Humanoid robot Shiksha is making education fun and interesting for students in Karnataka
Shiksha, a teaching robot, is the brainchild of Akshay Mashelkar based in Sirsi, Karnataka. It can teach rhymes, days of the week, names of shapes, and much more until class 4.
Wednesday May 10, 2023,
4 min Read
Dressed in a blue school uniform, hair tied in two plaits, and an ID card hanging around the neck, Shiksha, the humanoid robot, gives the impression of a school kid as she teaches the students in a rural government school in Sirsi, Karnataka. The children, stuck in amazement, are not able to take their eyes off the robot as they repeat the days of the week after her.
Shiksha engages and teaches varied subjects to the class. Its appearance and interactive style of teaching make students interact with her and repeat what she teaches, which helps them better understand and internalise the concepts being taught.
The brainchild of Akshay Mashelkar, a lecturer at the Chaitanya MES PU College in Sirsi, Shiksha can teach various subjects such as rhymes, days of the week, names of shapes, and much more until class 4.
“Shiksha is a teaching tool that can be used to learn new things in an interactive and fun way. Through this robot, I want to show that integration of technology in education can do wonders,” Mashelkar tells SocialStory.
The birth of Shiksha
After pursuing physics, with an electronics specialisation in postgraduation, Mashelkar followed his mother’s footsteps and became a professor.
While working in the education sector, he felt that despite massive technological advancements, government schools in rural areas lack interactive teaching tools.
“The method of transmitting information has been constant, except for some small innovations and new tools such as projectors and smartboards. However, the expanse of technology is much wide, and we need to leverage that information to create better educational tools,” Mashelkar says.
After the first COVID-19 wave, he saw a huge learning gap in children. Taking a clue from there, he used his free time during the second wave to research and generate new interactive teaching tools to make the learning process fun and exciting for children. To integrate technology into the field of education, he started his own research centre-Vikram Sarabhai Educational Research Centre, in a small make-up room in an art center.
Video of Shiksha teaching students
He focused his research on two domains-art and technology and their amalgamation in teaching. After eight months of extensive research, Mashelkar designed Shiksha at the beginning of 2022.
Using his savings and the money he received from other independent research projects, he spent around Rs 40,000 to Rs 45,000 on the research and development of the robot. He created the robot with eight to ten of his students who volunteered to help him.
Shiksha, the robot, can teach varied subjects such as Kannada rhymes, English rhymes, days of the week, names of shapes, English alphabets, and even multiplication tables.
The robot is easy to handle. The user has to push the button to start it, after which a Mastercard with the relevant information needs to be placed in its right hand. There are different master cards for each subject. So far, the robot can teach up to class 4. Mashelkar plans to modify it for use in higher classes.
However, Shiksha’s limitation is that it cannot work in real-time, which means it cannot respond to queries or commands like other AI systems, such as Siri or Alexa.
According to Mashelkar, this limitation was intentional. Since it was specifically designed for educational purposes, Mashelkar wanted to ensure that Shiksha was not misused or distracted by other tasks or activities.
“There must be a certain constraint of information as this tool is being used to teach small kids,” he says.
So far, Mashelkar has visited more than 25 schools in and around Sirsi, all of which are interested in adding Shiksha to their teaching modules. The robot’s manufacturing cost is Rs 35,000, which has been borne by Mashelkar.
He has provided the demos to the schools free of cost. However, he hopes that with the help of NGOs and alumni of those schools, the institutes can pay for Shiksha. He also plans to seek government help to develop his project further.
So far he has made one robot but he plans to resume production once the chips used in the robot are available. Mashelkar plans to use this time to get orders and then produce Shiksha accordingly.
Mashelkar has also been asked to vacate the research space as the art center is fully built and ready to function. However, he has not lost hope and is looking forward to making Shiksha a valuable teaching tool. He intends to make Shiksha available to all the government schools in Karnataka by 2024.
“Shiksha is an effective teaching tool that combines technology with education and redefines the overall learning experience by making it more engaging and enjoyable for the students,” he says.
Edited by Megha Reddy