This is a guest blog by MIT Master Trainers Sarvesh Karkhanis and Harsh Thakkar. A small intro of us - Sarvesh Karkhanis from India is a master trainer from 2019 cohort. Sarvesh is a Computer Scientist, featured Health-Tech inventor, TEDx Speaker, Arduino Project Contributor, 3D Printing enthusiast, and a Spoken Sanskrit enthusiast. His invention of a medical device that has potential to save lives of pre-mature babies was recently featured in the news. Sarvesh also received an award at the MIT App Inventor Summit 2019 for his project about rapid-prototyping of Medical Device.
Harsh Thakkar from Canada is a master trainer from the 2017 cohort. He is Professor of Software Development at Sheridan College near Toronto. Harsh is an alum of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) – a highly reputed business school in India. He heads the non-profit “Samskrita Bharati” (Canada), an organization aimed at teaching, preserving and promoting the Sanskrit language. Harsh also teaches Sanskrit language courses at various schools in Greater Toronto Area.
Recently, two of us Certified MIT Master Trainers for the MIT App Inventor project were invited by one of India’s most reputed Engineering and Technology schools – Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee - to host an MIT App Inventor Workshop for one of their highly-sought hackathons.
Indian Institute of Technology – Roorkee (IITR) located in the Uttarakhand state of India, is known to have been taking technology initiatives towards preserving the rich heritage of the Indian Subcontinent. The school had recently organized the “TA.RG.ET. Sanskrit Hackathon”. Sanskrit is an ancient language that has both cultural and academic relevance. It is the language in which ancient Indian scientific and mathematical treatises were composed. The language is already being taught at some reputed engineering schools in India to aid researchers with their study about ancient Indian engineering, astronomy, mathematics and metallurgy. University of Toronto’s journal recently reported that Sanskrit being a highly structural natural language, the university’s Sanskrit language courses have been witnessing great interest from Computer Science majors. Sanskrit has also been a language of choice for philosophers in both Hinduism and Buddhism, which are two of the major world religions. The “TA.RG.ET. Sanskrit Hackathon” by IITR is aimed at preserving and promoting these important aspects of Sanskrit language through means of technology. The hackathon had the following three tracks – Teaching Aids (TA), Recreational Games (RG) and Educational Tools (ET). The hackathon had close to a thousand participants from all over the world. We were invited by the IITR’s Sanskrit Club to conduct the MIT App Inventor Workshop as part of the Hackathon. The aim of the workshop was to motivate the participants to utilize the MIT App Inventor platform for creating powerful mobile apps as part of their hackathon projects. For first half of the workshop, master trainer Sarvesh Karkhanis gave a live demonstration of creating a use-case focused, Quiz Game App that helps users to learn conversational Sanskrit. In the next half of the workshop, master trainer Harsh Thakkar demonstrated several demo apps he had created. One of such apps built using MIT App Inventor as demonstrated by Harsh Thakkar was a clock app that translates current time into Sanskrit language. A GitHub repository too was provided to the participants that contained all the demo apps. At the end of the workshop, participants asked many insightful questions to the master trainers, and got answers right away. The MIT App Inventor workshop received an overwhelming response. The workshop received more than 50 participants from IIT-R and other universities via video conferencing. Additionally, the workshop was attended by more than 500 participants as well as Sanskrit language enthusiasts via Youtube Live. Currently, the recording of the workshop has more than 1000 views on Youtube. While a sizable number of participants in the hackathon were languages and humanity researchers having little experience with coding; a large number of hackathon participants were engineering students who were experienced coders. MIT App Inventor is a great, quick, and professional tool for developing apps not only for beginners but also for experts who wish to spend more time towards designing the UI/UX of their prototypes and less time towards actual coding.
Many participants have later approached us and expressed their keen interest in creating useful Sanskrit-focused apps. We had asked some of the computer scientists, coders and developers who attended our workshop if they were interested in translating the Blockly UI to Sanskrit language. Many have expressed their interest in the translation. The translation would give an ability to users to make their MIT App Inventor apps while using the Sanskrit language itself. We hope to make a positive impact towards learning, preservation and promotion of the ancient language through our initiative!