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Kidventors offer solutions to problems posed by COVID-19 pandemic

An educational initiative by Hyderabadi girl Aashna Shroff and team taps into the creativity of students to extract out-of-the-box solutions to problems that the pandemic has posed

Published: 07th November 2020 08:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th November 2020 08:04 AM   |  A+A-

A long-distance hugging device by Lahari Yellapragada.

A long-distance hugging device by Lahari Yellapragada.

Express News Service

HYDERABAD :  What If young, creative minds with out-of-the-box thinking were given an opportunity to come up with Covid-19 related solutions? What if we could change the narrative around children and the pandemic instead of feeling victimised by the pandemic?

Trishna Tilwani

These were the thoughts that crossed the mind of Hyderabadi girl Aashna Shroff and her team comprising Varunavi Bagaria and Trishna Tilwani who created What If, an educational initiative that was started in the wake of pandemic. They were surprised that students had some out-of-the-box yet practical ideas for pandemic problems. 

N Mounika, for example, thought of a relaxing sofa for doctors, the Covid warriors. They deserve a sofa with massage buttons, music, food and charging. How about a button that you can press and a preventive layer made of plastic covers you automatically.  

That was A Adithya’s idea. Shoes that are long enough to keep the person in front of you and behind you by over a metre distance? Aashna’s favourite idea, however, is the long distance huggable device made of soft toy hands. The team went about identifying kiddovators and are displaying the best of them at an event today Nov 7 online on WhatIf Facebook page between 5 pm to 7 pm.

Creativity showcase

“A NASA study found that kids have higher “creative genius” than adults. What if kids’ creativity was the weapon we were missing all this while to fight the virus? To give children the opportunity to develop and showcase their creativity? What if children were given a canvas for their imaginations,” she says about how What If took birth.

What If started in the wake of the pandemic in August 2020, after countless interactions with parents, teachers and students during lockdown and observing that students were restless, anxious and bored during online classes. “If the goal of education is to empower students to become active social agents in their communities, then I can’t think of a better time for students to learn and practice this than a global pandemic. I wanted to enable students to let their imaginations loose while thinking critically about the problems around them”, says Aashna  on why she started What If.

As part of this project, they invited students to draw Covid-19 related inventions to solve problems around them, and challenge makers to turn them real. The project features 104 students from 32 schools. They had over 300 inventions from 30 different schools – from the wacky and fantastical to the practical. Inventions include a long-distance hugging device, a self-sanitising door handle and dresses that pop up to social distance. 

“We create free resources for teachers, parents and organisations to encourage children to think up and draw great invention ideas and  work with partners to run challenges, events and workshops. We want our kidventors to be catalysts of innovation and change. We invite designers and makers of all kinds to be inspired by our children’s ideas and turn them into reality in any shape or form. We show off children’s inventions in online galleries to inspire tomorrow’s problem-solvers to believe in their ability to invent,” says the 25-year-old who studied Computer Science and Education at Stanford University. “The idea came about to put children at the forefront of the pandemic to face their fears.

We wanted to give them a platform to beat the mood which was a mix of helplessness and uncertainty,” says the learning designer. What If, started a couple of months ago when they tapped into a  network of schools such those under Dr Reddy’s Foundation and Nachiket Foundation. The students are from Telangana State Welfare Residential Schools from Nagaram, Yacahram, Narsinghi, Chevella, Amagngal,  Chitkul, Ibrahimpatnam and a few schools from Adilabad.

“What If was amazed by the ideas the students came up with. Now the challenge was to  bring these ideas to. We ended up launching a makethon open  to designer engineer to register,” she explains. “We also tied up with T-Works,  considered India’s largest prototyping centre and located in HiTec City. We asked them if they would be interested in giving a physical format to these ideas.” Aashna  has studied Computer Science and Education at Stanford University. Her work in education spans a coding organisation for women, researching low-cost learning technology and creating learning experiences for design thinking for an ed-tech startup. 

Kidventor display creativity

SOFT N SAFE HUGS A long-distance hugging device by Lahari Yellapragada, 14, from Kallam Anjii Reddy Vidyalaya

POP UP DRESS UP

Harshiya, 11, from Nachiketa Tapovan designed ahat and dress that pops up to two meters wide to maintain social distance 

THREAD MILL

A watch that students can wear to school that beeps when someone comes within  five meters by Meghana Meda

COVID scanning spects 

Scanning spects that helps people to spot a corona-infected person from a distance. It can be 
sold as a combo set of glasses with scanning spects, an idea by Sree Pavani from Pudami School, Nagaram

(Manju Latha Kalanidhi; kalanidhi@newindianexpress.com;  @mkalanidhi)



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