Teen innovator's model can clear plastics from water bodies. wants to clean ganga.

varun saikia

Have you heard of the news that shook the world in 2018 about a pilot whale that died after consuming 80 plastic bags? Relentless rescue operations couldn't save the whale and the world that eagerly waited for the good news of its rescue, had to turn dejected. It woke up environmentalists in people, ignited 'ban plastics' movements, drove rallies on to the roads, and what not! But after the fire that burnt for over a week, there was silence and the 'normal' restored. That 'normal' included plastic. But one boy, then 12-year-old, couldn't digest all this. He was deeply moved by this incident like the rest of the world but didn't sit idle. He set to do something about it and the result of it proved to be a successful working model that can remove waste, especially plastics from the water bodies. His model was also recommended by the CBSE Chairman Anita Karwal who said that it should be suggested to the government. Let's get into the details of the model created by this young lad, 15-year-old Varun Saikia

An Innovator since Childhood: 

Varun Saikia is a 15-year-old young lad from Vadodara, Gujarat. He goes to Navrachana School, Sama in Vadodara. Ever since his childhood, the world of gadgets attracted him and he has always been developing small gadgets ever since he was 8 years old, using the basic items available at home. When he heard about the heart-wrenching incident of the pilot whale's death, he was twelve years old. Unlike others who lamented the loss for a couple of days and ignored it later, the young lad decided to do something about it. He went on to read about plastic usage across the world and how it is affecting the environment especially marine life. He understood that innocent marine life is choking on the plastic waste being dumped in waters leading to their death. He started reading more about water pollution and the way it affects marine life. "The more I read, a sense of grief intensified inside me. I decided to find a solution to the ever-growing plastic menace around the globe,” said Varun. In order to protect marine life, he devised a plan. Instead of going ahead and devising some random device that cleans the litters, he thought of it as a step-by-step process. The process should start from the source level where waste is generated. 

"Firstly, people need to understand the importance of waste segregation as keeping the dry waste separately is the first step to prevent plastic pollution,” he says. He opines that this may take months or even years in a country like India where people have just begun to understand the concept of waste management. Secondly, one needs to focus on clearing plastic out of small water bodies because these water bodies eventually merge into large rivers and oceans. When plastic is cleared from these small bodies, they don't carry forward the litter into larger rivers or oceans. This is exactly where Varun wanted to step in and device a machine that can remove all kinds of harmful contaminants from water. He thus ventured into designing a cost-effective machine that can remove litter, especially plastic items from different water bodies.

Initial Prototype: 

To make a device that collects all the floating plastic waste on water, Varun tried various models. After several attempts, he came up with the one that actually worked. Using household items like spoons, bottles, buckets, and cardboard paper, along with a battery, he designed "Makara". This miniature version was developed by attaching two plastic bottles using spoons and adding cardboard at the end of the bottles. With the help of state corporation officials, he tested the model at a local baby pool. Eureka! It worked. Modifying to suit a higher level, he then went to a local fabricator, spent Rs. 11,000 and got the final model fabricated. The modified model then collected around 33 kgs of plastic waste after 11 test-runs. His final successful attempt brought him a grant of Rs 1,86,000 from the Vadodara Municipal Corporation to make the practical machine. 

The Bigger 'Makara': 

With the grant received from the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, Varun went on to design a bigger model -a fully automated one with multiple features. Measuring 20 feet in length, it has a GPS navigation system installed in it using which the route of the device can be pre-programmed. It also comes with an ultrasonic sensor that prevents fishes from getting trapped in the device. It also works on a technology that tells how much amount of garbage was collected from which spot. He named the new model "Flipper". He says that the final working model that's still under construction would approximately cost 3-4 lacs. "The final machine can collect at least 150kgs of waste at one time,” he mentioned. 

Appreciations and Accolades: 

Makara receives wide acclaim. When Varun presented his Makara at the CBSE National Science Exhibition held at Gurgaon where hundreds of schools from across the country had participated, he won the contest in the cleanliness category. The CBSE Chairman Anita Karwal also said that it should be suggested to the government. "The small prototype I kept on display in the exhibition was also equipped with Bluetooth", he said. After winning at the regional level, he exhibited the same prototype at the national level. "I am hopeful that the government will consider my project and implement it on a bigger scale." Varun's innovation turned out to be so practical in the real scenario that the American Meteorological Society, Massachusetts honoured him with the Outstanding Achievement award in the Initiative for Research and Innovation in STEM (IRIS) National Fair 2021. 

In The Days To Come: 

Varun aims to develop the working model that gets to be deployed on a larger scale. He wants his model to be used to clean the river Ganga. 

What a great thought! What a great deal of hard work and dedication! He didn't just dream but worked, in reality, to make it true! We wish Varun's model gets into action very soon and may his future years be filled with more fruitful thoughts that provide solutions to potential problems. 

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