It all began with a casual phone call from the Principal of Indian School Muscat (ISM). He wanted someone to teach/enmesh STEM education into their curriculum. I remember their Principal Dr. Rajeev Chauhan mentioning, ‘sir we hope it won’t be robotics, that you will be teaching’! it was then that I realized that how misleading STEM education had become. ‘We’ve always been into 3D printing training’ and I reiterated that’s the thing we will be teaching.
However Principal Sir wasn’t assured and he wanted to meet one of our customers. So we arranged a trip to DPS Faridabad in mid of July 2017. The team from Oman was full of apprehension initially that somewhere robotics will crop up in their pursuit to discover our STEM education. Nothing of that sort emerged and the team was happy to meet the Principal, Headmistress, Computer teachers, students to finally figure out what we were promising, delivering and the learning outcome was in tandem. The trust got established and we were able to satisfy the ISM team.
By the end of July my ticket, visa etc came and I was on a flight to Muscat. The run up to the day of my departure saw frenetic activity on the professional front & home front. On the professional front, I had to tie up my ongoing coaching, plan & pack the 3D equipment, prepare the google drive, notes, 3D samples etc. But on the home front, I lost my father in law 4 days before departure in Jaipur! It was hard to reconcile that how could we lose him, a cardiologist to a cardiac arrest! But this was destiny and with a heavy heart post the rituals, I left the country to fulfill my commitment as everything had been organised.
At the very outset on landing in Muscat, I had a feeling that it’s like a home away from home. People looked familiar, the airport was similar to ours, traffic jam etc but what differentiated the two countries (Oman & India) was the infrastructure, the discipline and the rule of law. I was astonished to learn that we had common colonial masters. But despite getting independence in 1970, Oman has economically progressed much more than India. There is a huge Indian labour population that works in Oman. Why, because they get paid thrice what they get in India. Flights such as Air India are packed with labour travelling every day!
From airport, we reached an immaculate 4-star hotel that was to be my home for 3 days. One could see quite a few Indians working their way around in the Hotel. The next day I reached the India School Muscat (ISM), given a warm reception by their Principal in front of 400 teachers. ISM is a household name in Oman, given its humungous size (9,500 pupils in the main branch), branches (19) etc. There is a long waiting list for admission and ISM is very sought after by the Indian community in Oman. It has all the latest facilities, clubs and the one thing that really interested me was the Chiaroscuro Club!
My 3 days training began an hour late, as I had to setup the equipment, get internet going in the lab., arrange the display etc. But nevertheless, the teachers chosen for the training were really excited to learn something new and further teach their students. Normally students are the ones that are excited about 3D printing, but here the teachers were equally motivated & eager. I always begin with the overview of 3D printing and then bring in the 3D CAD software. So I had 8 hours every day at my disposal for 3 days to train the computer, science & math teachers. The challenge was to make the whole process so easy, enjoyable, efficient & effective that these teachers could further train their students.
The 1st day everyone was on a high as they were learning something new. The 2nd day began with an assessment of the 1st day and it is then that a challenge appeared. The ones who got the correct answers were happy but a few others had to rework to come up to the level. Our intermediate CAD software produces some amazing results but was grueling, to begin with. My task was cut out, to complete this software before the day ends. All teachers finally started enjoying once the sketching part kicked in. Sketching is something I always feel that a creative & imaginative person loves & enjoys most about 3D printing.
A person is able to bring to reality whatever one creates & designs (inorganic shapes). So on both these days, I was 3D printing all the designs that the teachers were creating. The exuberance on their faces was visible to see their design come to life, from a Thinker to Maker. But by the 3rd day, it had become like a competition of sorts, each teacher jostling to 3D print her designs. This day when our architectural CAD software was introduced, it was as if everyone had a distinct design to show. The software was so intuitive and the users (teachers here) were completely mesmerized with the output.
My training normally stretches over weeks & months as schools do not give 8 hours of their teachers’ time in one shot that took over 3 days. But here the situation was different. So the whole training process had to be delivered and integrated into their curriculum. For this, I borrowed the science & math books from teachers to recheck as per previous knowledge & experience the best fits. One can see so many distinct possibilities where 3D printing perfectly slides in as a teaching tool. It supplements a teacher’s efforts in making a lesson easy to understand. We have a slide where in we compare the learning tools available for us when we were students to the current visual learning tools. But now things are so different and with the advent of 4th Industrial Revolution, it's changed more. The underlying idea which I repeatedly emphasized to the teachers, always be ready to get up-skilled and be on a lifelong learning curve.
I would also like to talk about Dr. Chauhan - Principal ISM a little. Never have I seen such a school leader like him, who stands at the school gates in the morning welcoming people. He is at the school at 7 am and leaves the school late into the night! He has an amazing amount of energy, dedication, strength etc. to deliver such a performance. ISM is one of the top schools of Oman, the mother school of all branches and a role model too. During my 3 days, I could see continuous meetings happening in Principal’s or Vice Principal’s office with staff, management etc. It was actually my good fortune to witness such an amazing display of work culture, professionalism, and finesse. It made wonder what happens to Indians in India, why we work differently in India and why differently elsewhere. But that’s a different topic to discuss and I am happy to engage with anyone who wishes to know more about my experience.
So over whelming has been the response, that I am actually humbled by the outcome. I once again express my deep gratitude to Oman, ISM, Dr. Chauhan, all the trainees, media etc. Yes the media actually carried brief reports of our training earlier this week:
It was a pleasant surprise for me and further boosted my sweet Omani memories.