Social Responsibility

School of Materials students volunteer on ‘Live in Labs’ projects in India

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 10:13:00 GMT

Four students from the School of Materials spent their summer volunteering with the Amrita Live in Labs programme in India, where they took part in lemongrass distillation and areca nut leaf press projects in rural communities.

The School of Materials has developed a strategic partnership with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University on the ‘Live in Labs’ programme, which puts scientific and engineering research to practical use for societal benefit in a country that is home to 33 per cent of the world's poor. Projects are multidisciplinary and experiential where volunteers use the skills from their degree to develop and implement sustainable solutions to challenges faced by rural communities including health and livelihoods, education and technology, farming, energy and infrastructure.

With the support of the University Volunteering Team and the Amrita Live in Labs Programme Coordinators, the School selected four students to spend six weeks in Bangalore, Coimbatore and Kerala volunteering alongside local students on two long term projects.

The students on the areca nut project worked with a village deep in the agricultural farming land of Karnataka, where villagers use a leaf press to shape tableware out of the nut leaves generating an alternative source of income during the monsoon season. The team designed an infrastructure to allow the leaf press to be powered by biogas instead of electricity, a significantly more sustainable source of power, enabling the villagers to reduce electricity costs, avoid blackouts during tableware production and recycle organic waste.

Those working on the lemongrass project researched and implemented improvements to a lemongrass oil distillery in a rural village in Kerala. Lemongrass grows plentifully in the areas around the village which is home to 300 inhabitants and the distillery allows this abundantly grown plant to be made into useful products that the villagers can sell and benefit from including soap, perfumes and mosquito repellent. It was identified that altering and improving the distillery would help provide a sustainable source of income for the villagers.

The students’ blogged about the projects and the highlights of their time in India.

This was a successful pilot project and building on this experience the School plan to recruit a team of ten volunteers to return to India in summer 2018.

The Volunteering Team is able to provide advice to Schools and Departments that are interested in setting up their own overseas volunteering projects. If you would like to find out more please contact

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