By Lira Low Roberts
As the theme of our Qi Blog turned to eco-friendly education yesterday, I thought to flesh out another fun, energetic side of learning: toys. Definitely one of the better parts of childhood (or life, for those of us who never grow up)! One of our upcoming Qi 2011 speakers Professor Sudarshan Khanna is part of our Youth Ambition & Education series.
Prof. Sudarshan Khanna is an educator and design consultant, and the founder of Toys for Tomorrow, a vision-action international forum. He has carved out a niche market for himself not only in India, where he hails from, but also in many other parts of the world. Prof. Khanna playfully merges science, technology and nature into designing toys that teach and nurture. The ensuing products are either modern in outlook, or take their inspiration from traditional Indian toys. He takes pride in asserting that these traditional toys were made by real artisans and craftsmen through the centuries, and were already based on principles of nature such as gravity or friction. Prof. Khanna, who lives in Delhi, is now reviving their popularity in a modern light by bringing fresh perspectives to their appeal.
As his toys are easily assembled, portable, and frequently inspired by nature and history, Prof. Khanna often utilises eco-friendlly materials such as seeds, leaves, sticks and string.
Several of his inventions have taken root in workshops he conducts on his travels. For example, some of the ideas he came up with during a toy workshop in Potsdam, Germany in the early 90s have been picked up by German designers and developed into simple, educational tools. These were marketed, but not limited to insitutes, designers and therapists. Other workshops he has conducted have been in Malaysia, Greece, Switzerland, England, Japan and Chile amongst others.
His accolades are long and impressive so get ready: he was the Principal Designer-Faculty and Chairman of Education and Research activities at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, India. Prof. Khanna was also the Ravi J Matthai Chair for design and education innovations. While there he helped establish several new courses and programs, including the Post Graduate Program in Toy Design and Development at NID. He was also the member of NID’s Governing Council and policy planning-management.
Prof. Khanna was conferred the 1996 National Award for his life time work for design-science among children. He is also the past president of the International Toy Research Association (ITRA). Prof. Khanna has researched and authored three books that explain and explore the developmental prospects of these toys and the scientific learning behind them. His books have gone on to be translated into many other languages. He has also had over 15 educational tv programs made about his work.
As Prof. Khanna continues to delight children from all walks of life around the world, our belief is that he will also delight our audience at Qi 2011.