4 Precocious Indians Who Are Innovating For A Sustainable Future
The Earth was a pristine, magnificent planet right after The Big Bang but humans have managed to pollute it to such an extent that every new nature-based statistic that has popped up in the last decade has only been about its deterioration and ultimate extinction. The oceans continue to drown in plastic, global warming is now a grim reality rather than a distant possibility and the bees are steadily dwindling in number. Fortunately, a few young (and we mean really young) Indian innovators are tackling these dangers head-on and have come up with ingenious solutions to these looming perils.
All of 12, this young innovator has always had a certain affinity for deep sea creatures which developed into a passion for ridding the oceans of plastic waste as he grew older. He kicked off his TED-Ed Clubs talk with a dialogue by Clint Eastwood from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly which goes ‘You see, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig.’ Kazi’s version was a little different where he said, “There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who create problems and the ones who solve them. I want to be in the latter category.”
Drawing the audience’s attention to disturbing statistics like the amount of plastic waste in the ocean surpassing the existing aquatic life and creating a line of plastic bottles twice the distance from the earth to the moon if we stacked all the plastic waste we created, Kazi said that he invented his prototype ship ERVIS with the aim to suck out plastic from the ocean’s surface. Think a gigantic vacuum cleaner with chambers for processing waste, collecting waste oil and treating the different sizes of plastic by analysing and segregating it. Kazi, who is busy preparing for his TEDxGateway talk in December, is currently working on logistics that will also help him dispose of the waste once he has succeeded in collecting it. He’s definitely come along way since his first prototype that lasted for about seven seconds before coming apart in his bathtub.
Aged 12, Rao’s invention was triggered by the scandal in Flint, Michigan, where officials are facing charges for manslaughter over water contamination in 2014-15. Not surprisingly, her parents began testing for lead in their own supply of water everytime they would consume it. Rao thought the process wasn’t feasible, practical or reliable which is when she set about creating her own contraption.
Naming her device after Tethys, the Greek goddess of fresh water, Rao completed her project over a period of five months, as part of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a national competition conducted for middle-schoolers to come up with ingenious solutions to day-to-day problems. Her device utilises carbon nanotubes for detection of lead and includes three main parts — a core device, a housing processor with a Bluetooth extension, a nine-volt battery, and a slot to enter a disposable cartridge — all of which connects to a smartphone, providing an accurate, almost instant analysis. The aspiring epidemiologist/geneticist, who is slated to speak on the TEDxGateway conference in December, now wants to further work on the device and modify it to make it market-ready.
Last year, at the age of 12, Kavya Vignesh and her team became the youngest contingent to represent India at a robotics competition in Denmark with their unique solution to save bees. Her interest in the subject was piqued when her mother enrolled her in the RoboClub during her summer vacation at the young age of 9.
Vignesh has sworn fealty to the cause of saving bees by creating a contraption called the Bee Saver Bot which removes bees safely and carefully without harming them or humans. The thought occurred to her when she realised that more than 85 per cent of the world’s crops are pollinated by honey bees and that it was extremely important to relocate beehives without harming its inhabitants. Every third bite of food comes from a bee-pollinated crop or an animal that depends on bee pollination and it just wouldn’t do to have bees killed because of human negligence. Christened the Lightning McQueen after the animated Pixar film Cars, Vignesh’s invention involves developing a design that is fed into a wood-based 3D printer, which prints a biodegradable, breathable, and reusable enclosure for bees when they are being relocated.
The youngest Indian to be selected for the Antarctica 2018 Expedition with Robert Swan, Aanya Soni was part of this year’s committee that was formed to protect Antarctica and spread awareness about climate change. A 50-year treaty that was signed to prohibit any research, drilling or exploitation in Antarctica ends in 2041 and environmentalists are getting increasingly alarmed at the prospect of what will follow afterwards. For the past 14 years, Sir Robert Swan’s 2041 foundation has been selecting 80 people from across the world for this expedition, to cultivate leaders who will adopt a sustainable life and encourage the peers to do the same.
Soni may not have any inventions to her name yet, but the 13-year-old already lives a more sustainable life than most adults. In addition to being a founding member of the Kids4aCause team that provided aid to the people of Kashmir by recycling materials to create new products, Aanya and her friends have also been creating utility products for sales, every year during Diwali. A proud member of the Woman Up summit’s panel that was held last weekend, Soni plans to create awareness about the effects of climate change by helping people make small changes in their daily lives.