Fifteen-year-old Abhirup Nag of Behala in southwest Kolkata refuses to cram his head with bookish knowledge and would rather spend the time making things with his hands and learning through his creativity.
Twenty-three-year-old Jyotishman Biswas of Behrampur is studying to clear his Class X. Outside the classroom, he is already an expert in fixing electrical gadgets.
Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Abhirup met Jyotisman, who suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), six months ago at the West Bengal Forum for Mental Health. The forum is a rehabilitation centre at Nayabad for those suffering from intellectual disability and neuro-development disorder.
The two became instant friends during the pandemic and would spend time discussing their dreams and passion. “The pandemic was boring for me. I yearned to do something more than just study,” said Abhirup. So did Jyotisman.
What began as a common interest soon became a challenge as the friends started reading up about drones. By May, this year when the rest of the world was caught up with the second wave of the pandemic, Abhirup and Jyotishman were busy researching on the Internet how to make drones and remote-control aircraft themselves.
Thirty-year-old Sagnik Sinha, another resident of the forum, also joined them. The BTech graduate has been suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia since he was 16. Encouraged by others at the forum, the trio ordered requisite parts — shouldering frame, wings, flight controller and so on — online and began hunting for mentors, who would guide them.
The months of May, June and July saw them attending a twice-a-week online workshop on drone-making, conducted exclusively for them by experts from Odisha. By July-end, a 450-quadcopter drone was ready. The boys are now learning how to fly their creation, and Abhirup is teaching five other boys at the forum the art of drone-making on the side.
“My friends are as excited to learn from me. We fly our drone at a green patch near Nayabad,” said Abhirup, who plans to make more drones in future.
“I had made clay models in the past. But making a real drone is so much more fun,” said Jyotishman.
Forum president Mahendra Singh said the experience of learning drone technology had boosted the boys’ confidence to a great excitement. “The eight boys, who stay here, are an excited lot. We try to engage them in various creative activities. Making a drone out of scratch and now learning how to operate it has kept them all engrossed,” said Singh.
This was also a first for Odisha-based Satyabrata Satpathy and Sultan Khan, the founders of Bon V Technologies, who trained the boys online. “We usually train the army, navy and security forces in drone technology. This was the first time we trained students. The boys at the forum made a lighter version of a commercial drone, but it has the ability to fly from point A to B, hover and take pictures. The remote-assisted gadget needs to be controlled by a pilot and the boys are now learning how to fly it. Drone-making can be a good hobby for students,” said Satpathy, a BITS Pilani graduate.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Sk Altaf Hossien said drone-making had given a new direction to the trio. “Those suffering from neuro-development disorder often suffer from low self-esteem. They are often bullied by others. They need to be engaged in activities that they like. A hobby like drone-making gave them a purpose and will help in their inclusion,” he said.