CHENNAI: The one superhero we cannot live without is “iron man”. Washed clothes often lie in heaps in corners of homes, waiting for this superhero to show up with his iron box and work his magic. But, how eco-friendly is it to iron our clothes? What happens to the charcoal that these ironing shops use? Where do they end up? Grown-ups may forget to ask these essential questions, but not children.
A 14-year-old girl in Tiruvannamalai pondered over the complexity of this problem, and also came up with a cool solution. “When we look at the number of ironing carts across each and every street of our country, the quantity of coal being burnt up is not small. All of this adds up to our climate problem,” says Vinisha Umashankar, who is now studying in Class 9 in a private school.
After an in-depth research, Vinisha came up with a solution to this problem – solar ironing carts. All that is required to run these carts is 5 hours of bright sunshine! Vinisha’s novel idea has won her this year’s prestigious Children’s Climate Prize awarded by the Swedish organisation Children’s Climate Foundation, which carries a prize money of Rs 8.64 lakh.
This young innovator is now working on ‘touchless’ products
It is estimated that there may be around 10 million ironing carts in India and each burn about 5 kg of charcoal everyday — that’s about 5 crore kg of charcoal burnt every day. Vinisha’s innovation, if adopted, can reduce use of fossil fuels by a substantial amount.
Vinisha’s design for a mobile ironing cart has solar panels fixed as its roof, that is connected to a 100Ah battery. A battery needs about 1,200 watts of power to be fully charged and the panels produce 250 watts per hour. All it takes is 5 hours of bright sunshine to fully charge the battery, which will power the steam iron box for six hours. “For additional income, the cart can be fitted with a coin operated PCO, or USB charging points,” says Vinisha.
It took her about two months to come up with the design. The engineers at the National Innovation Foundation in Gujarat built the prototype and applied for a patent, which hopefully should be granted by the end of this year. Vinisha had earlier won the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award 2019 and now, 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.
Vinisha had earlier developed a smart ceiling fan, that operates by itself using motion sensors. She was also awarded with the Dr Pradeep P Thevannoor Innovation Award 2019, in the Best Woman Innovator category. Vinisha was 5 when her dad gifted the first science encyclopedia, and today she has a collection of over 400 books. “I am working on a few “touchless” products to limit spread of diseases like Covid-19.
wish to use prize money to further develop my products.” Vinisha will receive the prize -- SEK 100,000, a diploma and a medal -- from the Sweden-based Children’s Climate Foundation on Wednesday, at a digital event attended by Isabella Lövin, Deputy PM and the Minister for Environment and Climate of Sweden. This is the fifth edition of the awards, which is one of the world’s largest international climate recognition given to young innovators.