The Central government will be building astronomy laboratories in Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across India with the help of a 19-year-old’s startup.
Aryan Mishra, is no ordinary college-going kid. He is fulfilling his thirst to learn and also making way for kids to explore space science by setting up astronomy laboratories.
Spark Astronomy – a startup, whose main aim is to make students see beyond the blue skies is Aryan’s brainchild.
Aryan is proud to have achieved the feat by following his passion, but the initial phase of his story was not this rosy.
Who Is Aryan Mishra?
Born to a newspaper vendor in Delhi, Aryan had an ordinary childhood with extraordinary ambitions. Aryan saw his parents’ struggle to educate him despite their weak financial condition. They enrolled him in a private school with a hope that it will boost his job prospects in future. Aryan comprehended this at an early age. He was a quick learner.
Though he was happy to learn the History, Geography, and complicated relationship shared by two atoms, his mind was curious about stars and planets.
“When I was in class 2 I wanted to become a train driver,” said Aryan. However, that dream transformed into something different soon. “One day when the entire family was sleeping on the roof to avoid Delhi’s heat at night, I stared blankly at the sky with a crave to know what is beyond,” he said.
At an age when kids demand toys, the 11-year-old Aryan asked for a telescope. Concerned with his interest in Astronomy, a field which is still in early stages in India, his parents tried to convince him to take any other subject.
But Aryan was determined to know more about space. He saved his pocket money by cutting down his lunch in school. It took him almost 18 months to save ₹5,000 to buy his first telescope. “I couldn’t force my parents to get me a telescope because I knew the price,” said Aryan.
With a telescope in hand, his search for celestial bodies started. He joined the astronomy club in the school. “I took my telescope to school to make other kids see the unexplored universe. There smile made my day,” Aryan added.
At the age of 14, Aryan with his friend Keerti Vardhan Kukreti discovered an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.
“It was one of the outreach programmes conducted by the Astronomical Society of India we participated in. I didn’t have any laptop or smartphone, so I had to spend hours in a cybercafe, scouring through the data to discover an unidentified object.”
This discovery made him famous. The leading newspaper carried his photo on the front page, and his parents understood how serious their kid was in astronomy. “You don’t generally see a newspaper vendor’s son photo in the newspaper daily,” said Aryan.
The Startup – Spark Astronomy
Post his discovery, various schools invited him to give lectures on space. Initially, he was happy in doing so but soon discovered that his attempts to draw students toward astronomy was futile.
“We have chapters on solar system in class 7 and 8. But no astronomy labs to make them see the solar system. To spark students interest, we need to show them the planets and not printed images. This is when the idea of providing an astronomy lab conceived in Aryan’s mind.
“I wanted a space, where students will discuss space, and spot the planets on their own,” said Aryan. He also said that a separate lab for astronomy in school will also convince parents to let their children pick astronomy their favourite subject.
Spark Astronomy was started in 2018. Initially, he made astronomy labs for private schools. The laboratories consist of four primary telescopes for skywatching with several activities that help kids to understand the cosmos.
“Nobody took me seriously because of my age. But once I showed them my passion for space science and made them realise the potential of this astronomy, schools started calling me to set up laboratories,” Aryan added.
Aryan’s noble initiative caught the attention of K. Vijay Raghavan, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government who is now bringing these low-cost labs to schools under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
It was very energising to discuss with @sparkastronomy and team at @PrinSciAdvOff on how to partner with @mhrdschools to take astronomy to our schools. @himdaughter and Aryan taking this forward. https://t.co/kUhukyjmvy pic.twitter.com/yiT6OcHSGL
— Principal Scientific Adviser, Govt. of India (@PrinSciAdvGoI) November 18, 2019
Explaining the pilot project, Aryan said that in the next three months, eight labs will be built in collaboration with government. When asked about his future plans, Aryan said that he aspires to become an astronaut or an astrophysicist. He is currently pursuing B.Sc in Physics from Ashoka University.