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Ironing Out Charcoal

Scientist. Innovator. Environmentalist. Public Speaker. Yes, we have yet another champion who has been an inspiring icon to all the budding innovators.

Vinisha Umashankar, an intellectual girl from Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, has innovative ideas that can change the world for the better.

Her story goes like this: One day, while returning from school, she noticed several ironing carts that burn charcoal to produce heat. Unfortunately, nobody opposed this issue which could cause multiple problems such as pollution and disease. The young student noticed the used charcoal being dried on the open street before being dumped into the garbage. The trash in Tiruvannamalai, inclusive of most of the used charcoal, usually ends up in a landfill located in the middle of the town.

“It smells atrocious,” she says. Seeing this major issue, Vinisha questioned herself as to why no one has figured out the solution to this problem which was prevalent in numerous places. It was the spark that led her to invent the “Solar Ironing Cart”.

This solar ironing cart eliminates the use of charcoal predominantly. She feels that charcoal, which is being extracted from trees, is the core cause of deforestation which is, however, overlooked by the people.

After much research, she concluded that the solar energy would efficiently replace charcoal use. Understanding and using solar energy is also easy, and all the time and money that ironing vendors spend on charcoal can be used to iron clothes instead.

Once her design was complete, she won multiple awards and received fund to build her design. Now, there is a prototype of the solar ironing cart in Gujarat, but she wants to improve her innovation. She gave her ironing cart to a few ironing vendors and asked for their feedback, improving the performance of her innovation.

The solar ironing cart is only one of her inventions. She is also the creator of the ‘Smart ceiling fan’. Almost every single house has a ceiling fan, but we may often forget to turn them off. This, apart from the wastage of energy, also causes a surge in electricity bills. Her smart fan has two sensors. One detects the movements in the room, the other detects if it is from a human or pet animal. The wings of the fan are aerodynamic which ensures that the air is widespread to every nook and corner of the room. For this invention, she won the PPTIA award. “I completely cherished the moment and I got to speak to various personalities!” she exclaimed.

During this COVID pandemic, she invented a ‘Tapless Hand Wash’. When we wash our hands, we touch the tap. To prevent it, she invented the tapless hand wash basin. It also saves water and can be operated using solar power too.

When I asked about her other awards, she proudly proclaimed that she received the Earth Day Network Rising Star 2021 (USA), Children’s Climate Prize 2020 (Sweden), “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” Champion 2020 (India), Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award 2019 (India) and Dr. Pradeep P. Thevannoor Innovation Award 2019 (India). The IGNITE award is the highest national innovation award in India for school students. It was given to her by the late president of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. She said that the IGNITE award has a special place in her life since it was awarded in the name of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Her sight was wide enough to notice problems all over society, instead of her own ones. While students her age have time only to spend on studies and entertainment, Vinisha could study, play, read books, listen music, dance and innovate as well.

Like all our child achievers, she also feels that age is just a number even to invent something and solve a problem. If one understands the problem fully, has a solution in mind, but feels too inferior because of age, there is no bigger shame. But the child achievers whom I have interviewed are beyond that. Vinisha is an excellent example that even living in a small rural town one can gain national and international fame with hard work, dedication and mind full of dreams.

Interviewed by: Hasini Lakshminarayanan

Writer: Abhinav Arun

Editor: Akshath Jaganmohan

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