Although he’s spent the past five years researching solutions for the growing problem of space debris, 23-year-old Sourabh Kaushal is now focused on a much more down-to-earth challenge. That is, how do you bring meaningful change to education in a developing nation facing hurdles on many fronts: from poverty, to lack of technology and facilities, to outmoded attitudes about innovation?
Kaushal is translating his own frustrating academic experience into Xovian, an organization that aims to support students in India with guidance and resources so that they can pursue their research passions. He says, “I think the problems that I faced and saw around me as a growing kid and during my research journey got me to believe that I can do things to ensure that youth in the future do not have to go through the same outdated education system.”
Kaushal’s research has resulted in the proposal of new methods of space debris mitigation, and he’s been recognized with the 2012 Dr. Kalpana Chawla Young Scientist Award and as a runner-up for the 2010 Jerome Pearson Award from the International Space Elevator Consortium (in association with NASA, Microsoft and others). He has also spoken at TEDxBITS GOA, INK+MIT Media Lab Salons, SAM Youth Conference, and the Indian Institute of Technology. Still, he seems most passionate about serving the youth of India.
Xovian, Kaushal’s organization, works to spread awareness about science and technology
among youth in villages by teaching them how to conduct research, sort out their problems, and by linking them with international and national experts. According to Kaushal, “Xovian’s vision is to acknowledge and encourage each and every innovator regardless of background, qualification, field, status, etc., and serve to better humankind by advancing and promulgating knowledge and altering the parameters of life across the globe in an incredible manner.”
It’s an ambitious mission, but we’re confident that this committed young man will succeed at whatever he sets out to accomplish. Please enjoy today’s inspiring Daily Edventure with Sourabh Kaushal.
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
There are a plethora of reasons behind that. First and foremost is that I love the profession of education and it may also proliferate my skills and knowledge. Moreover, I like to share my skills and knowledge with others and interact with people. Yet, the key reason that drew me to the field of education is that, when I started my research work at the age of 18 years in the field of space science and technology, I faced many problems with mentorship, guidance, funding and more. In addition, many people dissuaded me when I started my work and there were no proper labs available. Yet, I concentrated on my work and achieved in my research and life. So, I decided on that very day that in future I would do something in the field of education so that the problem I faced would never be faced by anyone else.
Moreover, India, the world’s largest country in terms of population, has the potential to become the next superpower in terms of innovation and technology. We need to empower our youth, which can only be done through education and innovation. For this
reason I founded Xovian.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
To be honest, it’s difficult for me to give the specific name of the teacher who is my favorite. I met a fleet of teachers from my childhood to my graduation, but the teacher who influenced me a lot is Dr. Kumar who is the chairman of my college. He helped me in all stages of my life and work. In addition, he encouraged me to do research and innovate, and I think with his help I have achieved a lot in my life. Moreover, he taught me the basics of research and how to proceed with implementation of technologies.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
I have been working on space research (Space Debris Mitigation: The mitigation of waste material in space and space elevator system – The transportation system) for the last five years and have seen lots of ups and down in my life and during that phase of my life. I learned a lot. I proposed some new techniques for the advancement and betterment of technology. In addition, I feel very proud to be the Co-Founder, Head and
Curator of Xovian.
Xovian is inviting the involvement of people from any field, i.e. science, commerce, humanities, etc., with all types of genuine innovative ideas. We accept proposals from school students to college graduates, young aspirants to senior citizens, regardless of their qualification, background, occupation, level of study, etc. We acknowledge and thus encourage the emerging aspirants of their respective field(s) and provide all necessary possible assistance (in any form) to build and develop their ideas (depending on the calibre) for the betterment of humankind. We aim to spread awareness about the latest concepts and market trends among the people, specially youth and students, living in villages and towns.
We need to empower our youth, which can only be done through quality education. Currently, most of our youngsters choose the wrong path in their career so this trend has to be changed dramatically. Xovian plays a pivotal role in this to educate youth about every option so that they will one day become successful leaders in life. It is my hope that Xovian and my personal experience may lead to the development of society, humanity and nation.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
First of all, it is an indisputable fact that technology has revolutionized innovation and creativity. In this contemporary world, with the help of the latest inventions in the field of technology, one can implement his/her innovation easily with fewer errors and get good results. In my research work, technology plays a pivotal role and I use different types of technical equipment and methods. For instance, I used a digital camera with a telescope as I love astrophysics.
In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?
I think that exacerbating growth in technology — especially Information technology — is very much relevant to education and makes for easy, reliable accessibility of knowledge. In this world of technology, the pupils are born with an intuition toward technology and they integrate with same at a very young age. As the technology changes there are a fleet of affordable technologies, applications, cellphones and many more coming out for the youth of our nation. These [mobile] devices are easily used by any class of society and that may help a lot in terms of education, updates on day-to-day activities and so on. In addition, today everything converts into digitalization and these devices help a lot, especially in the education sector. In fact, more than 60 percent of youth use the mobile device and Internet services, so whenever they want to search anything they can easily do so with the help of these technologies.
Technology tools and systems need to be more accessible in the developing world. Moreover, social media is a very strong tool for education and helps us to tell the world what we are working on, and it also help us to interact and link with good people. In addition, under Xovian Tech Lab we are also planning to come out with some apps that may connect the youth with other experts so that if they have any problem related to their career, innovation and creativity they can easily ask questions and clear their doubts.
If am talking about my personal research work, with the help of current technology and social media, I’ve interacted with lots of educational experts, scientists and technocrats and that has helped me a lot in my research work.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
The 21st century has given birth to a plethora of innovation and technologies. Moreover, knowledge is so easily accessible with these innovations and technologies. Yet, the most
exciting innovation happening in education today is social media. With the use of social media I can easily interact with people of all walks of life and also share or discuss the work with experts. In addition, Xovian also has some online tools or interaction classes in which youth ask any question related to education, career, or innovation and our expert panel gives them the answer. Students/youth also thrive while learning stuff online. As the technology changes, everything is moving online and more than 60 percent of our country’s youth spend more than 10 hours a week on the Internet, and I think it’s the right way to learn things digitally.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
I am very passionate about innovation and creativity because with the help of innovation, the development of any nation is possible. In addition, we are living in a world that needs more people with innovation and creativity. We really need problem solvers, technocrats, who can think out of the box and do something for the development and advancement of technology, society and nation. And in order to foster continued creativity with young children it requires innovation, collaboration, communication, problem solving, and creative thinking! None of the skills are independent of the others.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
First of all, I would make an educational platform for them, a technical studio and labs with all the equipment, tools and materials they would need. That way, if any child who has any innovative idea and wants to implement it comes to our workshop/lab, they can start working on it. Our experts can also help to implement the innovation and creativity of the children. In addition, the one educational tool that I would like to give to the children is the power of the Internet with a guidebook of innovation and creativity. So,
any child at any time could contact us via online tools and discuss or share his/her projects and innovation with Xovian experts.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
While we are living in the 21st century — the century of new technologies — we are still dependent on the technologies of other nations. The youngsters of our nation still face many problems like mentorship, proper guidance, finance, in addition to no proper labs in our country. So, people are now moving to other nations for their research work or higher education and they support and help us in our research work.
In India, government bodies and institutions only look at academics. I have been doing research work for the last five years and have done a lot of work in the field of space science but still before joining any company, government or private, they asked for my
grades in college and they didn’t care what I had done or achieved so far. On the flip side, international universities give preference to your research work and extra activities, instead of one’s grades or academics.
That’s why the US, Japan, Germany, Russia, etc. are in a better position in terms of research and development than our country. Every year India produces approx. 7.5 lakh engineers (approximately 750,000) and when compared, China produces about half of that number. Now, if you see world domination in terms of the number of research papers and patents, then China stands next to us with a world share of 11 percent and India is far behind with a share of less than even three percent.
To overcome these problems — there should be proper labs in India as well as research-oriented institutes and if anybody wants to continue his/her research activities, we should be able to give them a chance without asking for their academic marks. If a person is passionate about their work, we should give them the opportunity to work in good labs or research institutes. If we do this and promote the research and development
activity in our own country, it will help in growth of the GDP as well as the economy of our country. And one day, our country can become the superpower in the field of science and technology.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
I don’t think only one answer can satisfy this question because there are many reasons behind that. Yet the first and foremost reason is that in my country the teaching staff is poor in quality. Moreover, they dissuade the students in the initial phase of any innovation and research work. For instance, when I was in the first semester of my engineering study I started research work on space debris mitigation. At that time, my
peers and a faculty member dissuaded me. (“Why you are wasting your time on all this research work as you are doing electronics and communication engineering and your research area is different?”) Moreover, the government-owned schools have outmoded infrastructure and private schools are not reasonable for everyone. Learning has little or no value. The whole focus of school education is to score the highest marks in examinations and join a top-ranked institute for higher studies instead of innovation and technology. The real meaning of education is almost changing. This is where Xovian is
working to change this equation and come up with new educational and other methods so the each and every youth of our nation gets equal education, resources and guidance. We also spread awareness among the youth of our nation about science and technology.
About Sourabh Kaushal, Co-Founder and Curator of Xovian, Engineer, Space Enthusiast,
Jagadhri, Haryana, India
- Birthplace: Jagadhri, Haryana, India
- Current residence: Jagadhri, Haryana, India
- Education: Bachelors of Technology (Hons.) Electronics and Communication
- Website I check every day: www.inktalks.com, www.ted.com, www.nasa.gov
- Person who inspires me most: Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
- Favorite childhood memory: I remember when I was in class, then I made the space project and received first prize for that.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I love travelling and my next destination in coming weeks will be Bangalore or Chennai for work.
- When was the last time you laughed? Why?: To be honest, I am a very happy person, so most of the time I laugh in my day-to-day routine. That gives me a pleasant, soothing feeling and refreshes my mind, too.
- Favorite book: Wings of Fire
- Favorite music: Punjabi music and old songs.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? Advice always plays a crucial role in setting up the appropriate pathway, especially if given by a wise person. Similar kinds of advice was given by my parents, which was always work hard and one day you can achieve whatever you want in your life!
- Your favorite quote or motto: You have to dream before your dreams can come true.
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