Young mavericks are thinking out of the box, rallying round and harnessing technology to arrest environmental depredation and put the disturbed ecological algorithm back on rails. These are viable and sustainable solutions that bode well for mankind too, points out Sanghamitra Moitra.
India’s Maverick brigade feels very strongly about the environment and related issues. They are coming out in bigger numbers to create awareness among members of the public on environmental problems, thinking out of the box to find innovative solutions to the environmental issues of the day and devise sustainable solutions to tackle problems for the future.
The lot realises how important the environment is for their existence and that of the future generations. The mistakes done by their predecessors have to be addressed and it’s important to find creative and viable solutions to lessen the burden on environmental resources and restore the ecosystems that are essential for humans too. So, these innovators are creating gadgets and devices even using technology to tackle one of the biggest challenges of the century.
Ensuring all lives are protected
Global warming and climate change have affected millions of species of birds, animals and insects. It has impacted their natural cycles and behaviour patterns. While most people choose to ignore how human activity is degrading nature, New Delhi-based Kavya Vignesh decided to do something about it. She built a robot to save the bees while working with a team of six other students and two teachers from Delhi Public School. Normally, as a common practice, unwanted beehives are destroyed or burnt, killing many bees in the process too. The bot developed by Kavya and her team relocates a beehive without harming the bees in the process.
Kavya’s interest in robotics developed at a young age and since the beginning she was focussed on using robotics and to solve real life problems. It was this determination that led to the creation of the bee saving bot called ‘Bee Saver Bot’. Kavya’s team, called Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, was also India’s youngest to qualify for the First Lego League (FLL)-European Open Championship (EOC) held in Denmark in May 2017.
Assisting in sewer cleaning
And, there’s more that robots can do to save the environment. A team of students from IIT Madras built a device, a sewer-cleaning robot called SEPoy Septic Tank Robot in 2019. The current version of the bot, a smaller version of its predecessor, basically swims through the waste in sewers and uses its fins to dislodge and cut the sludge into smaller chunks that are manageable and easier to handle. In this way, the bot helps in clearing the sludge and eliminates manual labour in the cleaning process. So, a sewer cleaning tank pumps the sludge, mostly in the top layer, out of the sewer without any human intervention.
Affordable ACs for the poor
A crucial aspect of environmental degradation is the abuse of natural resources in generating electricity and other sources of energy for human use and comfort. Electricity supply is an essential amenity, particularly in cities,where the demand is high and the consumption, excessive. Kalyani Shrivastava, a 16-year-old crusader for environmental issues from Jhansi, built a low-cost and low on carbon footprint air conditioner that is powered by solar energy. The AC costs a reasonable amount of Rs 1,800 and manages a temperature drop of four to five degrees when used for an hour.
The air conditioner built by Kalyani has an ice box made of thermocol where air is released from a 12 volt DC fan. Daughter of teacher parents, Kalyani’s invention has managed to garner foreign interest also. The AC has been constructed in a manner that it doesn’t cause any pollution and also eliminates the emission of CFCs, the ozone-depleting chemicals, into the atmosphere. The eco-friendly device works on solar power and doesn’t use any electricity, further reducing the carbon footprint of the device. Kalyani invention, the Desi AC, is an affordable air conditioner for the poor to bet the scorching Indian summers.
Garbage collection made easy
Mathura-based teenager Sikanto Mandal was in the ninth grade when he designed the unique garbage collecting device built from old wooden furniture and bicycle brakes and chains. The motivation behind the invention was the ‘mundane’ daily routine of picking waste from the school grounds that he and his friends had to undertake with their bare hands. The first version of Sikanto’s garbage collecting device was a lightweight device that had ‘pockets’ to keep a broom, water container and waste material.
Sikanto’s parents, both daily wage labourers, migrated to Mathura from West Bengal more than a decade ago. He built the device in a period of six weeks. The garbage collection cart is equipped with a picker to collect garbage without touching it, a gripper and a handle which helps with the easy dumping of the garbage. The unique feature of the ‘cleanliness cart’ is that it is fully manual and very easy to carry around and operate. It is not dependent on any external source for power. Sikanto has been taking his invention through innovation fairs and exhibitions across the country. The device has been picked up by a Gujarat-based start-up for mass production.
Solar-driven bike keeps the environment clean
Vehicular emission is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, primarily because of the petroleum products used as fuel in these vehicles. Even the most clean and green technology causes pollution when petroleum products are used as fuel. Haryana-based teenager Avneet Kumar used a bicycle to build a fully functional solar bike that has no carbon footprint and doesn’t generate any polluting emissions.
Avneet’s solar-powered bike is not only cost-effective but emission free as it is driven by solar power. The power is generated via its back panels that drive the bike forward. The bike can touch a maximum speed of 20 kmph and has several interesting features such as charging ports and an anti-sleeping alarm too. The single seater bike was built as an alternative to pollution causing vehicles running on conventional energy sources i.e. on energy derived from fossil fuels. In the future, Avneet dreams of making a low-cost solar car.
Air and water pollution indicators for timely action
The menace of air pollution is much higher in cities that in rural zones. City dwellers regularly experience the health impacts of bad air quality. The effects are particularly worse for children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions such as asthma, suppressed immunity, allergies, etc.
Three students of Bharti Vidyapeeth College of Engineering in Delhi – Tanmay Srivastava, Kanishk Jeet and Prerna Khanna developed an app that measures the Air Quality Index (AQI) in an area using a smartphone. The app called ‘Air Cognizer’ is an Android app and available for a free download.
The app is based on machine learning technology and uses image processing techniques to determine the air quality. The trio even won a cash prize of Rs 1,09,500 from a US-based organisation for their innovative work.
And, pollution is not just restricted to air. Human activity has polluted all realms of the planet including water. Water pollution causes diseases, even death and affects the quality of life. Gitanjali Rao was only 12 when she realised how water pollution was affecting lives. She wanted to help save lives and developed a device called Tethys that checks the lead content in drinking water.
It’s a portable device that is fast and accurately determines the lead levels. Rao’s invention is named after the Greek Titan goddess of clean water. The 3D-printed box comprises a battery, Bluetooth mechanism and carbon nanotubes. She got the idea for Tethys after reading about a similar technology used to detect hazardous gas in the air.