Aneesha Nayak (14), Science Award Winner at Houston is a Great Surfer Too!
Puttur: Most of us may have seen from our childhood days as to what happens when water drops fall on lotus or Colocasia esculenta – locally known as ‘kesu’ – leaves. The surface of these leaves show kind of a self-cleaning property and hence do not get wet, which property is attributed to their high water-repellent nature or ‘hydrophobicity’.
Dirt particles are picked up by water droplets due to the micro- and nanoscopic architecture on the surface, which minimizes the droplet’s adhesion to that surface. It is also called the ‘Lotus Effect’.
Most of us were either just intrigued or amused by it in passing and kept walking away. But this thought motivated 14-year-old Aneesha Nayak from Puttur for a quite a long time. She went about thinking why not the phenomenon be put to some use, since, during rains, most of our walls absorb water and breed fungus or mildew because of moisture.
Aneesha Nayak, a student of Sudana Residential School in Class X in the scholastic year 2016-17, hit upon the idea of taking up a project on this subject. For over ten months, she did a research into the effective use of the extract of Colocasia leaves by spraying it as a protective coating on the walls.
For tests, she took assistance from the laboratories of the Yenepoya and Nitte universities, NIT-K and MIT, Manipal. She underwent training in Mumbai as well. Her hard work won the second grand gold award in the Indian Science and Engineering event held in Rajkot.
Aspiring for higher laurels, she, under the guidance of her teacher Sadhana Hebbar, prepared the project called ‘Hydrophobicity of Colocasia esculenta Leaves as a Wall Protector’ and presented it at the Olympiad hosted by the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environment Project (I-SWEEEP), which was held in Houston, Texas in the USA, on April 27 to May 1, 2016.
(I-SWEEEP is an international science fair competition open to high school students. It is organised by Harmony Public Schools, a K-12 Public Charter School System with the support of the leaders in the industry and higher education institutions.)
In all, 585 projects were presented by students from 62 countries. Aneesha was the only student to have taken part from the southern states of India. Aneesha won a bronze medal as a third prize at the global level. Her guide and mentor Sadhana Hebbar too had accompanied her.
In the process of striving for excellence, Aneesha also did a noble deed. On account of a delay in obtaining visas, the Rajkot team could not make it to the US. She carried their banner and material and set up their stall in Houston projecting it as Team India.
She did everything possible and ensured the presentation of the project of the Rajkot girls. Because of Aneesha’s gesture, the Rajkot girls got an honourable mention in absentia.
Three projects from India were selected. Vaishali Tikku from Delhi won gold for her project in the Engineering category. The other two were of Aneesha’s bronze in the Environment – Management and Pollution category and of the Rajkot girls’ honourable mention award in the same category.
On Tuesday, May 4, the teacher and the disciple had just flown back from the US. In spite of the jet lag and the fatigue of a strenuous schedule, they readily spoke to this writer with enthusiasm.
Aneesha feels that even in the modern times, young girls do not get the opportunity to pursue what they liked. But her mother stood like a solid rock behind her in all her endeavours. Aneesha says that other mothers should get inspired from her.
Speaking exclusively to this writer, her mother Shaila Bhakta said, “Children grow beautifully and exercise their full potential when allowed the freedom of thought. As parents, we must try not to suppress their curiosity. It is our responsibility to encourage them to explore their interests.”
She added that she was ecstatic about her daughter’s achievement. There was a sparkle in her eyes when she said that her daughter had portrayed the qualities of a true patriot by helping the Rajkot girls present their project, which enabled them to win an honourable mention award for the same.
Headmistress Shobha Nagaraj
Her teachers plainly marvel at Aneesha’s brilliance. Shobha Nagaraj, the headmistress of Sudana Residential School in Puttur, says Aneesha is untiring, energetic, studious and meritorious. She has also excelled in sports and surfing.
Sadhana Hebbar and Aneesha in Houston
Sadhana Hebbar, who accompanied her to the US, too is all praise for the tireless ‘sadhana’, initiative and achievements of her favourite student. She said that while a few students of the institution have made their mark at higher levels, Aneesha’s achievements would inspire others also.
Rev Vijay Harvin
School correspondent Rev Vijay Harvin felt that it had brought the school a great honour. Aneesha being a multi-talented girl would always be a role model for other students. The school was getting recognized because of the students’ efforts, the parents’ back-up and the painstaking efforts of the teaching staff, he added.
Narayan Iyer of the Science Society of India shared his thoughts thus:
“We had a situation where the two girls from Rajkot did not get US Visa for participation to I-SWEEEP.
We had requested I-SWEEEP organizers if the students are allowed to show the project online. But we did not hear anything from them and kept trying to reach over the phone also, but it did not work.
The students from Rajkot really tried hard to get the US Visa on an emergency basis on the last day but they were not successful.
So – a decision was taken to cancel the US air tickets for students as well as guides from Rajkot project. A few hours before departure, the organizers from I-SWEEEP sent an email allowing us to present the project online via Skype. But it was our responsibility to set it all up at the venue. It was too late to send an additional person.
Luckily the team from Puttur – Sadhana Hebbar madam and student Aneesha Nayak – readily agreed to take the project material and display of the Rajkot students, thereby helping Team India.
Once they reached there, the Puttur team helped in setting up the display of Rajkot project and were in constant touch with us.
On the day of judging, there was an uncertainty of how this whole thing would work and we wondered if we would be able to present the project. Who will do the setting up of Skype and connecting to the Rajkot team when a judge visited their stall. The Rajkot team arranged a laptop from the local contact but Skype did not work on that. We had the option to use Sadhana madam’s mobile which she readily agreed.
During the judging time, guides are not allowed and it was not clear how this whole thing would work.
One hero – Aneesha Nayak stood up to the occasion and managed two projects during the event. Aneesha placed a note for judges on Rajkot team’s stall to contact her stall (237). Luckily she was almost diagonally opposite to the Rajkot team’s stall so she could see what was happening on the other stall.
Whenever judges showed up, Aneesha would help judges connect to the Rajkot team in India and start the conversation. On two occasions there was some connectivity problem in which case she showed the video to the judges on the laptop that the team had prepared.
The Rajkot team had a great experience talking with judges and they told that it was as if they were in the fair itself. Aneesha also connected them with other countries students and they were very excited to talk to them.
When I told Aneesha that what she had done was really great – she replied: “It was very easy!”
Whether we win a medal in I-SWEEEP 2016 is not important a true winner has already emerged!
Thanks, Sadhana madam, and thanks, Aneesha!
As mentioned already, Aneesha has excelled in extracurricular activities like sports and public speaking. Her favourite sport is surfing. Without even taking rest after arriving in India, she began a hectic schedule of practice in preparation for a surfing event to be held in Sasihitlu beach towards the end of the month.
At 14, she is perhaps the youngest surfer in the entire country and rated one among the top three in India. She has already been graded at the international level. When she began she was one of the pioneering girls from India.