TBI Blogs: This Free Museum Run by a 77-Year-Old Makes Science Fun for School Kids in Bengaluru

Silver Talkies is an online magazine, events and networking platform for Indians over 60.

At 77, PD Ravindra is a senior citizen who knows no rest. This former engineer is always tinkering around, trying to create machines and models that can explain scientific concepts in a fun way to children in his unique museum, Amma Saraswati Loka.

“You can make several things out of waste. For example, tyres which have been thrown away,” says 77-year-old retired engineer and innovator, PD Ravindra, pointing towards a seat made entirely of discarded tyres and PVC pipes. A former Chief of Maintenance at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bengaluru, you can call Ravindra a ‘constant inventor’ of sorts.

His workshop in Banshankari Stage II, Bengaluru, houses a unique museum that is open to all, free of charge and is especially popular with schoolchildren and teachers looking at explaining science beyond the books.

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Ravindra is passionate about science and sees the possibility of innovation in every object. His idea behind this unique space is to give children an understanding of scientific principles using simple examples and also, showcase the various uses of inexpensive waste material. As one visitor writes in the Visitor’s Book, ‘It is a lesson in how to make science interesting through storytelling.’ It is also an eye-opener on recycling waste material into useful everyday objects, an area Ravindra specializes in.

Ravindra, who took early retirement from HAL to set up his own manufacturing unit, was given a special award by the aerospace company for manufacturing equipment out of waste material. It encouraged him to continue his passion of making machines, and even kitchen items, out of scrap and other waste. For example, he has a rotating container unit, the kind every modular kitchen maker provides, made entirely out of simple and affordable material.
“I don’t like to throw away anything,” he says.

Ravindra set up his museum in 2006, after visiting the US, where his daughter runs a school.

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“I saw the childrens’ museums in the US and was motivated by them. I thought there should be something along similar lines for children here also,” he said.

Named Amma Saraswati Loka, after his mother, Ravindra’s museum has two parts. The space on the ground floor holds innovations of various kinds and is mostly a lesson in recycling and space saving. You will find an old refrigerator here which has been converted into a food warmer, a portable traffic kit (complete with lights and barriers), a chair that turns into a handy stepladder, a cycle that works as a battery charger and an exercise bike that also doubles as a wet grinder!

The other part of the museum is the terrace, which houses not just a maze of plants but also numerous scientific contraptions created in a way that makes it easy to explain hydraulics, compressed air, surface tension and other scientific concepts to children. Or at least gets them interested in it. In fact, he often uses mythological tales to explain things to the school children who visit.

The museum, which has among other things, a kaleidoscope, a periscope, a shuttle launcher, Bubble Maker, a hovercraft model and a wave pendulum, is a work in progress and Ravindra keeps adding things to it.

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His mind, as his daughter says, is always working, and constantly coming up with ideas to invent new things. This is not a fancy museum but the result of a senior citizen’s love for machines and inventions. So while some may find it dilapidated, those with a curious eye will appreciate the effort and enthusiasm that has gone into each and every object made by Ravindra.

Apart from designing and executing everything himself (with the occasional help from welders and mechanics in his workshop), Ravindra also tries hard to maintain the place. This can be quite a task for a 77-year-old, given the sheer volume of stuff around. Interestingly, Ravindra still works as an entrepreneur, making various kinds of mechanical equipments (including some for his former employer, HAL) and though he does not take on too many orders, he intends to keep on going, as long as he can.

Ravindra’s biggest worry at the moment is how to sustain the museum in the long term, given the amount of work it entails. Though he does get a steady stream of visitors across all ages coming in, Ravindra would love to use his expertise to develop models for schools or organisations that work to popularise science among children.

A bit of marketing could help many of his daily-living innovations be produced at low cost too.

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“This is what I’m finding difficult at this age,” he rues.

Despite the misgivings, PD Ravindra is far from giving up. As we speak, Ravindra shows us a ‘Wave Pendulum’ he is designing for a Bangalore-based company that works towards making scientific objects for education. We ask him what keeps him motivated and active at an age when many are content to savour a leisurely retired life. “It’s my hobby,” he smiles, “If I see something that is interesting and think I can make it, I will.”

If you wish to visit PD Ravindra’s museum, call him on 9482514883. Entry is free but you need to make a prior appointment.

Do you know an inspiring senior citizen or a group of elders doing commendable work that you want to tell us about? Write to [email protected] to let us know.

All photographs courtesy of Silver Talkies

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