Udhay Shankar: A Light Paving the Path for Future Minds

The following interview is with a personality who believes that learning brings best results when children are left open to explore and innovate. He understands the fundamental skills of the 21st century and wants to instill the same into the current generation of students. Let’s see how Udhay Shankar,

Founder and President of Do It Yourself Academy (DIYA) is disrupting the realm of tech education.

Please introduce yourself and your journey in setting up DIYA. Also, tell us what inspired you to pursue this career path?

Since childhood, it was everything beyond the book that has been of interest to me. However, building a robot remained a fascination until the second year of my college at PSG Tech, Coimbatore. It’s been a dream run since then, 100+ awards amounting to 14+ lakhs only in prize money.

One such life-changing experience was the all-expense covered scholarship to pursue a semester at the University of South Australia, where I also had the opportunity to be an intern at the STEMSEL Foundation. A 25-year-old foundation focussed on integrating the community through teaching 7-year olds robotics who there-on to win national and international contests.

I expressed my intent to expose underprivileged children to a wonderful platform. As a parting gift, I received 5 kits from them, to make the Christmas of the kids Merry. Thus, was born TRY – The Reformer in You on 01-01-2014, a Non-Profit focussed to provide technology education to children who could not afford it.

I used to travel to Chennai every weekend to teach the team of volunteers and there on the children. This went on for a while, but in the course of time, we wanted to measure the impact. Presented to us was a national level Robotics contest, eliciting a response from Top private schools charging premium fees.

Participation involved costs, but we were just a bunch of college students. Bollywood is sometimes inspired by real-life too, this was one such incident when the universe was with us. A Facebook friend of my school friend from the UK, whom I have never met or spoken with, ran a charity marathon to raise funds.

We conveyed our gratitude with our children, who had never seen a laptop, can’t speak English, who were literally shivering to hold the mike on stage, winning the national level first place. We understood 2 things – One; Limitation is not from the child, but the teacher. Two; we were something really good, which most were missing out on. We then had a major realization – you need a for-profit organization to run a non-profit organization. Also, I was at the crossroads of life – Business/ Job/ Masters with a 100% scholarship.

Do It Yourself Academy (DIYA) was officially launched on August 15, 2014, to cater to the school and after school segment offering internationally certified industry-oriented, hands-on Robotics, AI, ML, 3D Printing, Automation, and IoT education.

TechXplorAtion is a unique learning pedagogy we have formulated, focussed on holistic learning experience, involving multiple aspects of technology and exploration, leading to innovation. What if learning is instructor led and student driven?

What is your opinion on the necessity of implementing Robotics and IoT in education?

Many of us would have asked 1 simple question. What is the use of everything I learned in school?

Robotics and IoT enable children to implement concepts of STEAM, enabling them to bring out creativity and innovation.

A simple example is if a robot has to move from Point A to Point B, students learn concepts of math and science like finding the circumference of a wheel, algorithms for the shortest path, speed, distance and time, probability, force, friction, motor’s working, gear mechanisms, current amplification, voltage regulators, mechanical construction, electronic circuits, and programming.

We are moving towards a world of robotics and automation. Robots are present in space, air, land, and water. Right from the food we eat, the dress we wear, the houses we live in, the cars we drive, and the medical services, robots are everywhere.

We are moving towards a world where man and robots have to co-exist. Robotics will become the foundation of any futuristic profession. Robotics will be a necessity – it’s the next computer revolution (Imagine if you didn’t know to operate a computer today!).

Robotics education in schools, not only helps children visualize their subjects, but also lays a strong foundation for a successful futuristic career. It’s like getting the learner’s license, which is the foundation for driving a sports car in the future. We understand that that the school management already has too much on their plate, so we support by enabling them to outsource the robotics education to us. They just have to provide us a room and forget; the set-up, training, equipment, contest, PR and international certification is taken care of by us.

We are the recipients of Excellence in Robotics Education award 2019 – 2020 and Excellence in Futuristic Education award 2020.

Tell us more about DIYA and the need for such an academy.

Do It Yourself Academy (DIYA), as the name suggests, is the light source, which conveys our mission to be the guiding source for a child’s successful future! DIYA is a place where students can “Just be” and do things by themselves, experiment, and innovate. No assignments, no exams, only the hands-on experience. Then how do we asses a child?

The child is given a problem statement and has to use the tools and learning to come up with a solution. The child is free to explore and innovate! We have children who have started their own YouTube channel and posting innovative projects built by them. The best part is, they have learned more than we taught them from the internet and self-exploration to create the projects.

Our mission is to help children identify their passion, stand by them to build confidence in themselves, and finally create the drive to do more. When learning is self-directed, it is wholesome and lifelong.

Kindly share the meaning behind your tagline, “Making Children Future Ready.”

The focus of DIYA is 21st-century skills through Internationally Certified, Industry Oriented Robotics Education.

The first and foremost thing we offer career-oriented courses, which expose children to 10 futuristic domains in a hands-on way, with real-time problem solving, helping children identify their passion. In most cases, we first become engineers and then decide what we want to do in life. But, at DIYA, we enable children to decide what career domain they want to pursue.

Second, we have international partnerships with companies in the UK, US, Singapore, and Australia. This ensures that we expose children to the international standards of technology education, offering them 10 domains of Robotics and provide international certification.

To be successful in a career, one must learn how to collaborate and work as a team. Be able to think of solutions critically and creatively. There-on solves the problem as a team. Moreover, only by communicating the solution in an effective and confident manner, one’s potential can be understood. This is the foundation of 21st-century skills, towards which children are groomed at DIYA. Children work as teams of 3 and solve the given problem with technology.

Children keep trying to make the robot until they succeed, which helps them to develop grit and perseverance at a sub-conscious level.

The effective outcome is the holistic development of a child towards a successful future.

What obstacles have you faced while building your company in the field of education as an entrepreneur and trainer?

My journey has been from an Engineer, becoming an Educator, pursuing his passion as an Entrepreneur. Yes, we did have some beginner’s luck, but then with no actual experience of running a company or getting orders, we were quite confused about how to take things ahead.

Being young and straight of college, people did not trust us much. We could afford only limited staff, conversions were taking us too long, almost everybody we tried to partner with took us for a ride! Product was constantly evolving as lots of inputs were received from the users, we had many learnings from the courses we conducted, and we were constantly learning from industry to improve our product.

We kept at it, didn’t give up, and finally, after two years of trying we were able to open our first center, there-on people saw our potential and inquiries have been flowing in. It took us three years to achieve our first school contract, but just in the month of Feb, we handled over 50 school inquiries.

We streamlined our raw material sourcing and production, as we design and manufacture our kits. We have come up with a process to generate inquiries. Our implementation process and offerings have become structured, which is being appreciated by the community. We are happy and proud to have worked with 3000+ students through personal engagement programs., which has led to The Hindu, making us their Knowledge Partner. From being denied in the initial days, today, we have built India’s First Mall based experiential learning centre. Considering the impact we have created, I am happy to share that I am the only Indian recipient of the Young Achiever Award 2020.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to become entrepreneurs and influencers in the field of education?

Pursue only if it’s your passion. Yes, it is a very promising field in which one can create an impact in the lives of many. One can rise to fame, and definitely, there is scope to earn, but it most certainly takes time and lots of reiterations. Passion, Patience, and Perseverance is the key.

Always look at the product or service you’re offering from the customer’s point of view. Would you buy if for the features and cost you’re offering it at?

Associate right! Whom you work with and brands you partner with are very important. Though education looks like a huge field, it is tightly knit. News – good or bad, spreads really fast.

Being successful is going to take time, money, and constant updating. Be prepared for all three.

Make sure your offering is positively adding value to the life of your customer in the long run. Otherwise, you will start losing customers in the long run.

Stay in touch with your customers, understand if they are happy, and constantly ask what could make them happier. Change is constant, so based on feedback, please keep working on your offering better.

Always look at the education business as a long-term game. If you’re looking at a stop-gap or temporary gig, you’re definitely looking in the wrong place.

It is a field that can offer you happiness and satisfaction when you do your job right. Only a few offerings in the education domain are prone to recession. So, let’s be in it to win it!

What have you envisioned for yourself and your organization in the near future?

Our vision and ambition is to offer direction, purpose, and foundation of a strong skill set to school and college students, enabling them to become future-ready, through a strong, structures and multi-level international Edu-Preneur network, who will be our partners in progress.

We understand the difficulty in building an Education enterprise, so we have come-up with support-oriented franchise models, from being as affordable as Rs. 75,000, up to Rs. 5,00,000 to encourage ones with an ambition to make it big. In light of the same, we have received the Most Promising Business for Women award in 2019. We also offer business owners or influencers, with a good network, who share our passion, an opportunity to work with as a referral partner.

We are coming with our AI enables online learning portal for robotics, which will also have our cloud code school. The platform is also being designed to support our partner institutions and franchisees. We are working on building more international partnerships.

We are enabling international immersion programs through our technology summer school programs in the UK, Ireland, and Singapore. We will soon be launching our national and international contests with multiple themes. We are looking at offering a specialized 21-day residential program in technology, leadership, and life-skills by bringing in an expert panel to ensure the overall development of a child.

We are working towards becoming a global brand in the technology education space, by building a supportive facilitator system, towards creating a positive impact on student’s successful futuristic careers.

To understand better, please have a look at our brief video @ Making Children Future Ready!

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