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Magazine Editorial

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Category Achievers
Title Conquering the World
Details These children have been able to break the conventional mindset and come up with some amazing ways of solving day to day problems. They come from diverse backgrounds but what is common to all of them is a curiosity to explore things, the creativity to think differently from the rest and the patience to listen and learn from those around them. The Honey Bee Network unearths innovative children from different parts of the country. For Sarit Swapan Das, it was a case of necessity fostering innovation. Sarit is from a rural area in Orissa, where farmers face a lot of problems because of lack of weighing machines. They need to hire weighing machines from business men to weigh the grains or transport the grains to distant places to get them weighed. Sarit designed a simple weighing machine using a scooter tube, to solve this problem. A tube, filled with air is placed on the wooden pan. A plastic tube, filled with red colored water is attached to the air valve of the tube. When an object to be weighed is placed on the tube, it displaces some air from the tube. The air, in turn rushes into the plastic tube and displaces the water in the plastic tube, and the water level rises. The plastic tube is attached to a vertical scale, so that the level of rise in water can be measured. The tube can be calibrated, based on the amount of water displaced by one kilogram. One can weigh up to 25 kgs using this devise. Sarit made this devise when he was about 11. He is now 14. Rakesh Patra, aged 12, has been able to make some simple modifications in the crutch used by the physically handicapped to make these more user-friendly. For instance, although most disabled people are able to walk with the crutch, they need to take somebody’s assistance, if they want to sit down and rest for some time while walking. So Rakesh attached a foldable, lightweight seat to the crutch. This can be easily unfolded and used by the person while walking. The special crutch also has a red indicator, which can signal the approach of the user, in the night. He has also attached a horn, an umbrella and a torch to the crutch, to be used whenever necessary.1 S Harish Chandra and Sriram, two sixteen year olds from Chennai, are also concerned about the plight of the orthopaedically impaired people in the country. They have designed an optically controlled wheel chair. The wheelchair works using a light dependent resistance and a light emitting diode. By adjusting the light falling on the resistance, different actions of the wheel chair like moving, stopping and turning can be performed. The wheelchair provides for minimum hand usage, since there is no usage of the joy-stick. Harish and Sriram have exhibited this model as part of the young inventor’s initiative ‘Steer the Big Idea’, organized by Confederation of Indian Industries and Department of Science and Technology.2 Some of the innovations involve looking at conventional devices with a different lens. Eleven year old Supriya Chhotray, for instance, instead of looking at umbrellas as a shield from rain, decided to look at it as a source of water for cooling the body in cases of extreme heat. She has been able to design a heat resistant umbrella. The umbrella has a mercury column attached to its handle. When the temperature soars beyond 37 degrees centigrade, the mercury level rises and there is a signal alarm. Once the alarm is heard, the user can spray water from a bottle which is also attached to the handle of the umbrella. The umbrella guards against heat stroke, which causes a lot of deaths in Orissa each year.3 It also helps to listen, understand and value the knowledge shared with us by others. This itself can lead to the development of new solutions to problems. Nibedita Priyadarshini, a student of Class 10, was concerned with the amount of pesticide residues in vegetables available in the market. She had also learnt about the anti-toxic and anti-germ properties of turmeric (Curcuma longa) and drum stick (Moringa oleifera) from her mother and grandmother. She formulated a solution based on these properties. This solution comprises sodium-bi-carbonate (0.2%), turmeric powder (0.2%), paste of drum stick seeds (1%), country alcohol (0.2%) lemon juice(0.2%) and common salt (0.2%). Vegetables have to be soaked in this solution for about half an hour. The pesticide residues get washed away.4 Nitin Kumar Tyagi, a 16 year old from Meerut, was always interested in innovations, and had designed some toys, as well as a rat repellant. Once his neighbor, a farmer requested him to make a vermicompost pellet making machine. The farmer also agreed to support him financially, when he was designing the device. Nitin came up with the device to make the vermicompost powder into pellets. The powder is kept on a hopper along with a binding material, and passed through a conveyor belt. The belt carries the material in the form of a sheet into the pellet making die. The vermicompost pellets so formed are easier to store than the vermicompost powder. In the case of Simcy Annie and Caroline, two high school students from Kerala, they were not prepared to disregard a piece of information given to them by a friendly neighbour who was a mechanic. He told Caroline that engine oil had fuel properties and the waste engine oil could be used to generate cooking fuel. Caroline tried discussing it with her teachers but was ignored. Caroline and Simcy decided to further investigate the idea. The method involves collecting and storing the waste engine oil from garages in bottles. When air is passed through this, with the help of an air pump, air bubbles and gas is formed on the surface. This gas can be collected in another bottle and passed through the stove, to use for cooking purposes. The fuel is quite efficient and the gas burns with a blue flame5 The innovative children are not always walking on a solitary path. Sometimes, they do get timely help from people in the formal science circles. Take the case of P Krishnakant, a student of Class 10. He has come up with an idea for speed breakers in vehicles, which can control over speeding. The device consists of a sensor unit an electronic control unit and a solenoid valve. The sensor unit consists of a speed sensor, connected to the speedometer output of the gearbox. A variable frequency pulse from this circuit is given to the micro-controller. The frequency of the waves is directly proportional to the speed of the vehicle. The electronic control unit monitors the speed of the vehicle and controls the solenoid valve. The valve is connected to the fuel pump inlet. When the vehicle is moving at normal speed, the solenoid valve stays open. If the vehicle is running above the speed limit, the solenoid valve is automatically closed and the fuel flow from the tank to the pump is shut off. Thus the speed of the vehicle decreases. When Krishnakant came up with the idea, he submitted a project to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The idea was approved under the Technopreneur Promotion Programme. As per the instructions of the Ministry of Science and Technology, two professors from National Institute of Technology, Calicut, were appointed as co-ordinators to give technical support and help in prototype development.6 Krishnakant was lucky enough to have his potential identified and supported. Moreover, his education in the formal schooling system might have made him recognize the potential of his idea and present it appropriately so as to get the necessary support. How many children are out there who are not even aware of the potential of their ideas and lack information about whom to present them to, for guidance and support ? Will these ideas be lost to us forever? Footnotes 1 Much progress has been made in the front of mobility device industry for the orthopaedically challenged and the crutch has received much revolutionary design changes. Innovations include seat suspended between crutches for providing sitting assistance, support assembly for crutch chair for sitting help, sling seat system for at least one buttock support, fabric accessories for crutches to carry daily support material etc. Besides this Pathlighter Cane wheeler has been equipped with beam assistance, EZ Rollator with folding seat, basket, the Cruiser Deluxe Super Model 4212 with adjustable seats are also available in the market. (http://www.homecaremag.com/mag/medical_walking_aids/). 2 Wheelchairs have gone through many modifications, to make them more user friendly. A Smart Wheelchair Control System has been developed, which reduces the physical, perceptual or cognitive skills needed to operate a wheelchair. (http://www.vard.org/jour/04/41/3b/simpson.html). Innovations in wheelchair technology include controlling wheelchair with machine vision technology, controlling wheelchairs with Voice recognition technology and wheelchair with optical guidance sensor system. (http://me.eng.sunysb.edu/senior-design/2001-2002/index.php). There has also been recent research on neural control of wheel chair, which allows people to use their thoughts to control the wheelchair. (http://www.hon.ch/News/HSN/514350.html). 3 There have been design innovations in umbrella for cooling effect. The cooling effect has been attained either with the application of fan or water tank attached to the canopy of the umbrella. At least six such products have been granted patents in US. These include water misting umbrella (Patent No.6,886,759, Aug 3, 2002), Fan umbrella (Patent No. 6,691,721, Mar 5, 2002), Rotating patio umbrella fan (Patent No.5 868 152, Jan 26, 1998), Air cooled umbrella (Patent No.5 349 975, Nov 2, 1993) and raining umbrella (Patent No. 5,143,107, Nov 30 1990). At least four of them have visualized the design using fan mounted upon shaft or canopy or using the separated canopies as blades. Two designs that have used water for cooling have also used the handle and canopies along with the water tank to create cooling effect. 4 Although there have been products developed to reduce the pesticide residues in vegetables, studies have not revealed any significant level of reduction in pesticide residue. Most studies advocate a rinse-soak-rinse strategy for ridding vegetables of residues 5 Engine oil has generally been treated as hazardous waste and little attempt has been made to harness its fuel properties. Some attempt has been made to use it as fuel (www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/usedoil/usedoil.htn). 6 Discontinuance of engine from the combustion box has been the mechanism behind the speed-breakers. However, since then, there have been inventions for cruise control apparatus that perform automatic adjustment of the speed in relation to the preceding vehicle. There has been a motor speed control devise for regulating the speed of the direct current meter.
Volume No. Honey Bee, 16(3):8-10, 2005