‘Not Change But Make Earth More Livable’-17-yr-old Scientist Swastik Padma at SAC ‘Savayana’ Launch

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‘Not Change But Make Earth More Livable’-17-yr-old Scientist Swastik Padma at SAC ‘Savayana’ Launch

‘Not Change But Make Earth More Livable’-17-yr-old Budding Scientist Swastik Padma of Puttur at ‘Savayana 2019’- To Promote Organic Lifestyle Launch at St Aloysius College, Mangaluru

Mangaluru : To make the lifestyle of the students more in a organic way, St Aloysius College (Autonomous) has chosen “SAVAYAVA – 2019” meaning “To Promote Organic Lifestyle”, as the theme and focus of all the activities and events in the campus during this academic year. This theme is envisaged as a movement towards promoting organic lifestyle among the staff, students and the general public. All the activities of the institution will be inspired and designed keeping this motto as the focus and the campus culture will demonstrate a movement towards spreading awareness regarding the advantages of adopting an organic life and culture.

The launching of ‘SAVAYAVA-2019’ To Promote Organic Lifestyle was held at LCRS Hall of St Aloysius College, Mangaluru on Monday, 8 July 2019 at 4 pm, where a young 17-year-old budding scientist Swasthik Padma from Vivekananda College-Puttur was the chief guest, joined by other dignitaries on the dais namely- Fr Dionysius Vaz SJ- Rector of St Aloysius Institutions; Fr Praveen Martis SJ-Principal of St Aloysius College and Dr John D’silva- Director of Xavier Block-SAC.

The programme began with invoking God’s blessing through a song “I’ll Be Trusting You” sung by the college choir, followed by welcome address by Lloyd Sequeira- Student council President. The launching of ‘Savayana 2019’ was done in a symbolic way by chief guest Swasthik Padma along with other dignitaries on the dais. Addressing a large audience comprising of students and staff, Swasthik said that he built a Green Material from Plastic which is 24x Stronger, 12x Cheaper, 8x Lighter; and he showed that material to the audience-for which he had received a award for developing an eco-friendly and low-cost material from LDPE waste plastics and blast furnace slag.

Swasthik further said, “All these years I have been inclined to science and innovation. I consider myself as an ‘innovator by heart and an entrepreneur by mind. During my childhood days, my parents or relatives gifted me toys, but I did not find as much joy in playing with them. Instead, my curiosity lay in breaking them open, looking at how nuts, bolts and metallic elements worked in perfect synchronization, modify them and try to fix them back together. I received an award for developing an eco-friendly and low-cost material from LDPE waste plastics and blast furnace slag, for creating a material that is 24 times stronger, 12 times cheaper and eight times lighter than concrete”

“While my initial idea was to convert recyclable plastic waste into pavement blocks, an accidental experiment completely changed the course of this quest. I remember heating a metal sheet and adding a PET plastic bottle on it, watching it melt. At another time, what if I tried the process with plastic bags?” This referred to plastic bags below 40 microns that fall in the LDPE waste plastics category and are non-recyclable. When I heated the pan and added the plastic bag to it, the temperature was so high that the bag caught fire, so I quickly threw in some sand. The mixture of sand and liquefied plastic resulted in a hot black mass. I waited for it to cool down. When I started hitting the mass with the hammer in an attempt to break it, it did not. It was very sturdy.” added Swasthik.

Swasthik continued saying, “To validate my findings, I got in touch with a professor in Puttur. But to my disappointment, my guide misguided me. He told me it is impossible to create a strong material combining plastic and sand, stating both materials lacked good mechanical properties. He even accused me of mixing rubber to make the material. I had experimented, so I knew what the composition was. I was preparing for a district-level science exhibition at the time, and I planned to present the model. But when the professor said it wouldn’t work, I was disheartened. This could have been the end. But I didn’t gave up, instead decided to follow my heart, and continued with the project anyway’.

“To seek guidance, I contacted Ravishankar KS, a professor at National Institute of Technology, Karnataka (NITK), Suratkal, where I traveled all the way to NITK-Surathkal with my material and got it tested using the universal testing machine. Ravishankar Sir and the entire faculty from the Department of Metallurgy and Material Science were immensely helpful and encouraging. Even after hours of rigorous stress testing, the material did not break. The professor was impressed and encouraged me to continue the research project. It was at the time, the student returned to Mangaluru and started experimenting by mixing different compositions and proportions of plastic and sand, and heating them together at varying temperatures” said Swasthik

He further said, “During the process of the research, one of the leading challenges was thermal capacity. Plastic bags have a very low melting point, so they were not stable with the temperatures I was heating them at. If the temperature was as high as 150, the material would soften. So my challenge was to make it thermal-stable by finding an adhesive. It even withstood 1000 hours of corrosion testing. Where can this material be used? In Mangaluru, coastal erosion is a major issue. Currently, concrete slabs are used as barriers along seashores. But since concrete is a corrosive material, it degrades over a period of time due to the force of the sea-waves. Plastic, on the other hand, is a non-corrosive material. This means when you throw a plastic bag in the ocean, it won’t degrade. Therefore my material can be used to construct barriers along the seashore to prevent coastal erosion. From manufacturing furniture to constructing entire buildings, the material could have a variety of applications”.

“It was in Class 10 when I realized blast-furnace slag, which is a waste material from the iron and steel industry, would be the perfect adhesive. If I used it, I would be combining two waste materials to create a building material. The resultant material which combined the granulated LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) waste plastic with GGBFS (Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag)in the proportion of 60:40 was successful. Manufacturing concrete is environmentally threatening—even manufacturing one cube of concrete releases more than 20 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. The material that I have built can decrease can not only cut down these emissions in the cement industry but help make homes by reusing non-recyclable plastic.” he added.

While concluding he said, “The material is fully-developed, but I am now working on the process of scaling the process up for mass production. One of the significant challenges is sourcing segregated waste plastic. Because segregation isn’t followed, plastic often turns in as part of mixed waste, so it has to be cleaned before use. The existence of contaminants reduces its strength. So, if I can source segregated plastic directly and regularly, it would be easier to manufacture the material. I am also working on different methods like setting up kiosks that could source this plastic and recycle it. I am currently working independently but looking forward to building a team of passionate professionals who could help me develop the right machinery to upscale the production. While the material can be manufactured using existing machines, a customized machine will help maximize efficiency. I am also looking forward to government funding for the project”.

A message from Swasthik Padma to the would-be scientists of St Aloysius College was “When people demotivate you, don’t give up. Turn it into motivation. Remember, innovation is the key to the future. So we need to use it to protect our environment and present better solutions to the issues that plague it. Many people complain about the lack of resources, but both my innovations were made using cheap and locally-available materials like paper and plastic with no complex methods. I did not have a lab or funding. All I had was an induction stove, pan, plastic and sand. So, don’t let a lack of resources be a roadblock on your path to making your innovative idea into a reality. Don’t aim in making changes to the earth, instead make the Earth more Livable”.

Swasthik also answered a few questions posed at him by the students, which he delivered the apt answers to them. Also speaking on the occasion, Fr Praveen Martis SJ said, “Like what Swasthik said, plastic is not the problem, it is the people who abuse it and make more problems. We should follow like a tree, which has roots meant to collect , Trunk to Contribute, and Crown to Cultivate. You students too are the next scientists like Swasthik, therefore follow your dream, work hard, and reach greater heights just like this young 17-year-old youngster”.

Fr Dionysius Vaz SJ in his presidential address said, “All the time we had matured persons delivering talks, but today when a 17-year-old as chief guest speaking to a large audience is very inspiring and motivating. And its nice to note that you students have taken the innovation seriously, and the Innovation cell at St Aloysius College will surely reach greater heights. Innovation starts when you are young, like Swasthik, so start right now. Do something better to the world. Less is more. we need to appreciate Swasthik’s love for India, because when The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT)-USA offered him free scholarship for his higher education and research, he rejected the offer since he wanted to give his innovative credits to his motherland-India. And to Swasthik, I say “Although you are not a alumnus of this College, but we are proud that you are part of Dakshina Kannada”.

The vote of thanks was proposed by Miss Rupal D’souza- Vice President of SAC Student Council, and the programme was compered by Miss Lavita D’souza.
On the occasion, Dr Dr Lyned Lasrado-Asst Professor, Department of post graduate studies in Biochemistry at St Aloysius College briefing on the Innovation Cell said, “An Innovation cell has been established in the college to systematically nurture the spirit of Innovation in all students. An innovation day will be organized in the college which will provide a platform to all the young innovators and entrepreneurs to present their ideas.

A week long events and programmes with the title: SAVAYAVA SAPTAHA will be organized during the first Semester which includes intensive workshops, seminars, lecture-demonstrations, cultural activities, public lectures, awareness programmes and cultural and literary competitions on the theme. A unique festive event called “Halli Habba” (Rural Festival) and “Savayava Santhe” (Organic Market) will be organized in the campus. It is planned to involve staff, students, parents and all the stakeholders in this endeavour of conscientizing the public on the need for organic lifestyle.

This would be an occasion to advance the idea of “Organic Life” and its relevance in the modern context. The year- long activities on “Savayava” will be formally inaugurated by Rajesh Naik Uleppady, member of the Legislative Assembly, Bantwal Constituency.

More About Swasthik Padma :

The youngster who completed his class 12 from Vivekananda Pre-University College was conferred the prestigious National Award for Exceptional Achievement, for his excellence in the field of innovation by President Ram Nath Kovind, on the occasion of Children’s Day 2017 in New Delhi. Swasthik hails from an agricultural family from Kedila village in Bantwal taluk. While his father Sriram Bhat is a pharmacology lecturer at Alva’s Education Foundation, his mother, Mallika Bhat, runs a pharmacy. The young boy started making full-fledged projects in Class 4. In Class 7, one of his first big projects was sourcing water from a stream near their farm to the farm pump without using electricity. For this, he designed a pump that consisted of a turbine which rotated with the force of the water.

He also designed a handheld machine to lift areca nuts from the ground and fill it in a bag and created the prototype of a model which converted the sea wave energy into mechanical energy and propelled a boat forward, thus eliminating the use of fuel. In Class 9, perturbed by the alarming waste management problem in metros, particularly Bengaluru, Swasthik decided to work on an innovative solution in the sector.

When Swasthik participated at the national level science fair, IRIS (Initiative for research and innovation in science) in Pune, he won a grand award for the innovation. His win presented him with the opportunity of representing India at the International Science and Engineering Fair, twice. He also won the Gold Grand Award at Indian Science, and Engineering Fair held at Puttur. In 2017, when the youngster participated at ISEF for the first time and presented his project, he did not win an award. Naturally, he was disappointed.

But it was at the time he met scientist and Professor of Bio-engineering at Stanford University, Manu Prakash. Prakash is famous for low-cost innovations using paper, especially the Foldscope, a tiny microscope made from paper. Swasthik says that paper is the next generation diagnostic device. So the second time around when he participated at ISEF, he started another project with Mohammed Suhail Chinya Salimpasha, another young innovator and recipient of the Rashtriya Bal Puraskar. They developed a method of diagnosing pre-symptomatic Protein-Energy Malnutrition (PEM), which is a form of malnutrition arising from lack of dietary protein, all with a piece of paper. Read more about it here. The duo won a grand award at ISEF for the project. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory and International Astronomical Union took into account the distinction he had achieved at ISEF-2018 and named a minor planet after him.

Just when he thought he should abandon, the low-cost material project entirely and focus on the paper diagnostic tool, he realised the innovation had caught the eyes of dignitaries in India. He was notified about his selection for the prestigious National Award for Exceptional Achievement by the President. And yes it for developing the low-cost and eco-friendly material. There has been no looking back ever since. He has also won the NCSC young scientist award, as well as international plast icon award at the plastic exhibition held at Ahmedabad. “Even if I can recycle 10 tonnes of plastic a day, it will be my greatest reward,” says Swasthik.

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