CHENNAI: Vinisha Umashankar, a 14-year-old studying in 9th grade at a private school in Tiruvannamalai, has won the prestigious Children's Climate Prize for designing a mobile ironing cart using solar panels to power a steam iron box rather than conventional charcoal.
Vinisha will receive the prize of 100,000 Swedish krona (Rs 8.64 lakh approximately), diploma, and medal from the Sweden-based Children's Climate Foundation on Wednesday at a digital event attended by Isabella Lövin, Swedish Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister. This is the fifth edition of the Children's Climate Prize -- one of the world's largest international climate awards for young innovators.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Vinisha said: "The street where I live has an ironing cart and the man uses charcoal to heat the heavy cast-iron box for ironing. His wife also irons clothes. She has ironed my clothes several times. After ironing, the burnt charcoal is spread on the ground to cool and later thrown away along with garbage. In my neighbourhood, there are six more ironing carts, which also use charcoal and throw the burnt charcoal away along with garbage. It really made me think about the number of ironing carts in India, the amount of charcoal burnt and the damage it does to the environment and Mother Nature. So, I researched for a viable solution and found that using solar power can effectively substitute the use of charcoal to heat an iron box. Making use of renewable energy is the aim of innovation."
Vinisha said it's a simple design addressing the serious problem of air and water pollution. It is estimated that there may be 10 million ironing carts in India and each burn about over 5 kg of charcoal every day. That's about 5 crore kg of charcoal burnt every day. Just imagine the resulting tree loss.
"So, I designed a mobile ironing cart with solar panels as its roof, which is connected to a 100 Ah battery. A 12 volt 100 Ah battery needs about 1200 watts of power to be fully charged. The solar panels will produce 250 watts of power per hour. All it takes is five hours of bright sunshine to fully charge the battery, which in turn will power the steam iron box for six hours. For additional income, the cart can be fitted with a coin-operated GSM PCO, USB charging points, and mobile recharging," Vinisha explained.
It took her about two months to come up with the design and the engineers at National Innovation Foundation (NIF) in Gujarat built the prototype and applied for a patent, which hopefully should be granted by this year-end. Vinisha had won the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award 2019 for innovation. Now, she has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister of India’s Rashtriya Bal Shakti Puraskar 2021, the highest civilian award in India for students under the age of 18.
The solar ironing cart was not Vinisha's first innovation. She had developed a Smart Ceiling Fan, which operates by itself using motion sensors, and bagged the Dr Pradeep P Thevannoor Innovation Award 2019 in the Best Woman Innovator category.
Vinisha said her interest in science and technology grew from the age of five, when her dad gifted a science encyclopedia and today she has a collection of over 400 books. "My reading habit helped to give shape to my innovative ideas. Currently, I am working on a few 'touchless' products to limit the spread of diseases like COVID-19. I wish to use my prize money to further develop my products."