November 2nd, 2007

pce

The Death of the chemistry set

Check out Endangered Species - the chemistry set

Read the comments, they are interesting!

Are such chemistry kits available in India? I don't think so. I used to play with chemicals a lot - with material sourced from the medical store and from a chemicals dealer nearby who was unwilling to believe that my requirements were for purely scientific and peaceful purposes. I don't remember how I made my father accompany me to the `Vidyarthymithram' store near the municipal stand to purchase concentrated H2SO4 and HCL - but he did come with me, and the dealer reluctantly gave me the stuff. My first experiment was to find out whether sulphuric acid can *really* burn you - it was a great success - the scar from the experiment remains to this day! Experiments to create fire and boil liquids were extremely satisfying - concentrated acids, bits of cotton, potassium permanganate, small aluminium pieces etc were the usual ingredients.

The most exciting thing about Pre-Degree (plus-two) was that for the first time, I had access to a good chemistry lab. Small amounts of chemicals were smuggled on lab-days from the college lab to my `home lab' so that I could concentrate on my `research' better! I was (and still am) a big fan of Sherlock Holmes; the fact that Holmes too was a great chemist provided further motivation.

Children learn a lot during play - in fact, we can safely say that they learn only when they play. The western world has utilized this knowledge very creatively - the modern Lego robots and the Basic Stamp controllers and the old chemistry and `erector' sets all came out of this understanding that great scientists and engineers are NOT built by stupid B.Tech/BSc/Msc/PhD courses but by instilling the spirit of experimentation and discovery in students at a very young age through the medium of play.

It would be interesting to hear some of my reader's experiments in science during their school days ...

Update: Check out this link! Instituitions like Jodo Gyan are truly doing great work.