Future leaders in India addressing inequality and sustainability

2 November 2020
Ideas that could shape the world
A robot that can clean human waste, empowering women to create a team-based delivery workforce, and a portable shower pod to recycle shower water are the three ideas that were chosen as the winners of the University of Sydney's inaugural India Innovation Challenge.

Open to high school students in India enrolled in the International Baccalaureate, the initiative challenged applicants to come up with practical and innovative ideas to help meet the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

"If we are going to meet the major challenges we face in the future, poverty, gender inequity and environmental degradation, we need to involve young people in finding those solutions,” University of Sydney’s Vice Principal (External Relations) Tania Rhodes-Taylor said. 

The ideas the students submitted for this challenge were incredibly innovative and have the potential to be truly transformative. These students from India give me hope for the future.
Tania Rhodes-Taylor

Challenge winners

Shiv Kampani - The Pipe Cleaner

Shiv Kampani from Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai received the first prize of Rs 1.25 lakh (A$2,250) for his idea, ‘The Pipe Cleaner’. His invention is a robot that can be used to clean human waste from drains, pipes and sewers and help replace manual ‘scavengers’, people who clean waste, in India. Though prohibited by legislation, the role of manual scavengers persists. They are required to clean human waste with basic hand-held tools, and often without any personal protective equipment, which is extremely harmful to their health. Shiv has designed a robot to replace the most dangerous and unhygienic aspects of a manual scavenger’s role. The Pipe Cleaner robot can be created out of easily accessible and inexpensive materials and has already been tested in sewerage pipes.

Judge’s comments:

“The project highlighted the plight of the most disadvantaged members of Indian society, who perform the demeaning and hazardous task of manually cleaning pit latrines and sewers. The solution proposed is simple: a robotic sewer-pipe cleaning brush that would do the same job with hardly any human intervention. The project is a wonderful example of an engineering solution to a social problem,” Professor Teng Joon Lim from the Faculty of Engineering said.

Sehar Bajwa - Empowering women as a last mile workforce

Sehar Bajwa from Scottish High International School in Gurugram was awarded the second prize of Rs 1 lakh (A$2,000) for her idea to empower women by creating a ‘last mile’ workforce. Sehar aims to solve two problems: providing women in India with financial independence, as well as getting vital goods delivered to rural communities. Her idea is to create small teams of women who can help deliver packages to hard-to-reach communities. By engaging women in this supply and delivery chain, Sehar believes she can help make women in rural India financially secure.

Judge’s comments:

“Sehar’s superbly researched, thoughtful and innovative proposal offers a wonderfully integrated and practical solution to the problems of female rural unemployment and supply chain failures. The core of the proposal is affording rural women the opportunity to participate in team-based final stage delivery of sustainable products within their local communities, in a way that is safe, flexible and appropriately rewarded,” Professor John Shields from the Business School said.

Krisha Kalsi - Shower Cycle Pod

Krisha Kalsi from D Y Patil International School in Nerul, Mumbai was awarded the third prize of Rs 75 thousand (A$1,500) for her project to create a shower cycle pod to conserve water. The pod, a portable showering system, aims to recycle shower water by using filtration and purification systems to enable users to have multiple showers from a small supply of water, helping with sanitation and water conservation.

Judge's comments:

“Krisha addressed a vital issue of water conservation. Her project is an excellent example of the application of engineering and health science. Once implemented at a large scale, ‘ShowerCycle Pod’ is likely to provide solutions to this important issue faced by rural communities in water deficit environments,” Professor Harbans Bariana from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences said.

Sitou Sally

Higher degree research student

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