Trivandrum's Thomas Edison
Imagine converting an auto rickshaw into a mobile classroom. It is a travelling office. Computers, teaching software, hi-speed internet access, self sustained power and eco friendly environment. Plus it is designed to help educate blind children. That is the latest work of Shyam Kumar, a one of a kind inventor who has been working for over four years at the International Institute of Social Entrepreneurship(IISE), Vellayani.
The auto rickshaw is Shyam’s latest project. The credit is also shared by 85-year-old Krishnaswami, a retired IPS officer from Tamil Nadu. Shyams says: “It was his idea to build this vehicle. Many blind people cannot go to school in remote areas. So education is denied to them. So he thought, ‘If the children can’t go to school, let us take the school to the children’. It was his dream. But that had many problems. Needing makeshift power and an office etc. I took up the challenge and started working on the Mobile Blind School Project.”
The vehicle has 150 watt solar panels on top and provides 230 volt AC power. The two seats can double as a bed and has storage space for the Universal Blind Kit that can be used to teach Braille. The kit will be distributed during the classes. The vehicle also comes with an ink jet printer for the office, and one netbook with net access. Shyam has also included a special Braille typewriter imported from Slovakia.
Another addition is the mini projector. It is a hand sized device which can project images into an 80-inch screen, which may just be a piece of cloth. The built-in batteries provide 2 hours backup and has an 8GB built in memory. Most disability support software has been installed in the computer. It can teach science, math, astronomy and even helps conduct interactive sessions for communicative English teaching. There is even a voice activated system of controlling the computer. And the NVDA software that helps the blind by reading out the screen, emails and explain pictures.
“With this vehicle we can travel to a forest area and take classes for two-three days without other resources,” says Shyam. The vehicle has been flagged off on Oct.13, 2010.
The rickshaw is just the latest of Shyam’s projects. His list of inventions are many and numerous. One is what he calls an Anti-Ant Channel. The IISE has a large population of blind people. “The blind have a problem with ants. They are specially vulnerable to ant attacks as they cannot stay away from them,” says Shyam. And he worked out a solution to the problem. The project lays out half open channels all around the buildings. The channels have water flowing in them and this prevents the ants from getting into the building. The water keeps flowing, and avoids stagnation.
Further, he also joined an exercise cycle with a water-pump, and the result is a stationary exercise cycle, that can pump 1000 liters of water an hour, effortlessly. “This is a demo project. I think it will help small farmers in rural areas. It is the ideal way to save electricity in farms,” says Shyam.
The windy IISE campus is also testing ground for the windmills that Shyam made. He had earlier done a solar power project for Thanal, city-based NGO working towards zero-waste management. The computers at the office now completely run on solar power. Once his windmills are transferred there, the office will be completely running on a solar-wind hybrid and can be taken off the power grid.
Most of his works concentrate on ‘Going Green’. A mentionable invention is his solar boat. The twin-hull design is made keeping in mind the stability of the boat for blind people. The batteries charge up from the solar cells and the electric motor runs the boats. There is zero noise, zero fuel consumption, and zero pollution. In fact, when you are aboard the solar boat, you can hear the sound of silence.
The boat now charges with a 40 watt solar panel. With a 300 watt panel attached to a roof, the boat can run continuously till the sun sets. “If our tourism sector shifts to this technology, major pollution problems like in the Kuttanad Lake, can be solved. The water there is almost black in colour from oil spills. This could change it dramatically,” says Shyam.
Shyam is willing to lend his ideas and technology to anyone who wants to take it up. None of his works is patented or copyrighted. He says: “There is nothing called copyright. There is always the right to copy. There is no point in inventing unless you can allow people to make use of it, and do some good.”
Shyam’s next project will shift the entire IISE campus to renewable energy and take it off the power grid. He is also working on many other projects that if taken up in a large scale can create revolutions in the state, the details of which will be released later. While our state laments at the time of Science Congresses that the scientists in the state are not contributing to development, here is one person creating little miracles in a corner of Trivandrum.
- Syam Nath S