Friday 07th October 2022
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14-year-old inventor from Tamil Nadu in the running to win £1 million prize

A 14-year-old inventor from Tamil Nadu is in the running to win £1 million as a finalist in “The Earthshot Prize”, an global environmental initiative launched by Prince William.

Vinisha Umashankar of Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, proves you are never too young to help the environment through innovation. Aged just 14, her solar-powered ironing cart is a clean alternative to the charcoal-powered street irons that press clothes for millions of Indians each day.

Vinisha is the youngest finalist for the first-ever Earthshot Prize launched by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

Five, one million-pound prizes will be awarded each year for the next ten years to solve environmental problems, with the aim of providing “at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest problems by 2030.”

One day, on the way home from school, Vinisha saw an ironing vendor dumping charcoal in the garbage. Curious, she began researching the impact of charcoal. She saw how smoke causes lung disease among vendors. And she was shocked to learn of the connection between charcoal and deforestation — each year industrial quantities of trees are felled to make charcoal.

Vinisha’s solar-powered cart replaces dirty charcoal with clean energy from the sun. Five hours of sunshine powers the iron for six hours – a win for the environment is also a win for vendors. Extra mobility means they can sell on doorsteps as well as the roadside. Built-in phone top-up and charging points bring extra income too. Overall, the ironing cart helps 13 of the 15 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Vinisha plans to manufacture the solar ironing cart in India and sell it at an affordable price. She wants to export it to Asia, Africa and wherever the sun shines throughout the year. If she wins in her category, “Clean our air”, the £1 million prize fund will set her plan in motion.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held at Alexandra Palace in London on October 17.