Published: 15th December 2020
This 14-year-old girl from TN has created a solar-powered ironing cart — to cut down on pollution
Vinisha Umashankar has created a mobile solar energy-powered ironing cart to reduce the use of charcoal. We find out how
While youngsters like Greta Thunberg and Licypriya Kanjugam are fighting battles to prevent the adverse effects of climate change, this 14-year-old from Tamil Nadu has taken it a step forward. Vinisha Umashankar, a Class 9 student at the SKP Vanitha International School in Tiruvannamalai, has recently come into the spotlight after winning the prestigious Children's Climate Prize for designing a mobile solar energy-powered ironing cart to reduce the use of charcoal.
Vinisha won prize money of 100,000 Swedish Krona (Rs 8.64 lakh approximately), a diploma, and medal from the Sweden-based Children's Climate Foundation — one of the world's largest international climate awards for young innovators. "When I was five years old, I got interested in science initially as my parents bought me a space encyclopedia for my birthday. Around the age of eight, I got interested in climatic issues and related problems. I first got the idea to create a solar ironing cart when I was 12. I was coming back from school one day and the ironing man near my house was using charcoal to heat the heavy cast-iron box for ironing. After he finished using it, he let it cool down and then threw it in the garbage. I came back home and did a bit of research on the effect of charcoal on the environment. The smoke produced by it has carbon monoxide and it's a toxic gas which can cause respiratory diseases. To produce charcoal, you have to cut down trees, burn them over a period of time. Thus, it is a major cause of deforestation. Lastly, it causes pollution. The garbage will typically end up in landfills, then it ends up in the ocean or land itself or sometimes it's burnt which causes air pollution. That's when I thought that why can't we use solar energy to effectively replace charcoal?" Vinisha tells us.
Vinisha receiving her IGNITE award
Vinisha loves reading books and that's how she learnt about solar energy and its usefulness at such a young age. "What I was taught in school in Class 7 about solar energy was not enough to give life to my idea. I read a lot of books and watched videos on YouTube about science and general knowledge which helped me broaden my perspective on science and hence, how solar panels work," she adds. Vinisha's prototype is a life-size ironing cart that has solar panels on the roof. It is then connected to a 100 Ah battery. The panels produce 250 watts of power every hour and it takes around five to six hours to charge the battery. Once the battery is fully charged it will directly power the steam iron box for six hours. "The battery also has the capacity to store charge for a potentially rainy or cloudy day. Apart from that, the cart can be moved with a cycle attached to it and has USB ports which can be used to charge mobile phones," she adds.
Vinisha tells us that she did not have enough raw material or space in Tiruvannamalai to create the prototype all by herself. "I submitted my idea and the paperwork to different competitions and soon it was picked up by a group of engineers at the National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad. A team of five engineers from the Mechanical, Electronics, and Renewable Energy departments then helped make the prototype. I am really thankful to them for bringing it to life," says the 14-year-old innovator.
Vinisha's solar energy ironing cart idea also won the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award for Children. The 14-year-old also has other innovations to her credit that are yet to make their debut into the world. "I had an idea for a smart ceiling fan. As we often forget to turn them off and that causes a lot of wastage. I attached two sensors, which detect the movement of a human or even an animal like a pet. So if it detects a human entering or leaving it will automatically turn on or off, thus save electricity. I also have a few other ideas to help underprivileged people," she adds.
Apart from innovating, Vinisha loves dancing, singing, playing the keyboard and practising yoga. Going forward, Vinisha wants to create her own prototypes and give them to a few vendors in Tamil Nadu. "I want to get their feedback, on how they like it, whether I should improve it, what other things can be included and more," she says.
Vinisha has a message for children of her age, "You should believe in yourself, what others think of you is completely irrelevant. If you have an idea then first build your knowledge around it and develop your own unique sense of skills. Others won't know how important an idea is to you, they will start praising you once it becomes really big. Don't give up because of initial judgement, or if you fail at first, you will definitely gain victory."