VIT students design gadget to tackle blackouts

VELLORE: Blackouts at night are not uncommon at many villages in the northern states of our country. Meet young social entrepreneurs Shailesh Upadhyay and Ujala Shankar to know what they did t
Threesome awesome: Sandhya Pentareddy, the project mentor, and VIT student Ujala Shankar.
Threesome awesome: Sandhya Pentareddy, the project mentor, and VIT student Ujala Shankar.

VELLORE: Blackouts at night are not uncommon at many villages in the northern states of our country. Meet young social entrepreneurs Shailesh Upadhyay and Ujala Shankar to know what they did to address the problem at their villages in Uttar Pradesh.

As students of engineering at VIT University here, they have come up with a cost-effective and innovative idea to light up homes during such inevitable blackouts.

They have also received the Asoka GenV award with a grant of US $ 1,000 for popularising their ‘Tractor-Factor’ project as a social venture.

Shaliesh recalls: “I had a tough time as a student due to power crisis at my village during night hours. Being asthmatic, inhaling fumes let out by kerosene lamps worsened my health and I had to drop out from school for a few years before joining college. As I come from a farming family, I wanted to utilise the tractor battery to light up during night hours.”

Shaliesh went on to devise ‘Eco-Switch’ (which costs around Rs 135) that derives power from the tractor battery to light up 9-12 w Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL). The advantages are that the battery gets recharged during day when it runs in the field and only one-twelfth of its power is consumed for lighting up to four hours at night.

Teaming with his senior Ujala, he tested his model in 17 households at Guerera village near Varanasi and found that it was of immense benefit to the families.

Ujala said that a rough calculation showed that the families could save around Rs 50,000 per year on the expenditure on lighting.  The added advantage, she said, was that there was a saving of Rs 22,800 for the government in terms of subsidy costs on kerosene. The team also found out that tractor batteries utilised during night hours in fact had improved their life by at least three months.

Sandhya Pentareddy, an alumnus of VIT and a mentor of this project, noted that the idea would be extended to four more villages this year, while other options like using LED instead of CFL were being explored.

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