As a child, when we were first introduced to the laws of motion and the theory of gravity, some of us saw it as an abstract topic, with nothing to do in our lives if we don’t plan a career in science while there were some who saw it as the closest thing to magic. All that it takes to view science with eyes glittering with curiosity is an inherent aptitude or the right teacher, who takes you through the stories of friction and how the moon in spite of being so far away from us controls the tides. All that it takes is access to that beautiful perspective where we see what we learn and we make what we see.
But how many of us had this right teacher to show that learning these laws can help us make a difference in the world? Or that we can create and not imitate, if we have these wonderful tools? There is this huge gap between learning and making things, with a massive energy barrier to cross. Here is a group of individuals exposed to the magic of engineering and technology, trying to help your child cross that barrier potential.
In conversation with Mohammed Ajmal C, Co-Founder, and CEO of Elan Learning Labs, who along with his motivated team members ignite the flair for innovation in students, promising a generation of creators for the future.
Could you brief us about the origin of Elan Learning Labs?
The fundamental idea to start the STEM journey was the identification of the fact that there is something wrong with our current educational system. From my journey from a school in a remote village to a premier STEM institute – IIT to a tech giant – Intel, I have identified that there is a huge gap between education, innovation, and employability. We study a lot of things, without knowing the purpose. When we go to the industry- none of this becomes useful. We are so much afraid of failure, we fear to start anything new. For all these reasons, India is one of the biggest importers of technology, we are the biggest market. But our future should be different – we need a generation of creators, not consumers!
But the knowledge/skillset provided by our current education system will not be sufficient for our children to be leaders of tomorrow. We are foreseeing a world dominated by Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things, Big Data, etc. – but we don’t even impart necessary coding skills at school! Here is the gap and at Elan, we are committed to bridge that. We have created various modules on Science Activities, Future Technologies, Robotics, Computational and Logical thinking to develop our future generation along with the current school education.
There are various challenges here to overcome – outdated teaching methodologies and learning environment, obsolete textbooks, technology illiteracy, etc. We have created an integrated STEM syllabus that goes hand in hand with the existing curriculum which can be used in schools or outside of school hours.
We prepared a comprehensive plan to introduce effective STEM education in academics. Our objective was to give students the aptitude to be self-directed in learning by dispensing them with a challenging atmosphere. For that, we have mapped state and National curriculum with Hands-on STEM activities that equip students with self-directed learning, effective inquiry skills, and peer collaboration and have prepared a syllabus that can be adopted and followed in primary and secondary schools.
Could you speak about the challenges you identified while executing your idea and how you overcame those?
Though a few schools incorporated Hands-on STEM learning in their schedule by dedicating two hours a week, we realized the difficulty in accepting any foundational change in the traditional schooling system.
Thus we have come up with weekend STEM Learning centers named ELAN STEMcademy in different parts of the state. Students here are taught with hands-on DIY kits which helps them passionately get into the thrill of learning STEM. Critical thinking, analytical, logical, and reasoning skills are enhanced through such activities, which otherwise cannot be acquired simply by skimming through textbooks.
We also created a course called STEM genius where hands-on learning is integrated with traditional coaching in an innovative way such that the learning of core concepts will help in competitive exams too.
We give in hand experience on various technologies – like rocketry, robotics, coding, aerodynamics, etc through our innovative curriculum.
Is there a particular event, or was it a series of events that made you take this proactive step towards this startup?
In a startup journey, many times we try out things and understand that things don’t work out as per plan that things do ???? . We were very passionate about education and wanted to do something innovative and break the current shackles. We started with small workshops for children for 2-3 days and found out that students and parents are excited about this. Those experiences gave us the confidence to go forward.
Your products involve STEM Project-based learning. Could you brief us on these terms?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Often we learn Science and Mathematics as separate subjects in schools and don’t correlate them together. We never learn technology or engineering basics in schools, which drives the world forward as we know. We strongly believe that there should be an integrated curriculum which connects theorems they learn, there should be exposure for students to technology and how to build them – this is of extreme importance so that our next generation becomes the creators of future, not consumers.
Can you give us a glimpse of the work it goes behind a product that you deliver, right from conceiving the idea to its delivery to the customers?
We have a strong content development team and leaders behind each project. For a STEM module, we create documentation – write up and videos- which will help parents and students. We then prototype the module we are building and after we prove that it’s working, it goes for mass production.
STEM Genius is a unique foundation program for 8,9,10 students targeting exams like KVPY, JEE, NEET, Olympiads, etc. We started it last year as a B2B, now we have to move online as B2C due to the current situation. The course is up and running with 150 students for class 10(free classes for classes 8 and 9 now). We are looking ahead to scale up this and expand as soon as possible. You can find more details here:
For our STEM genius classes, we create video lessons, materials, tests, and deploy them to our students- we take continuous feedback to improve ourselves.
Brief us about yourself. Was this your first venture, or have you been into other positions as well? If yes, how did your experiences with those firms help you in the role that you play now?
I am Mohammed Ajmal C, Co-Founder, and CEO of Elan Learning Labs, a company that has started the STEM revolution in Kerala and expanding to other cities now. I hold BTech.(Honours) and MTech. from IIT Madras and I have also been working as a Design Engineer with Intel, along with founding Elan learning labs. I also create educational content for free at my YouTube channel “Ajmal’s Classroom”, where I provide Maths and Physics lessons in my free time.
The journey with Intel has taught a lot on the professional side – ensuring quality, staying with commitments, problem-solving, etc. My experience in teaching online and offline for the past 10 years have boosted confidence in me, interacting with students have helped me better understand what is lacking in our education system and understand the gaps.
How do you reach out to your students? Is it online, or do you have an offline establishment as well?
We used to reach out to students through schools and educational institutions before. We mainly followed a B2B methodology and this has actually affected us during the pandemic as educational institutions are closed to date. Hence we started online B2C interactions with students through continuous free classes through YouTube, building a customer base.
How has the lockdown helped the growth of your online presence? Are more parents interested in coming forward?
Right now all our activities are happening online, through our dedicated web platform. That also means that we have to put a hold on certain workshops that required offline presence (eg: rocketry or aerodynamics workshops). Reaching out online and moving more towards B2C has helped us grow our customer base. Our STEM genius course is unparalleled in Kerala or maybe the whole of India and right now we have students learning with us even from abroad.
Could you give us a sneak peek into your plans for Elan Learning Labs?
Currently, we are planning to scale up the STEM genius course for the next academic year, focusing to reach out to more children and to expand our base in the middle east.
We have introduced a product called STEM Box- STEM Box are monthly DIY boxes for classes 1-10 designed following the current curriculum. The box contains simple materials of which students can do STEM experiments and a detailed booklet with learning outcomes and objectives will be provided. We are also providing a 6 month/1 year subscription plan on this.
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