Venturing into science park

HIMANSHU GURU, OP

Would you like to encounter dinosaurs or extinct species for just `25? Visit the Regional Science Centre at Acharya Vihar, Bhubaneswar, where you can find not only huge models of various species of dinosaurs, but also rare animals apart from magical and startling scientific exhibits. The Science Park, as it is popularly called, has exhibits based on fundamental sciences in three galleries. You can also track celestial movements by peeping through a technically advanced telescope at the park. Orissa POST explores the various galleries at the centre after meeting officials, resource persons and visitors.

Jurassic Park at Regional Science Centre, Bhubaneswar

Jurassic Park at Regional Science Centre, Bhubaneswar

“Science is all fun. We educate students in an interesting way and try to deal with the fear people have for science. At the centre, we satiate the thirst for knowledge for the young and old alike through science,” says Archana Khosla, the project coordinator of the centre.

When asked about upcoming projects, Khosla says, “An ultra-modern Innovation Hub and a Mirror Gallery will be introduced shortly. The Mirror Gallery will help sharpen the students’ knowledge of physics. The Innovation Hub will be a platform where students can explore their ideas about science. Both these arrangements will be for people of all ages.”

Set up in 1989, the Regional Science Centre (RSC) is among the 26 science centres/museums across the national network under the Council of Science Museums, an autonomous outfit under the Ministry of Culture, government of India. The Centre’s basic objective is inculcating scientific temper and popularising science and technology among people of all walks of life, students in particular, through exhibits, expos, special shows and educational programmes.

A Motion Gallery, Mathematics Gallery and a Popular Science Gallery in addition to the Science Park with a number of interactive outdoor exhibits and a Prehistoric Life Park comprising animated dinosaur models are among the assets of the science centre.
Amit Kumar Mandal, curator of the RSC, says, “I am keen on designing and developing attractive, innovative and informative models through which the visitors can gain good knowledge of the various phenomena of science. Besides the exhibits at the galleries and outdoor structures at the science park, we have a ‘science on wheel’ service. Two buses equipped with scientific exhibits travel to schools across the state to educate students. For government schools, the district education officer contacts us and requests us to send the buses. Private schools and institutions can avail the facility at a nominal cost.”

Himanshu Sekhar Satapathy, Education Officer at the RSC, conducts workshops at the centre to popularise science. “We organise seminars, talk shows, quiz competitions, drawing contests, debates and extempore speeches to educate people on basic scientific principles. Students participate in these activities. However, we can also arrange programmes for any professional group keen on learning aspects of science. People may contact us for such events,” he says.

RSC also has resource persons who can exhibit an array of magical scientific exhibits, which are created using waste materials. Satapathy explains, “We demonstrate selected scientific magical experiments to the visitors in the workshops. It provides them a chance to understand scientific principles on their own, since we ask them to perform the same in the workshop under our guidance. We have observed that this is a very effective tool in education, as it becomes a lifelong memory for them. Any NGO, trust, orphanage, old age home or students can contact us to organise such workshops where they can learn more about interesting scientific principles.”

Visitors to the RSC can observe the skies through a high quality telescope. “It is fascinating to observe the beauty of the night sky through the telescope,” says Satapathy, “We have an intelligent and GPS-enabled high quality telescope through which the interesting celestial movements can be watched.”

'Head on a platter' exhibit, RSC, Bhubaneswar

‘Head on a platter’ exhibit, RSC, Bhubaneswar

“Normally we provide the facility from 6.30 pm to 7 pm in the evening in the summer months and from 5.30 pm to 6 pm during other times. We also allow visitors to look through the telescope during solar and lunar eclipses.”

Subhasmita Sahu, a trainee in the education unit of RSC, demonstrated the telescope providing this reporter a close look at the moon. A postgraduate from FM autonomous university in Balasore, she also demonstrated some ‘magical’ exhibits based on basic science.

The Motion Gallery at RSC showcases various facets of motion in a holistic sense – its cosmic origin, celestial motion, wave motion, atmospheric motion, motion inside the earth, motion of subatomic particles, laws of motion and mechanics of motion, time and motion, motion inside our body and even ‘motion that is not’(illusory motion).

AB Biswas is the technical officer of RSC responsible for the electrical, electronics and computer operated exhibits apart from robotics in the centre. He is also in charge of ‘Jurassic Park,’ where one can witness a number of models of dinosaurs and many other rare animals, insects and reptiles. The centre also has a light and sound show in this park. Biswas says, “The story of evolution of life on our planet Earth is narrated to the visitors through this light and sound show in an interesting way. The show highlights some of the salient features of evolution of life and depicts the behaviour of animals which have become extinct.”

Subham Nayak, a Class VIII student from Saraswati Sishu Vidya Mandir in Rajranpur in Nayagarh district, who was visiting RSC for the first time, was excited about what he saw there. “I am enjoying the experience a lot. I have come with my father Kashinath Nayak for a one-day trip. I especially liked the 3D show where we were given 3D spectacles to watch the movie. There were sea, forest and long roads and I felt like I was roaming in those locations in reality. Besides, the ‘Khandia bhuta’ of water in the motion gallery was fun filled.”

Another student Sritam says, “I mostly liked the ‘Head on a platter’ exhibit in the popular science gallery. When you stand in a cube inside the glass box in this exhibit, the visitors can see only your head, while the rest of your body vanishes. Besides, I also loved the ‘cycling in a circle’ exhibit in the motion gallery and the 3D show.”

The Mathematics Gallery at RSC opens a window to the wonderful world of Mathematics and its applications in our everyday life. The gallery also makes the public aware of the Indian contribution to the subject. Here, mathematics is no longer a subject to be feared, rather one to have fun with. For more inquisitive children, it is a place to learn the intricacies of mathematics through a process of interaction and discovery.

Tanmay Kumar Jena, junior electrical engineer, on his maiden visit to the RSC makes a valuable suggestion. “I am a local man but did not have any idea about this centre. Today some of my relatives came and asked me to bring them here, and so I have come here for the first time. There are many interesting things here and one needs ample time to see everything in detail. There should be a giant model of a dinosaur or any other large animal inside the premises, which should be clearly visible from outside, to attract people to the park.”

Swarnam from Bhubaneswar was also visiting RSC for the first time. She says, “I have come along with my husband and four-year-old daughter Tapaswyee. She is having a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed the giant fish structure in the garden. You whisper into the mouth of the fish and your friend at the tail end of the fish can easily hear you. The park is full of such amazing exhibits.”

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