NASA funds programme to produce videos to teach Hindi through Indian scientific innovations

A programme funded by NASA in the U.S. has produced a series of videos about popular archaeological sites and institutions in India. The videos come with lesson plans in Hindi, to aid in teaching the language internationally using themes of science and technology .

The videos focus on scientific innovations at various sites like Amer Fort palace and Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, the rust-resistant Iron Pillar in Delhi, UNESCO Heritage site Qutub Minar, the Chand Bawri stepwell and the Jaipur Foot, a prosthetic given to impoverished amputees in 80 countries for free.

The NASA-funded programme STARTALK made a USD 90,000 grant to Ved Chaudhary, director of the project.

The programme is supplemented by funding from Chaudhary’s New Jersey-based foundation Educators’ Society for Heritage of India.

The programme is administered by the National Foreign Language Centre at the University of Maryland.

“This was a unique experience. I never knew I was going to have so much fun doing my research,” said Alok Kumar, principal investigator.

Kumar said that context is crucial to learning new languages. Each video, designed for learners from middle school through college, employs a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) perspective “to provide interesting and incredibly rich context to create learning experiences that can push learners to the advanced level of Hindi,” he added.

Kumar, professor of physics at State University of New York, has published several books on ancient Hindu science, mathematics and medicine.

The University of Maryland said that science-based innovations are abound in the sites Kumar chose.

A Hindu architect designed the honeycomb-patterned Hawa Mahal or ‘Palace of Wind,’ way back in 1799 when air conditioning units din’t exist. The architect used the ‘Venturi effect,’ Kumar said, adding that since air enters narrow passages of the building, it increases the wind speed and produces natural cooling.

The nearly 24-foot-tall Iron Pillar of Delhi, built in 402 CE, is a testament to the skill of blacksmiths who processed the phosphorus-rich iron to create a protective layer that has withstood centuries of monsoon and summer, the university said.


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