A robot that can potentially solve the plastic pollution problem in the Pacific Ocean within a year is being developed by a 16-year-old student from India.
Varun Saikia, a high schooler from Gujarat, India, first heard about the whale that choked to death in Thailand after consuming plastic that had been dumped in the water when he was just 11 years old.
Saikia claimed that he had read the piece, which greatly disturbed him. This, in turn, prompted him to look into and investigate the issue, which opened up an entirely new world for him. He was unaware that he was dealing with this issue at the time.
Saikia then began his global pollution research, paying particular attention to his hometown. According to a study conducted by National Geographic, the Ganges River, the largest river in India, discharges about 3 billion particles of microplastics into the Indian Ocean each day. Saikia also discovered that ocean currents cause garbage patches, which are collections of marine debris, to form throughout the Pacific Ocean.
Sakia describes how he turned around and noticed plastic all around him. He, therefore, constructed a prototype using plastic bottles and boxes, which he later tested in a small pool. He then improved the design until he had a 5-foot-long machine that could gather roughly 2.5-3 kg of waste plastic.
From Crocodile to Flipper
Because the prototype resembled a real crocodile in terms of its “mouth” and “tail,” he gave it the Sanskrit name Makara, which means “crocodile.” Years of refining Makara led to Saikia’s most recent design, Flipper, which can run independently or connect to a ship. Depending on how it is used, he believes it can hold between about 1,000 pounds and a few hundred tons of plastic waste.
100 Flippers to Clean the Pacific
Although the design is currently in the prototyping stage, according to Saikia’s website, 100 ships fitted with Flipper technology can start cleaning up the Pacific garbage patches within just a year. Saikia added that the new design will accomplish more than just removing the trash.
Currently, Saikia is working to develop Flipper so that it can simultaneously collect data in addition to collecting plastic waste. He also said that future collections will be made more productive by logging and analyzing the kind of plastic debris the robot collects and the area where it was collected. It will be equipped with ultrasonic emitters that cause animals to avoid the area to prevent fish and marine mammals from getting tangled in the net.
Saikia said that although he initially paid for his prototypes out of his pocket, he has since garnered government grants from Gujarat, a state on the western Indian coast, and has grown his one-man operation to include a few engineers. The creative student claimed that after graduating from high school, he hopes to enroll in a prestigious program in the US to launch his project on a global scale.
Saikia said that he has a few schools in mind, but MIT is without a doubt his ideal institution. He intends to apply to MIT first, then Stanford. The environmental engineering program at the University of Texas at Austin is outstanding. He is eager to apply to these universities as a result, AccuWeather reports.
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