Inspired by dad, Kerala child prodigy ploughs own furrow with robots
Tired of seeing his mother struggle with a broom and mop every day in their house in Kochi, a little boy pestered his parents to get him some tools and instruments and made a robot to clean the floor.
That feat opened a window for Sarang Sumesh and earned him a ticket to the Silicon Valley in US in 2016 to participate in Maker Faire festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. The trip was sponsored by a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.
Nine-year-old Sarang is obsessed with robots. When children of his age are busy with games and toys,
Sarang is running against time delivering lectures and giving demonstrations in the country and abroad. He has just returned from Ahmedabad science fest and is getting ready for his second Maker Faire appearance in San Francisco. Rated as the youngster Tedex (thinkers, doers and idea generators’ conclave) speaker of the country he also spoke at Fab 12 Conference in Shenzhen in China last year.
“My role model is my father who imbibed a scientific spirit in me. I also love our former President APJ Abdul Kalam who always used to ask youngsters to dream big,” said Sarang who once wanted to become a space scientist.
His latest innovation is a smart car seat belt that automatically detaches in case of fire and accident which he developed in 2017. The innovation was sparked by a tragedy in Thrissur when a car in which a family was travelling suddenly caught fire. The head of the family who was at the wheels helped everyone escape but could not extricate himself from the burning car as his seat belt got jammed. Sarang got to work after the tragedy to come up with the smart seat belt.
“The smart seat belt can sense when the accident is happening and act accordingly. Collision will be detected by accelerometer. It can also sense fire or water and release the belt quickly,” he said. In case of a collision, the belt will not release immediately but will depend on the vibration of the vehicle ensuring safety of passengers.
How did the boy develop scientific temperament at a tender age? “At the age of three he developed inclination for electronic goods. He used to dismantle electronic devices at a young age and refit them quickly. We noticed his prowess when he was four,” said the mother Sreejaya, a former school teacher, adding he got his first lesson from his father VS Sumesh, an electronics engineer, currently working in the US.
Sarang and his mother returned to Kochi from the US when the boy was three years old to live with his old paternal grandparents.
“I love experimenting with new devices. I feel innovations should help ease lives of human beings,” said the fourth standard student of the Choice International School. Though he loves science he says maths is his favourite subject. Although his scientific jaunts often clash with his studies, his school co-operates fully to bloom his talent.
His list of achievements is long. Besides smart seat belt and the cleaning robot, he has also developed a gas censor to check out unused wells, a special walking stick for the visually impaired, robotic tricycle, special digital clock and Lego calculator. Now he is planning to make a bigger and stronger Arduino-based (open source electronic prototyping enabling users to create interactive electronic objects) robot that can be fitted with vacuum cleaners to make them more effective.
“I want my country neat and clean. It is the turn of our country to show we are not lagging behind in any sphere,” the youngster said with a chuckle.
His inventions and innovations have got him a clutch of recognitions and honours. Last year Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had honoured him with Young Achiever (Yuva Prathibha) award.
“The youngest robot maker, he is an inspiration for engineering students also. We are planning to enroll him in the next Fab Lab (Fab Lab is a small time workshop offering high-end digital fabrication) course which normally engineering grads and post-graduates do,” said Kerala Startup Mission CEO Saji Gopinath. The state will do everything to keep up his scientific tempo, he added.
Sarang’s parents have not filed for any patent for his inventions. His mother said there are no plans for any commercial production yet.