National Children's Science Congress

Dr H Manoranjan Sharma *

Introduction : The Children's Science Congress made a humble beginning as an experiment in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh in the early nineties with joint initiatives of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC)-Network and Rashtriya Vigyan Evam Prodyogiki Sanchar Parishad (RVPSP), Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The idea of organising Children's Science Congress was inspired by similar effort of Gwalior Science Centre, Madhya Pradesh.

It became a nationwide activity since 1993 with the holding of the first National Children's Science Congress (NCSC) in New Delhi. The Children's Science Congress is coordinated by (NCSTC)-Network catalysed and supported by RVPSP. Since 1993, National Children's Science Congress is held during the last five days (27-31) of December every year. The qualitative and quantitative expansion of NCSC has drawn attention of different countries. NCSC in previous years was attended by observers from Germany, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, ASEAN Countries etc.

Objectives : The primary objective of the Children's Science Congress is to make a forum available to children of the age-group 10-17 years, both from formal school system as well as from out of school, to exhibit their creativity and innovativeness and more particularly their ability to solve a societal problem experienced locally using the method of science.

By implication, the Children's Science Congress prompts children to think of some significant societal problem, ponder over its causes and subsequently try and solve the same using the scientific process. This involves close and keen observation, raising pertinent questions, building models, predicting solutions on the basis of a model, trying out various possible alternatives and arriving at an optimum solution using experimentation, field work, research and innovative ideas. The Children's Science Congress encourages a sense of discovery. It emboldens the participants to question many aspects of our progress and development and express their findings in vernacular/ local languages.

The main basic objectives of the NCSC are :

  1. Providing a forum to the Children (Age group 10–17 years) both from formal and non-formal school system as well as from outside of school to exhibit their creativity and innovativeness and more particularly their ability to solve a societal problem.
  2. Relating learning science with the environment around.
  3. Promoting the "methods of science" and applying the same for finding solutions.
  4. Catalysing curiosity, spirit of inquiry and inquisitiveness.
  5. Inculcation of Scientific Temper.
What Characterises NCSC Project?
  1. It's a simple, practical, and innovative.
  2. It's carried out as a team-work.
  3. It involves field-based data collection, collation, analysis and representation.
  4. Are based on exploration of everyday life situations.
  5. It involves the community work.
  6. Have definite outputs, arrived through scientific methodology.
  7. Have definite follow up plans.
Who is eligible to participate?

This is a forum open to young scientists in the age group of 10-14 (lower age group) and 14-17 years (upper age group). Child must not be less than 10 years and more than 17 years on December of the calendar year. This event of NCSC is not restricted to the school-going children only but is also open to the non-school children from the marginalised sections of the society who can be involved as team members. Any child will not participate more than twice in National CSC as Group Leader—one from each age group.

Areas of Research :

Every year a focal theme is announced for the NCSC. From 1994 onwards children will work on the same focal theme for two consecutive years. The children are expected to carry out projects related to the focal theme and the identified sub-themes. Activity books are available to help guide teachers and the child scientists. A group of children not exceeding five, can do the project with the help of scientists, school teachers, coordinators of science clubs, activists of science based voluntary organisations etc. The teachers/guides receive special orientation on the theme of the CSC every year.

The Magnitude of NCSC : Starting from 16 States in 1993, today CSC in all districts of all the States/UTs. NCSC is a much sought-after children's programme in the Indian S&T calendar. Around 8 lakhs children participate every year. Since 1997, best two projects of each State participate in Indian Science Congress. ASEAN & SAARC countries are showing great interest in CSC. State-wise quota : From 2001 onwards, each State/Union Territory can send a fixed number of students, escort teachers and coordinators to the NCSC.

The quota is based on the size of the State, number of districts in the State and its population size among others. All the States and Union Territories have been categorised as very tiny, tiny, small, medium small, big, very big and giant states. Our State has been included in the medium small category and can send 10 students, 4 escort teachers and 1 State coordinator to the CSC.

Milestones achieved by National Childre's Science Congress :
  1. A project by middle school students in Kerala, helped understand functioning of the lens in our eye, formation of real image through a convex lens, rectification of vision using spectacles and many other concepts of optics. Surveys followed by eye sight testing by the group of many children in the school helped determine vision defects and corrective action was catalyzed. The concepts were part of class science curriculum.
  2. A child scientist from Guwahati in Assam was the youngest person in India to have received a patent on the research work that he did for NCSC as a student of class VIII.
  3. A girl child scientist from the year 1994 who is now doing her research at Chicago University on a full scholarship said that NCSC was the platform that taught her to do research in a scientific manner.
  4. Mr. Prabhan Chakraborty, the National Balshree Awardee for the year 2005, was a child scientist in the years 2000 and 2001.
  5. In the year 2008, two child scientists selected from NCSC went to Philippines to give their presentations during the ASEAN Youth Science Week.
  6. A project by a child scientist from rural Bengal on water shed management provided solutions to the problems faced the Panchayat administration.
  7. Two students from Rajkot who have participated in NCSC were selected to represent India at the INTEL International Science Fair in 2008 and 2009.
Incentives: Several incentives are given to the child scientists during and after the NCSC. Some of the incentives are:

(i) Two best projects from each State are allowed to participate in the School Science Education Forum of the Indian Science Congress sessions held every year during 3-7 January. The second group member of the project team is eligible to participate in the Indian Science Congress.

(ii) Intel also has a tie-up with NCSC. INTEL has expressed desire to provide direct entry to NCSC projects in their INTEL Science and Technology Discovery Fairs (STDF). Initiative for Research and Innovation in Science (IRIS) It is a Government and Private partnership between Intel, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). IRIS is one of India's largest science promotion and fair initiative for students. IRIS now recognizes the NCSC as an affiliated science fair and gave direct entry to those NCSC projects with innovative ideas.

(iii) Technology Entrepreneurship Promotion Program: Selected CSC projects meeting the following criteria may apply for support under this programme-
a. The idea should be new / novel.
b. The idea should have potentiality for translating it into working model/prototype/ process.
c. The idea should be based on known scientific principle.
d. The idea should have commercial feasibility/technical viability.

Proposals are invited from individual innovators to convert an original idea / invention / know-how into working prototype /processes. These proposals can be made by individuals or jointly with any sponsoring organizations. Selected projects will be provided financial support to undertake the above developments, patent support and guidance, scientific/ technical consultancy, fabrication assistance, market information and networking with related research lab/institutes as required. (Contact Address: Techno-entrepreneur Promotion Programme. Ministry of Science & Technology. Post Bas No.66, Hauz Khas New Delhi-110016)

The Organizers: NCSCTC- Network: The NCSTC-Network, a voluntary network of over 76 voluntary and government organizations, is a unique organization for science popularization and stimulation of scientific temperament among the people. It is a registered body under Societies Registration Act of 1860 in Delhi with Registration No. S-21587 of 1991.

Soon after the pioneering and massive science communication experiment, the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BJVJ) of 1987, a whole lot of voluntary groups all over the country were eager to join hands with the then existing group of 26 organizations involved in BJVJ. These groups have been brought together by the efforts of NCSCTC (DST) to organize the Jatha in 1987. The tremendous potential of the additional organizations, sensitized and motivated through the Jatha experience, was realized by all concerned. But two years of efforts failed to attach these to the then existing group of 26 organizations. Therefore the NCSTC and some like minded non-governmental organizations took initiative to bring these active groups together as NCSTC-Network.

Participation from almost every States of the country indicates that the NCSC, a movement for scientific popularisation, has successfully expanded its reach. More importantly, the quality of the projects has also witnessed significant improvement." The interesting aspect of the 17th NCSC was the fact that it has seen greater participation from female students. Similarly, projects from rural area were far ahead of their peers from urban areas, as far as originality is concerned. Out of total 567 projects, 289 presentations were made by female students. In case of 236 projects undertaken by students from rural areas, 123 were presented by girl students. In urban area too, the number of female students ie, 166 was also higher than that of male students, which stood at 158.

Dr Jaideep Barua also informed that the considering the higher participation, the number of technical sessions held parallel had been increased this year to 12 against 10 in the conclave held last year. Apart from that, the two exhibitions, 18 activity corners and workshops for teachers also found a great favor from the participants. All the 32 participating States were divided into three categories namely tiny-small-medium, medium, big and very big giant States in order to acknowledge their contribution and Tripura, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh were adjudged as the best performer State respectively. The State coordinators of Manipur, Kerala and Maharastra were declared the best coordinators in their respective categories.

According to evaluators, the quality of projects has improved significantly this year. Out of total 567 projects, the evaluators selected 25 projects for further research. Three projects were selected from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal each, while Assam, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were the states, from where 2 projects each were selected for the purpose. Other states from where one project was identified include Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Puducherry, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh.

Projects from Gujarat were nowhere in the list, but according to official announcement, the identification was made while keeping in mind certain factors such as availability of infrastructural and logistics support required for the further research and therefore non-inclusion of any projects doesn't mean that the projects was not capable for qualifying.

In other significant development, Gujarat Council of Science City, which successfully hosted the 17th NCSC, has been enrolled as one of the partner to promote the year 2010 as 'The International Year of Biodiversity' by United Nations, at international level along with some other institutions like UNEP, UNESCO and UNDP. "The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives.

The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth biodiversity. Gujarat Science City (GSC), working under the aegis of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of Gujarat, is emerging as a large-scale science popularisation platform in the State and country to promote innovative and experimental activities through hands-on and minds-on exposures" informed Shri Ravi Saxena, Principal Secretary, DST, Government of Gujarat and Chairman, 17th NCSC Steering Committee.

The 18th National Children's Science Congress : The 18th National Children's Science Congress will be held at Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu from 27th to 31st December, 2010. The focal theme for the year 2010-2011 is "Land Resources : Use for prosperity, save for posterity" with six sub-themes. The sub-themes are :
  1. Know your land
  2. Functions of land
  3. Land quality
  4. Anthropogenic activity on land
  5. Sustainable use of land resources and
  6. Community knowledge on land use.

For the State of Manipur, Science Teachers Forum, a voluntary science NGO is coordinating the NCSC activities. Work has already begun for the successful holding of the district and state level CSC. A State level workshop for District Coordinators, District Academic Coordinators and Evaluators was already held on the 25th of July at DM College of Science, Imphal. This will be followed by District level workshops for Guide teachers and child scientists for all the nine districts of Manipur.

All the child scientists and their teacher guides will be given merit certicates for participating in the State Children's Science Congress besides other incentives. Those students who represent the state in the NCSC will be given merit certificates, mementos and other incentives. Students in the age group of 10-17 years (both from formal school system as well as from out of school) interested in science are requested to join this congress.

Details and registration form can be obtained from the office of the Science Teachers Forum c/o Manipur Public Library Building near GM Hall, Imphal and also from District Coordinators and District Academic Coordinators. The official website of NCSTC Network is

* Dr H Manoranjan Sharma wrote the article for The Sangai Express
The author is at present working as State Coordinator, National Children's Science Congress, Manipur and took part in the Ahmedabad NCSC '09 as an Evaluator.
This article was webcasted on August 24 2010.

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