The Salters’ Chemistry Camp

January 07, 2017

The year 2017 is a remarkable milestone in the glorious journey of MIT as it celebrates the diamond jubilee in this year. The celebration continues throughout the year by organizing various academic, research, intellectual, cultural and sports events.

The Department of Chemistry had the privilege of marking the beginning of the celebrations by organizing “The Salters’ Chemistry Camp” from 4 to 6 January, 2017. It was a three-day residential camp organized for approximately 60 students studying in 9 grade (14-15 years of age) in Government schools, which included their active participation in varied programmes such as practical activities, chemical demonstrations and fun lectures delivered in local languages. The programme also enabled them to socialise with like-minded students.

The Salters’ Institute undertakes an exciting project, working with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to deliver a joint five-year “Inspirational Chemistry Programme” in India. This project has been sponsored by Yusef Hamied, a leading Indian philanthropist and pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry, with the hope to enhance the skills and knowledge of Indian Chemistry teachers, inspire students to study Chemistry at University by applying their own expertise in education, and combining this with the experience of partners in India.

This camp is usually conducted in association with the premier educational institutions of our country like IISc, IISER, NIT etc. But, now for the first time, the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK got associated with Manipal Academy of Higher Education to conduct this camp, which is the second Salters’ Camp in Karnataka after IISc.

The Vice-chancellor of Manipal Academy of Higher Education Dr. Vinod Bhat shared his nostalgic excitement of learning Chemistry during his school and early college days while inaugurating the camp. Dr. G. K. Prabhu, the Director of MIT and Pro-vice Chancellor, MU, mentioned the importance of such camps and expressed his enthusiasm in arranging them for other basic science subjects too. The participant students, their teachers, and guests were welcomed by Dr. M. P. Yashoda, HOD, Department of Chemistry.

Seventy students from various schools of Udupi district participated in the programme. Before the hands-on experiments, the students were educated on laboratory safety. The experiments included Forensic Challenge, Slime, Colour Creation, Crystalisation, Clock Reaction and Hydrogel Investigation. Forensic Challenge experiment was conducted to detect the chemicals present in materials collected from the crime scene. In the experiment Slime, the students learnt the formation of cross linking polymers by making borax react with polyvinyl alcohol and polyvinyl acetate, which are the main constituents of synthetic adhesives. Interaction of universal indicator with solutions of different pH was demonstrated in Colour Creation.  Crystallisation involving the preparation of crystals from the salt solutions, demonstrated how natural crystals are formed. Clock Reaction involved the colourful demonstration of the effect of concentration of the reactants on the rate of reaction. Hydrogel Investigation illustrated the water absorbing capacity of manmade materials which are used in sanitary and sports goods.

Along with the practical sessions, the students had the opportunity to listen and interact with  eminent scientists of Chemistry. Dr. Nithyananda Shetty from the Department of Chemistry, NITK, Surathkal exemplified the complicated theoretical aspects of Chemistry and mentioned the importance of thinking out of the box to face challenges and innovate new findings. Dr. B S Sherigara, former Vice-Chancellor of Kuvempu University mentioned serendipity in science and explained the importance of developing analytical thinking in daily activities. Both the speakers made a marked impact on the young minds and motivated them to take up Science, and Chemistry in particular as their future course.

The Students were also taken on a campus tour which included visits to the Planetarium, MAP, Marena, MIT Library, the Department of Printing Technology etc. The entire programme was conducted under the supervision and able leadership of Dr. M P Yashoda, HOD, Department of Chemistry. 

Student participants of the camp expressed their satisfaction and excitement in taking part in a residential training camp of this kind. Nandini, a student participant said that this was the first time she was given a free hand to conduct experiments at the state-of-the-art laboratories of Manipal Academy of Higher Education. “I was curious to learn each and every new experiment taught by the resource persons. What I liked the most was that safety was given a priority during all the laboratory sessions”, said Gyanappa, another participant. The hostel accommodation provided to the students was also well appreciated. Srivathsa, another student participant said “We did not miss our parents and home even though, it was a first time experience to stay away from home”.