School students too can publish research papers

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TejitPabariSynergyConference

The Liter of Light initiative became very popular all over the world, as a very cheap and innovative way to provide illumination during daytime in settlements which are very crowded and don’t even have windows, like in the slums.

My grade 12 student Tejit Pabari has investigated how effective this idea is, when compared to just having a hole in the ceiling covered with a glass plate, to let the sunlight in. The experimental data he collected will be useful and adds to the knowledge of the world. His research paper got published in a peer reviewed journal – Journal of Basic and Applied Engineering Research p-ISSN: 2350-0077; e-ISSN: 2350-0255; Volume 3, Issue 8; April-June, 2016, pp. 690-696. The student feels immense satisfaction and pride in having contributed to the scientific knowledge pool of the world at such a young age. Also, the experience of writing a research paper so early will give him a great advantage when he moves on to college. It will also tremendously boost the value of his college applications when he pursues  higher studies in top universities around the world.

As teachers, we need to make our students open their eyes and look out for problems to investigate which are there right in front of them. Nowadays, most schools are equipped with Vernier Sensors or Pasco Sensors which are sufficient to measure accurate data of most of the physical quantities like position, velocity, acceleration, weight, force, light intensity, sound intensity and frequency, etc. Also, video analysis using TRACKER software which is free, and Sound Analysis using Audacity software which is also free, provide opportunities for measuring accurate data for most physics phenomena happening in our immediate surroundings.

At the high school student level, it’s tough to come up with theoretical models of the observed phenomena, but they can certainly produce papers where they collect data and make empirical fits for unexplored phenomena.

Students who are interested in programming, can try making simulations using Vpython to model the simple phenomena they observe in their data.

The IB (International Baccalaureate) Curriculum makes it compulsory for students to do research like this by requiring students to do an Exploration in each subject and an Extended Essay in any one subject. The exploration is like a mini research paper and the Extended Essay is like a research paper, though of course, the style of writing is different from that of a research journal.

International Scholastic Journal of Science publishes research work of high school students and it is a peer-reviewed journal with an ISSN number. Many of their papers have been cited by other professional researchers.

Students and teachers, both will be amazed when they start collecting experimental data and find that the data doesn’t always agree with the theory they learned in the textbooks. For instance, we learn in textbooks that the bounce of a ball obeys exponential decay curve. But when we actually do the experiment with a table tennis ball, we find that the bounce height doesn’t decrease exponentially with bounce number according to one single equation. We find that many exponential fit equations are required for different parts of the data.

A lot more learning of science happens when the student explores independently using the scientific method, than when the teacher teaches in the lecture method. IB curriculum has got it right by making Explorations a compulsory part of the assessed curriculum. It’s high time Indian Curricula (CBSE, ICSE, and the State Boards) too follow the IB example, if we want to produce more Scientists who can truly make the world a better place.

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