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  • My name is Arvind Gupta, and I'm a toymaker.

  • I've been making toys for the last 30 years.

  • The early '70s, I was in college.

  • It was a very revolutionary time.

  • It was a political ferment, so to say --

  • students out in the streets of Paris,

  • revolting against authority.

  • America was jolted

  • by the anti-Vietnam movement, the Civil Rights movement.

  • In India, we had the Naxalite movement,

  • the [unclear] movement.

  • But you know, when there is a political churning of society,

  • it unleashes a lot of energy.

  • The National Movement of India

  • was testimony to that.

  • Lots of people resigned from well-paid jobs

  • and jumped into the National Movement.

  • Now in the early '70s,

  • one of the great programs in India

  • was to revitalize

  • primary science in village schools.

  • There was a person, Anil Sadgopal, did a Ph.D. from Caltech

  • and returned back as a molecular biologist

  • in India's cutting-edge research institute, the TIFR.

  • At 31, he was not able

  • to relate the kind of [unclear] research,

  • which he was doing with the lives of the ordinary people.

  • So he designed and went and started a village science program.

  • Many people were inspired by this.

  • The slogan of the early '70s

  • was "Go to the people.

  • Live with them; love them.

  • Start from what they know. Build on what they have."

  • This was kind of the defining slogan.

  • Well I took one year.

  • I joined Telco, made TATA trucks, pretty close to Pune.

  • I worked there for two years,

  • and I realized that I was not born to make trucks.

  • Often one doesn't know what one wants to do,

  • but it's good enough to know what you don't want to do.

  • So I took one year off, and I went to this village science program.

  • And it was a turning point.

  • It was a very small village --

  • a weekly bazaar

  • where people, just once in a week, they put in all the vats.

  • So I said, "I'm going to spend a year over here."

  • So I just bought one specimen

  • of everything which was sold on the roadside.

  • And one thing which I found

  • was this black rubber.

  • This is called a cycle valve tube.

  • When you pump in air in a bicycle, you use a bit of this.

  • And some of these models --

  • so you take a bit of this cycle valve tube,

  • you can put two matchsticks inside this, and you make a flexible joint.

  • It's a joint of tubes. You start by teaching angles --

  • an acute angle, a right angle, an obtuse angle, a straight angle.

  • It's like its own little coupling.

  • If you have three of them, and you loop them together,

  • well you make a triangle.

  • With four, you make a square,

  • you make a pentagon, you make a hexagon,

  • you make all these kind of polygons.

  • And they have some wonderful properties.

  • If you look at the hexagon, for instance,

  • it's like an amoeba, which is constantly changing its own profile.

  • You can just pull this out, this becomes a rectangle.

  • You give it a push, this becomes a parallelogram.

  • But this is very shaky.

  • Look at the pentagon, for instance,

  • pull this out -- it becomes a boat shape trapezium.

  • Push it and it becomes house shaped.

  • This becomes an isosceles triangle --

  • again, very shaky.

  • This square might look very square and prim.

  • Give it a little push -- this becomes a rhombus.

  • It becomes kite-shaped.

  • But give a child a triangle,

  • he can't do a thing to it.

  • Why use triangles?

  • Because triangles are the only rigid structures.

  • We can't make a bridge with squares

  • because the train would come, it would start doing a jig.

  • Ordinary people know about this

  • because if you go to a village in India,

  • they might not have gone to engineering college,

  • but no one makes a roof placed like this.

  • Because if they put tiles on top, it's just going to crash.

  • They always make a triangular roof.

  • Now this is people science.

  • And if you were to just poke a hole over here

  • and put a third matchstick,

  • you'll get a T joint.

  • And if I were to poke all the three legs of this

  • in the three vertices of this triangle,

  • I would make a tetrahedron.

  • So you make all these 3D shapes.

  • You make a tetrahedron like this.

  • And once you make these,

  • you make a little house.

  • Put this on top.

  • You can make a joint of four. You can make a joint of six.

  • You just need a ton.

  • Now this was -- you make a joint of six,

  • you make an icosahedron.

  • You can play around with it.

  • This makes an igloo.

  • Now this is in 1978.

  • I was a 24-year-old young engineer.

  • And I thought this was so much better than making trucks.

  • (Applause)

  • If you, as a matter of fact, put four marbles inside,

  • you simulate the molecular structure of methane, CH4.

  • Four atoms of hydrogen, the four points of the tetrahedron,

  • which means the little carbon atom.

  • Well since then,

  • I just thought that I've been really privileged

  • to go to over 2,000 schools in my country --

  • village schools, government schools,

  • municipal schools, Ivy League schools --

  • I've been invited by most of them.

  • And every time I go to a school,

  • I see a gleam in the eyes of the children.

  • I see hope. I see happiness in their faces.

  • Children want to make things. Children want to do things.

  • Now this, we make lots and lots of pumps.

  • Now this is a little pump

  • with which you could inflate a balloon.

  • It's a real pump. You could actually pop the balloon.

  • And we have a slogan

  • that the best thing a child can do with a toy is to break it.

  • So all you do is --

  • it's a very kind of provocative statement --

  • this old bicycle tube and this old plastic [unclear]

  • This filling cap will go very snugly into an old bicycle tube.

  • And this is how you make a valve.

  • You put a little sticky tape.

  • This is one-way traffic.

  • Well we make lots and lots of pumps.

  • And this is the other one --

  • that you just take a straw, and you just put a stick inside

  • and you make two half-cuts.

  • Now this is what you do,

  • is you bend both these legs into a triangle,

  • and you just wrap some tape around.

  • And this is the pump.

  • And now, if you have this pump,

  • it's like a great, great sprinkler.

  • It's like a centrifuge.

  • If you spin something, it tends to fly out.

  • (Applause)

  • Well in terms of -- if you were in Andhra Pradesh,

  • you would make this with the palmyra leaf.

  • Many of our folk toys

  • have great science principles.

  • If you spin-top something, it tends to fly out.

  • If I do it with both hands, you can see this fun Mr. Flying Man.

  • Right.

  • This is a toy which is made from paper. It's amazing.

  • There are four pictures.

  • You see insects,

  • you see frogs, snakes, eagles, butterflies,

  • frogs, snakes, eagles.

  • Here's a paper which you could [unclear] --

  • designed by a mathematician at Harvard in 1928,

  • Arthur Stone,

  • documented by Martin Gardner in many of his many books.

  • But this is great fun for children.

  • They all study about the food chain.

  • The insects are eaten by the frogs; the frogs are eaten by the snakes;

  • the snakes are eaten by the eagles.

  • And this can be, if you had a whole photocopy paper --

  • A4 size paper --

  • you could be in a municipal school, you could be in a government school --

  • a paper, a scale and a pencil -- no glue, no scissors.

  • In three minutes, you just fold this up.

  • And what you could use it for is just limited by your imagination.

  • If you take a smaller paper, you make a smaller flexagon.

  • With a bigger one, you make a bigger one.

  • Now this is a pencil with a few slots over here.

  • And you put a little fan here.

  • And this is a hundred-year-old toy.

  • There have been six major research papers on this.

  • There's some grooves over here, you can see.

  • And if I take a reed -- if I rub this,

  • something very amazing happens.

  • Six major research papers on this.

  • As a matter of fact, Feynman, as a child, was very fascinated by this.

  • He wrote a paper on this.

  • And you don't need the three billion-dollar Hadron Collider

  • for doing this. (Laughter) (Applause)

  • This is there for every child,

  • and every child can enjoy this.

  • If you want to put a colored disk,

  • well all these seven colors coalesce.

  • And this is what Newton talked about 400 years back,

  • that white light's made of seven colors,

  • just by spinning this around.

  • This is a straw.

  • What we've done, we've just sealed both the ends with tape,

  • nipped the right corner and the bottom left corner,

  • so there's holes in the opposite corners, there's a little hole over here.

  • This is a kind of a blowing straw.

  • I just put this inside this.

  • There's a hole here, and I shut this.

  • And this costs very little money to make --

  • great fun for children to do.

  • What we do

  • is make a very simple electric motor.

  • Now this is the simplest motor on Earth.

  • The most expensive thing is the battery inside this.

  • If you have a battery, it costs five cents to make it.

  • This is an old bicycle tube,

  • which gives you a broad rubber band, two safety pins.

  • This is a permanent magnet.

  • Whenever current flows through the coil, this becomes an electromagnet.

  • It's the interaction of both these magnets

  • which makes this motor spin.

  • We made 30,000.

  • Teachers who have been teaching science for donkey years,

  • they just muck up the definition and they spit it out.

  • When teachers make it, children make it.

  • You can see a gleam in their eye.

  • They get a thrill

  • of what science is all about.

  • And this science is not a rich man's game.

  • In a democratic country,

  • science must reach to our most oppressed,

  • to the most marginalized children.

  • This program started with 16 schools

  • and spread to 1,500 government schools.

  • Over 100,000 children learn science this way.

  • And we're just trying to see possibilities.

  • Look, this is the tetrapak --

  • awful materials from the point of view of the environment.

  • There are six layers -- three layers of plastic, aluminum --

  • which are are sealed together.

  • They are fused together, so you can't separate them.

  • Now you can just make a little network like this

  • and fold them and stick them together

  • and make an icosahedron.

  • So something which is trash,

  • which is choking all the seabirds,

  • you could just recycle this into a very, very joyous --

  • all the platonic solids can be made with things like this.

  • This is a little straw,

  • and what you do is you just nip two corners here,

  • and this becomes like a baby crocodile's mouth.

  • You put this in your mouth, and you blow.

  • (Honk)