’s ambition was to supply what he missed in his early training to college students who shared his ardour for science and area. 

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Kindred spirits

Thankfully, throughout his journey, he crossed paths with like-minded people who shared not solely his ardour however a willpower to make a change. 

This unity finally led to the institution of the Open House Basis (OSF), a collective effort to encourage and educate younger minds within the realms of science and area.

Recalling these early days, Surender remarks, “All of us got here collectively throughout our formative school years, pushed by ardour. We wished to create a world the place scientific mood was an integral a part of folks’s lives. I keep in mind us managing bills – of travelling to distant faculties and instructing college students by pooling our pocket cash collectively.”

The first mission was to increase science training to authorities and government-aided faculties, notably in rural areas. (Equipped)

These like-minded people included Anupama Pradeepan, who at the moment serves as a challenge supervisor on the Management Growth Initiative, IIT Gandhinagar; Bharathkumar Velusamy, the Head of Analysis and Growth at Open House Basis; and Dineshkumar P, a researcher on the Nationwide Solar But-Sen College, Taiwan.

The idea for the Basis sprouted in 2013, and it acquired its official organisational framework upon registration in 2018.

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A curriculum for change

“What occurred to us was the realisation of the immense potential in science and know-how for private progress and profession growth, but these alternatives have been largely absent from the school-level curriculum,” he shares.

The first mission of the Open House Basis was to bridge this hole by extending science training to authorities and aided faculties, notably in rural areas.

Their influence has reached over 10,000 college students, spanning the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. (Equipped)

Sustaining an thought over ten years isn’t any simple feat. Whereas their journey has been stuffed with quite a few challenges, some key streams have outlined their path, it appears.

In the beginning, understanding the wants and pursuits of scholars has been essential, says Surender.

“We’ve discovered that it’s not nearly presenting info however tailoring it to match college students’ curiosity and necessities,” he shares. Anupama’s experience in curriculum growth has performed a significant function too.

“She has been instrumental in making a curriculum that aligns with the precise wants and pursuits of the scholars, making science training extra participating and related,” he explains.

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Limitless studying

Every assembly, interplay, and academic programme has introduced forth new insights and challenges.

“Adapting to altering questions from college students, assets, and the evolving panorama of training has been a relentless studying course of. It’s really infinite,” he says.

The administration of human assets is one other problem they’ve encountered.

Probably the most intriguing insights have typically emerged from the scholars themselves. (Equipped)

“Because the organisation grew and requests began pouring in, the complexity of deploying assets effectively grew to become evident. We discovered that balancing human assets is crucial, and have been working to handle this problem successfully,” he says.

For the present seven-member crew at OSF, over the previous decade, every day has been a instructor, imparting invaluable classes.

“Regardless of the challenges, our dedication to creating the wonders of area accessible to all continues to drive us ahead,” shares Surender, encapsulating their mission.

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Unlocking curiosity

Nonetheless, essentially the most intriguing insights have typically emerged from the scholars themselves, he observes.

“Their inquiries are remarkably inquisitive, generally leaving us grappling for solutions,” he chuckles.

For instance, he fondly recollects OSF’s preliminary go to to a faculty practically a decade in the past in Sukkampatti village, Tiruchy.

“It was a spot the place solely three buses ventured every day. The varsity’s instructor, Pankajam, was captivated with introducing her college students to the world of area, so OSF determined to make the journey,” he recollects.

When the OSF crew revealed the telescope to the scholars, their curiosity overflowed. (Equipped)

When the OSF crew revealed the telescope to the scholars, their curiosity overflowed. They requested if they might contact it and posed a mess of questions.

Utilizing the Stellarium Astronomy Software program, a software program software, OSF educators defined the positions of celestial objects. Among the many inquiries, one stood out: “Can we eat throughout a photo voltaic eclipse?”

This seemingly easy question hid a cultural and social context. In some houses, consuming throughout a photo voltaic eclipse was discouraged.

“OSF had to supply a scientific clarification, emphasising {that a} photo voltaic eclipse is a pure phenomenon and consuming meals throughout it carries no inherent threat,” he says.

“One other fascinating encounter we had was after we launched college students to Saturn. Some kids have been hesitant and even refused to method the telescope to see it. Cultural beliefs can strongly affect these reactions, and explicit cultural beliefs have an effect on how celestial phenomena are perceived,” he explains.

A gaggle of like-minded people who share a ardour for science and a willpower to make a change. (Equipped)

Nonetheless, what he most fondly remembers is the primary time the kids laid their eyes on the moon.

“Their sense of surprise was really fascinating. The moon’s look made their eyes twinkle and widen with amazement,” he enthuses.

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Powering by energy dynamics

With every expertise being a novel journey, OSF has been making its method to a whole bunch of faculties annually. Their influence has reached over 10,000 college students, spanning the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.

“We’re additionally formally recognised as a House Tutor by the Indian House Analysis Organisation (ISRO),” he provides.

Nonetheless, like many initiatives, the Basis’s tireless efforts got here to a brief halt throughout the COVID-19-induced pandemic.

OSF is formally recognised as a House Tutor by the Indian House Analysis Organisation (ISRO). (Equipped)

“However, over the previous two years, we’ve made important progress. This educational yr, particularly, we’ve efficiently engaged with quite a few faculties,” he shares.

But, visiting faculties wasn’t all the time clean crusing. Negotiating energy dynamics inside faculties could possibly be fairly a problem, he notes.

“There have been typically conflicting pursuits amongst academics and college directors. Some academics have been enthusiastic, whereas headmasters have been much less so, or vice versa. College students have been caught within the center, making it important for us to grasp their wants,” he shares.

On the outset, they carried out one or two-day programmes, which, whereas not making a profound influence, actually sparked curiosity amongst college students.

Nonetheless, a shift occurred when the Basis started collaborating with academics. The important thing to their success, Surender says, was understanding what the scholars really yearned for.

“We additionally understood that, no matter familiarity with a spot, gaining a deep understanding of the native dynamics was important to make a long-lasting influence,” he explains.

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From telescopes to asteroids

From Namma Telescope to the Asteroid Search Marketing campaign, VISTA, Democrazily Science, and the formation of the Science, Know-how, Engineering, Arts, and Arithmetic (STEM) Academics Community, Open Science Centres to their current jewel within the crown, the Luna Camp, the Open House Basis (OSF) has curated a bouquet of distinctive initiatives.

And these initiatives have had one vibrant message – The sky is for all.

“By means of the Namma Telescope initiative, we wished to equip each college in Tamil Nadu with a useful telescope. This educational yr, over 25 faculties in Tamil Nadu have been outfitted with telescopes,” he shares concerning the pioneering initiative. 

Through the Namma Telescope initiative, the Foundation aims to equip every school in Tamil Nadu with a functional telescope, making it the first state in India to achieve such a milestone. (Supplied)
By means of the Namma Telescope initiative, the Basis goals to equip each college in Tamil Nadu with a useful telescope, making it the primary state in India to attain such a milestone. (Equipped)

Within the Asteroid Search Marketing campaign, the scholars’ contributions materialise in the actual world.

“Actual-time engagement is the important thing – the second college students realise that is greater than a pastime, it’s the place the magic occurs,” shares Surender.

Their mission leads them to the area of asteroid search.

Collaborating with the likes of the Worldwide Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) and Hawaii Observatory, they work hand in hand with NASA’s Catalina Sky Survey.

Why? As a result of roughly 90 per cent of probably hazardous asteroids stay undiscovered.

“That’s a major risk we goal to handle by citizen science,” he says.

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Science for the higher good

Every year round 20 groups have interaction in reputable scientific analysis, analyzing real-time photos from Hawaii. There may be software program to course of knowledge, figuring out asteroid-like objects.

“Every discovery undergoes rigorous analysis. Not each object is an asteroid, however these true discoveries are reported to the scientific neighborhood for analysis,” he explains.

The Open Science Basis will likely be enjoying host to Luna Camp in November 2023. (Equipped)

The fantastic thing about all of it? If it’s confirmed to be an asteroid, it may be named by the crew that found it. This course of could take a while, nevertheless it’s an unimaginable alternative.

“Within the grand scheme of issues, college students are a part of a world effort, contributing not solely to science but in addition to world security. Asteroids are extra than simply heavenly our bodies; they are often probably lethal objects. By involving college students, we’re not simply instructing them about science however exhibiting them how science might be utilized for the higher good,” he shares.

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A lunar Odyssey awaits

Wanting forward, the Open Science Basis will likely be enjoying host to Luna Camp in November 2023, a state-level camp that guarantees to be a unprecedented alternative for college kids to dive into the realm of lunar exploration.

The occasion will characteristic lectures by consultants and scientists and hands-on workshops. “The members will even obtain their very own refractor telescope package and can actively take part in a devoted coaching session to assemble the telescope,” he shares.

There are plans to introduce a programme that enhances college students’ writing expertise. (Equipped)

There are plans to introduce a programme that enhances college students’ writing expertise. Academics and enthusiastic college students will likely be guided on the artwork of science writing, and their work will likely be revealed on an in-house weblog – Tamil Science Wire.

“Over the past decade, our progress has primarily trusted crowd-sourcing and the help of personal organisations and patrons. Even with some OSF crew members working remotely, we have now efficiently mobilised and executed our initiatives. On the finish of the day, intentions are important to supply wings, and we’re dedicated to making sure these college students soar,” he indicators off. 

These initiatives have introduced younger minds nearer to the realisation that maybe, the sky will not be the restrict however a limitless canvas ready to be explored.

To know extra, go to Instagram @open_space_foundation To help the initiatives, name +91 8754778345 contact@openspacefoundation.in

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