GOSH Community Member Profile of Prayush Bijukchhe: “Focused on Education”

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Source: Gathering for Open Science Hardware

This is the fifth post of a series of profiles on GOSH community members who were featured in the GOSH Community Events Framework. You can access the framework, along with this profile in its original format, on the GOSH website at https://openhardware.science/gosh-community-events-framework/.

By Marcela Basch, independent journalist, Argentina. Twitter: @marbasch

Profile on Prayush Bijukchhe, a software engineer in Nepal.

Prayush previously worked as the tech lead of Karkhana, an education-based maker space and company in Kathmandu, Nepal that designs learning experiences for kids using STEAM curriculum and practical methods. There they usually work with open software and open hardware solutions, such as Arduino. “I was working as an educator in Karkhana, and I started tinkering, experimenting with open science hardware, teaching students how we could use them to solve real-world problems. That’s how I got into the open source part of the world”, he says. “Also two friends of mine who worked with me at Karkhana went to previous GOSH events: Suresh Ghimire was at the first one, in CERN (Geneva, Switzerland), in 2016, and Aakriti Thapa was in GOSH 2017, in Santiago (Chile). That’s how I found out about GOSH, and I started engaging with the GOSH community. In 2018, I went to the third gathering, in Shenzhen”.

One year later, in December 2019, Prayush and Surya Gyawali (Teacher/Product owner) put up a small GOSH regional meeting in Kathmandu. The call-out said: “Karkhana has been participating in GOSH since 2016 and most of our classes are based on open-source hardware and software. To share what we have learned at GOSH, we would like to organize a regional GOSH here in Kathmandu, Nepal, focusing mostly on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) education”.

Spreading the word

The main challenge for Prayush and Surya was recruiting attendees. “The gathering was a little bit hard to organise because not many people knew about what open science hardware actually is, so it was hard to get people involved”, remembers Prayush. “The first thing we did was post an announcement on the GOSH forum. Then we used Karkhana’s Facebook account as a social medium through which we tried gathering people. We spread around a form. The next thing was to personally call people to join the gathering, that’s how we got people to join in”. There finally were ten participants, mostly educators and students, all from Nepal.

The second challenge was how to set an agenda. “Since we only had a few people who did know what open science hardware was, we did not know what we should be doing in that gathering. So we made an agenda of sharing with the attendees what exactly open science hardware is. We ended up carrying on sessions about how open science hardware can be used in classrooms, because most of the participants there were still students or educators”, remembers Prayush. Still, there was a more experienced participant: one of them was actually working with a biomedical lab, microscopes and open source platforms. “He was an engineer working with students. He had brought the plans that he was using to develop the open source microscope, and shared them all”, he recalls. “So that was actually available for all the participants during the summit”.

During the gathering, Prayush and Surya ended up creating a few courses on open science hardware and open hardware for educators. “For example, we used Arduinos: with all of them having a single code written to them. The Arduino would take three different inputs and had four different outputs. Depending on what input was given the output would change. Now, changing the things that you add to the board could change what you could make using the same Arduino. So that’s how we were more focused on education”, he said.

The gathering was structured with two sessions on each of the four days, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon. “We started around 10 and we would end around two to three PM. That way, many people would not have to give up too much of their time as well and we were having two sessions per day, so each session would be different from the other. We had some informatics sessions, some hands-on sessions such as digital fabrication with a 3D printer . And the other one was discussions. We even had stacks of boxes of LEGOs that we provided to explore during the discussion. At the end of the fourth day, we had a small exhibition based on what the attendees learned and created throughout the gathering”, he says.

Attending the gathering was free, but the organisers couldn’t afford attendees travel expenses. “We did not have much of a budget. We just did a small scale event including only people within Nepal, who were all able to come to Kathmandu on their own”, says Prayush. “Since most of the participants were living in Kathmandu, we didn’t have to pay for the hotels and travel. We just provided lunch and snacks for them. If we however would have had a budget, we were planning on doing an international event, so that we could accommodate more diverse people from all around the world”.

Reflecting on the whole experience, Prayush sums up: “The event was an opportunity to start spreading around what GOSH actually is, since it’s really hard to find in Nepal people knowing what open science hardware is. Even though a lot of people may be working with technology, and they may be using open source material, they would not know what open science hardware actually is, nor what GOSH is. So it was really good for us to spread the word”.

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