ACT News


Indian science educator Arvind Gupta makes Toys from Trash

Most of us don't think twice before throwing away or recycling a water bottle. But where we see rubbish Arvind Gupta sees possibility.

The Indian science educator and toy maker has been teaching the world how to make Toys from Trash for 30 years, documenting around 1300 on his website.

Videos of his creations, in several languages including English, Hindi, and Spanish, have attracted more than 41 million views and more than 20,000 of his books are downloaded every day.

He now travels the world teaching children how to make toys and science experiments out of things they would usually throw away and this week is in Canberra to host workshops at schools and as part of Hotel Hotel's Fix and Make series during his first visit to Australia.

"The best way to learn science is by doing," he said.

"If a child makes a simple electric motor… then you can see the happiness in their face, it's the sense that they've really understood how a motor works."


After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in 1975, Mr Gupta took a year off work at a factory in Pune to join a program in India that aimed to revitalise science education in village schools unable to afford laboratories.

"The best way to learn is to improvise by looking at the things around you and try and see possibilities," he said.

"That was a kind of eye-opener for me."

After writing a popular book, Matchstick Models & Other Science Experiments, he has since travelled to 3000 schools in Indian alone; from the poorest villages to schools for India's elite, but he said the response is always "huge" from children bored of staid science curriculums.

"The most exciting classes are the ones where the teacher says 'I don't know much I'm exploring with you'," he said.

"If you come to the level of the child then it becomes magic… you don't need to know all the answers to work with children, that's the whole purpose, to discover together."

The humble water bottle is the star of about 70 of Mr Gupta's science experiments including a simple wind generator to teach children about electricity.

"If you put it under a ceiling fan, the fan spins two magnets inside a coil and you light up a small LED," he said.

"Children like doing it because it's interesting to them, they learn good science and they have loads of fun too.

"In America close to a billion bottles are chucked every day… India was a very austere society but now everywhere you find bottles littered."

While many Indians earn their living from recycling, he said all over the world cities are struggling to process vast quantities of waste.

Encouraging children to rethink rubbish could go some way to easing the burden and in this case the abundance of the dreaded plastic bottle has an upside.

"If you go wrong somewhere it's not the end of the world, you can always pick up another bottle," he said.

"That fear of failure goes away."

Download PDF instructions of Arvind Gupta's spiral snake made from wire and drinking straws.

Arvind Gupta will host a series of workshops and talks for children and adults at Hotel Hotel, New Acton from Friday February 26 to Sunday February 28. For more information and tickets visit: