The transformers: Meet youngsters with quirky solutions to everyday problems

Innovations at this year’s Maker Mela contest include a motion controller for gamers, an air tester and eco­-friendly sanitary pads.

education Updated: Jan 01, 2018 15:41 IST
Prakruti Maniar
Prakruti Maniar
Hindustan Times
Samrat, one of the four team members who worked on Cilika, a portable microscope that lets you take high-res images with an attached smart device.

What if you could listen to music without straining your neck on a train journey? Or use sanitary napkins without worrying about rashes and plastic pollution?

Solutions to these, and quite a few other problems, made up this year’s entries to the Maker Mela, an innovation competition organised by Somaiya Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory (RIIDL), the incubation cell of Somaiya Vidyavihar group of institutions.

“Youngsters, by nature, are very innovative,” says Gaurang Shetty, CEO and chief innovation catalyst at RIIDL. “Giving them the chance to ask questions and look at things differently is the first step to encouraging innovation.”

Take a look at some of the projects for the third edition of the contest, and how they came to be.

Biodegradable sanitary pads

Econaps is a sanitary napkin that is both biodegradable and soft on the skin. The trick is in the material: kenaf, or Deccan hemp, explains Gowtham S, who graduated in fashion technology from Kumaraguru College of Technology (KCT), Coimbatore, earlier this year.

Gowtham S, Niveda R (above) and Ramakrishnan G created eco-friendly sanitary napkins.

For a year, the team of classmates Gowtham S, Niveda R, Ramakrishnan G and Gowtham S had been exploring the uses of kenaf in fabrics, as part of discussions around their coursework.

“That is when we met a woman entrepreneur trying to make biodegradable sanitary napkins,” says Gowtham. Typically, sanitary pads use SAPs, or super absorbent polymers, which are harmful to the environment because they involve the use of plastic, and can cause allergies or irritation.

“We wanted to create napkins using kenaf because of the plant’s antimicrobial properties and good absorbency,” says Gowtham.

Econaps is made of biodegradable nonwoven fabric. The product is now in its testing stage.

A portable digital microscope

Aerosense, an air assessment device to measure factors such as temperature and humidity.

Cilika is a microscope you can connect to a smartphone or tablet PC. Its optical system can provide magnifications of up to 1500X and allows the decide attached to take a high-resolution image.

“Most existing portable microscopes either don’t provide quality zoom of more than 1000x, or their digital images are not up to the mark,” says Samrat, 28 (who goes by only one name), who is currently pursuing a Masters in biomedical engineering at IIT-Bombay. “With this microscope, the quality of the image depends on the quality of the digital device you are using.”

He and a team of three others created Cilika as part of their research at Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT-Bombay’s incubation centre. Cilika has important applications in healthcare and telemedicine, Samrat says. “It can be used for remote analysis of diseases and infections and as a teaching tool in medical colleges.”

An all-in-one air tester

Aerosense lets you assess the air around you, for factors that include temperature, humidity, and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels.

Suvarna Sawant, 25, an electronics and telecommunications engineer, was pursuing a course at Vigyan Ashram, a design and innovation centre in Pune, when she realised that laboratory equipment to measure air parameters was too complicated to use without guidance. It also didn’t make sense that a separate device was required to read each parameter.

This led to Aerosense (what are its applications; who is it meant for; what would it cost; how does it work). “All you have to do is plug it into an electric outlet, and it will give you the data,” she says.

A virtual you

Pranit Pawar, creator of the Arm-11 motion controller.

With 11 functions that include jumping and walking, Arm-11 is a wireless motion controller that can be used to track your movements as you play games on your computer.

The creator of the device, 20-year-old Pranit Pawar from Thane, is currently in his third year of electronics engineering at the Fr Conceicao Rodrigues college in Bandra. He is an avid fan of first-person-shooter games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield.

“Even in the world of 3D games and virtual reality, we are still using arrow keys for inputs. It doesn’t feel realistic, clicking buttons to fire. I wanted to come up with a way to make gaming more immersive,” says Pawar. “While there are motion controllers on the market, prices range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 8,000. Arm-11 would be priced under Rs 2,000.”

First Published: Jan 01, 2018 15:41 IST