US - INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW

29 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 side of projects, things I make out of real materials rather than in my mind and in a machine. Aparna also explains to me the value of innate skills such as perseverance and empathy and focus. With Clifford as teacher and Aparna as coach, I don’t even realize that what I am doing is learning. It feels like building cool stuff, playing video games, and living through history. And maybe a bit of learning about how to be a better person. When Clifford found out that I love the Egyptian pyramids, for instance, he devised a lesson plan that used the pyramids to cover the geometry of different types of triangles, and the mathematics behind those ancient structures. We start with a guided virtual-real- ity (VR) tour of the pyramids, with augmented-reality overlays to con- nect the abstract geometry to the physical world. In this way, I can solve geometric problems that use rooms and facades of the pyra- mids to illustrate them. I feel that I am in the middle of history and following the minds of the Egyptian builders, the geniuses who planned and constructed these massive timeless monu- ments. I take a lunch break, and then it’s time for group fieldwork. Two of my friends from the neighborhood come over, or I go to their house. Clifford posts a holographic speci- fication for building a pyramid with tongue depressors. We sketch out the design on our tablets, doing the mathematics and planning its construction. Once our plans are set, our little group spends the next two hours painstakingly build- ing the structure. The small pyra- mid comes to life before our eyes, a bridge to the greatness of Egypt. The next day, Clifford starts to teach me some classic mathemat- ical relationships bearing on trian- gles and pyramids. To translate these into a useful form, I write a computer program to calculate the mass and average pressure at its base of any pyramid given specifi- cations including the dimension of the tunnels and chambers within it. I post my program on line. Other students and teachers grade the code’s precision and structure (and whether it actually works). An A.I. system also tests my code and makes suggestions on how to improve it. As a final class project, my workgroup friends and I design a pyramidal play structure for a nearby play- ground. On that final pyramid-design project, we work with our teaching coach, Aparna. She answers any additional questions we have and guides us through the project without telling us what to do. We build a model of the play structure as a reality check. Aparna tells us we may need to add safety nets on a section that is too steep for little kids. Although adolescents are smart and savvy, they may lack adult judgment and emotional sensitivity. And that’s what Aparna can teach us. Aside from a pittance for the tongue depressors, we pay nothing for this pyramid exercise. Clifford, having come into being in the same way that the free appli- cations on our smartphones have, Children watching on a mobile phone in rural areas of India. Photo: REUTERS

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