Arvind Gupta’s playful educational mission. BY ROHIT SRIVASTWA TOYS FROM TRASH
Arvind Gupta ( arvindguptatoys.com) is the creator and driving
force behind the popular “Toys from Trash” video series on
YouTube, which teaches engineering principles to kids by showing how to make simple toys from common materials. I recently
spoke with him in his office at India’s University of Pune, and it
was difficult to transcribe the interview afterward. Each time
I tried, I’d get distracted by making another one of his toys.
Rohit Srivatswa: How did you get started
making toys for kids?
Arvind Gupta: I studied engineering at IIT
Kanpur in the 1970s, then got a job in the
automobile industry making trucks. This was
when India was newly free from the colonial
era and ready to rise and shine. At the time,
there was a national effort to revitalize science
education in villages. I joined that program
and spent a few months in a village, teaching (and learning from) students — not using
books, but by making toys out of the common
wares available in a village market.
I soon realized I was not made to build
trucks, and this was a turning point for me:
from an electrical engineer from one of the
most prestigious technical institutes in India,
to a man who makes toys out of trash.
RS: What are some of your favorite success
stories with this teaching method?
AG: My personal satisfaction comes from
seeing the happiness and gleam in the eyes of
kids around me who learn new things from my
toys. Schools try to cram similar material into
students, but when kids do it for themselves
— learn basic physical principles that way —
their eyes glitter, and that’s my happiness.
One favorite story concerns an asteroid
called 21575 Padmanabhan. Several years
ago I met a girl named Hamsa Padmanabhan.
After we met, she wrote a 15-page research
paper inspired by my Magnetic Levitating
Pencil toy. The paper won multiple awards
at the 2006 Intel International Science and
Engineering Fair, and afterward, astronomers
64 Make: makezine.com/28