Mumbai schoolgirls bag bronze at global engineering contest

May 16, 2015, 07:08 IST | Delaveen Cherag Tarapore

Sakshi Pandey and Kajol Shelke, both Standard IX students of North Mumbai Welfare Society High School, Ghatkopar, have won the bronze medal in the Engineering category for their ‘agro-dehydrator’ project, at the International Sustainable World Project Olympiad (Energy, Engineering & Envi-ronment), or I-SWEEEP, held on May 9 at Houston, Texas.

CLEAN SWEEP: Proud bronze medal winners of I-SWEEEP, Sakshi Pandey (L) and Kajol Shelke, at the North Mumbai Welfare Society High School, Ghatkopar. PIC/sayed SAMEER ABEDI
Clean sweep: Proud bronze medal winners of I-SWEEEP, Sakshi Pandey (L) and Kajol Shelke, at the North Mumbai Welfare Society High School, Ghatkopar. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

How it all began
The idea of preparing an agro-dehydrator struck Pandey and Shelke when the two were at a chikoo farm in Dahanu to understand how dehydration processes take place. They noticed that the fumes released were high in nutritive value and they were simply being wasted.

“I once had read in the newspaper that fruits and vegetables worth R13 crore are wasted every year in India as they grow stale easily. At the farm, we saw a machine called a dehydrator and noticed fumes being released. We wrapped a plastic bag around the nozzle as it was the only thing available and gradually droplets started to collect in the bag. That’s how the whole idea started,” said Shelke.

Subsequently, the hypothesis of their project was accepted and the duo won the Second Grand Gold award from around 75 participations at the Indian National Science and Engineering fair (INSEF) at the Agni College of Technology in Chennai on January 10.

On January 21, mid-day had reported on the achievements of the duo (‘Juicy innovation helps Mumbai teens bag top award at science fair’).

The first three grand gold award winners qualified for the I-SWEEEP competition.

Hard Work
Shelke and Pandey, along with the support of their science teacher Rajeswari Nair, worked on their project and kept improvising on it for efficiency. “Initially the plastic containers and metallic tubes that we were using were not giving the desirable efficiency. Hence after many trial and errors we settled for an aluminium container and nickel-plated brass pipes,” said Pandey.

The two girls were trained under experts from Science Society of India, Bengaluru, along with experts from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Chembur. “The cost of the trip was R75,000 each, which was looked after by the Science Society of India, whereas the cost of my trip was taken care of by the school,” said Nair.

Global Stage
The competition was held at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston. “For the five days that we were there, we learnt things that we never imagined. We got a chance of meeting people from NASA and many well-known personalities,” said Pandey.

In all there were 427 project participations from around the world. Each project was to be judged by a minimum of seven judges.

“We enjoyed so much with our competitors from Italy, New York, Ireland and Brazil. It was a new chapter in our life altogether,” said a beaming Pandey.

“We want to apply our project to the practical world. We are ready to share our idea with any dehydration company as well as farming people and are ready to help in any way. With our techniques I am sure their output will increase as well as their income,” added a confident Shelke.

About the project
The agro-dehydrator is a modified microwave oven that is used to extract the water content in fruits and vegetables so as to increase their shelf life. A tube helps in capturing the moisture and the vapour released from these fruits and veggies, re-condensing it to form a nutritive drink.

Juicy innovation helps Mumbai teens bag top award at science fair
Kajol Shelke and Sakshi Pandey, Class IX students from a Ghatkopar school, are the inventors of Agro Dehydrator, using which they condensed vapours released during fruit dehydration into juice (Read the full story here)

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