STEM kit interaction

Service to the Greater Lafayette Community

Being a student at Purdue University does not necessarily mean only doing assignments, writing research papers, conducting research, being a good research assistant or exceling in teaching as a TA and taking part in student organizations and clubs. We get plenty of opportunities to give back to society in some small way and transfer our learning for the greater good and change the world for the better. I tried to sound fancy using designer words 😊. All that I want to convey is we can do community service.

            There are small organizations that depend on grants and government support to serve the educational needs of the underprivileged population of Greater Lafayette. They receive funds to run the organization and maintain the infrastructure but not enough to employ teachers and other staff who would keep everyday events going regularly. They rely heavily on Purdue University students and other volunteers to bring innovative ideas and enrich the learning environment. I am sure there is no dearth of talent and service minded people among our graduate students at Purdue.

STEM kit image

            One such organization is the Bauer Center in Lafayette. The place is house to children from nearby K-12 schools whose parents work for long hours and are not at home when the kids return from school. Bauer Center takes care of these kids till they are picked up by their parents past dinner time. The children get food there and are expected to stay indoors for safety reasons and sometimes they get immensely bored. Also, without proper guidance they tend to lose interest in education and don’t even think of future STEM careers. This is where the Indian Women’s Association Academy entered the picture. As members we try to instill interest in STEM topics among these kids. Ladies from IWA Academy visit Bauer Center every week and try to garner the attention of the kids with demonstrations of experiments that may get these kids interested in STEM subjects. We take STEM kits that teach about Magnetism, Electricity and other topics and allow them to play with them while their learning is scaffolded by us. Learning with play and experimentation is something they love and theoretically it promotes “inquiry learning.” We could see that the kids were having a lot of fun during these sessions as they tried to figure out what was happening and why

STEM kit image

            Similarly, at Imagination Station, a science center in Lafayette that is frequented by kids 3-10 with parents and guardians during weekends, IWA Academy organized a session of Exploration. Little kids participated along with their parents and guardians in fun electricity and magnetism related activities. I also had a lot of fun that day and it gave me great joy to see their little faces light up with excitement when they completed a circuit. See the eyes of the butterfly in the picture. 

STEM kit image

Did we spend on the STEM kits?

            No, it was made possible by a Service Learning Grant that I applied for and was awarded by the Office of Engagementat Purdue in Fall 2018. I use the grant to buy these wonderful STEM kits and other raw materials that IWA Academy needs to conduct these experiments and demonstrations at Bauer Center and Imagination Station. The grant is administered by my department’s business office.

            So, many of you will be wondering – What is in it for me? According to the book of academic careers 😉a candidate should have Teaching, Research and Service experience. You must have heard your adviser, or a professor talk about this, right? Let this be your service experience. That is how I started when I was trying to complete the “Service”requirement for my portfolio. Now I cannot stop doing what I started because it makes me truly happy. 

            Reach out to the Office of Engagement, try to get a service learning grant, and extend your expertise and knowledge to help someone in society. 

STEM kit image

This is your WIIIFM, folks…..

Teach graphic

Building the future of Purdue: Life of a Teaching Assistant

Grad School may resonate with research and most likely research will be the main source of funding for most of Grad Students. However, it is often forgotten how many Grad Students are Teaching Assistants (TA) and we ourselves forget how important the TA position is. Of my 5+ years at Purdue I served the last 3 years as a TA for a undergraduate class teaching two introductory courses of engineering design to the incoming First-Year engineering students.

With around 240 First-Year students under the umbrella of my responsibility, I have the great task of primarily aid the faculty members in conveying the courses’ learning objectives. I see this with different lenses, I believe that my work is beyond entering grades and from times to times give a lecture or two, I see my job as mentoring the future generations that will someday (and not so many days later) be where I am. I teach concepts of engineering design, engineering innovation and some basic notions of computer coding, but more than that, I bring my experiences from the world of Aerospace Engineering particularly the rocket science to awaken the students into a world of possibilities with their careers and (secretly) recruit some to the school of aeronautics.

Perhaps the biggest realization of the TA job is that of all the students in the classroom setting I am the one that learns the most! There are countless occasions on which I shared some of the challenges that I face either in research or in classes that I take that seem to have no way out and a fantastic out-of-the-box solution came out from some of the ideas that my students came up with.

These lenses are given to me by Purdue University with their never-ending pursue of excellence in the teaching core. Not a day has past that I “TAed” (and yes, we use TA as a verb!) and felt that the job was a mere source of funding, I see my job as an opportunity to mentor the next great engineer and being greeted by a former student who thank me for inspiring them makes the whole teaching experience worthwhile.