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A Lalitha : India’s first woman electrical engineer

The Hindu | Metro Plus Chennai | June 19, 2017 |  S MUTHIAH | 


Attendees gather at the 1964 New York World’s Fair during the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers in June 1964. Left to right: A. Lalitha (Indian delegate), unknown, Joan Shubert, unknown Canadian delegate, N. Sainani (Canadian delegate of Indian origin), and Dee Halladay.

Attendees gather at the 1964 New York World’s Fair during the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers in June 1964. Left to right: A. Lalitha (Indian delegate), unknown, Joan Shubert, unknown Canadian delegate, N. Sainani (Canadian delegate of Indian origin), and Dee Halladay. – Image Courtesy – http alltogether.swe. org

When Dr Shantha Mohan, who is writing a book on the women graduates of the College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), contacted me recently, seeking more information on May George (Miscellany, February 3, 2014 ), I got more information from her than I could give. I’d always thought that the College had admitted only two women students, its first, in 1940, but I learnt from her that three had been admitted. They were PK Thresia, Leelamma George and A Lalitha, all receiving their degrees in 1943 with the certificate having ‘He’ struck out and replaced with a handwritten ‘She’. A history of the College brought out by it in 1991 curiously states that the first women students were only two and one got her degree in Electrical Engineering, the other in Civil. Shantha Mohan provides me a wealth of detail about the Electrical Engineering student, Lalitha, so it must be presumed that the other two she mentions did Civil Engineering.

The first women graduates of CEG: P.K. Thresia, Leelamma George, and A. Lalitha -Image Courtesy - Mrs. Syamala Chenulu

The first women graduates of CEG: P.K. Thresia, Leelamma George, and A. Lalitha – Image Courtesy – Mrs. Syamala Chenulu

Lalitha, married at 15, was 18 when she had her daughter. A few months later, in 1937, her husband passed away. Determined not to stay at home and mourn or to remarry, she decided to take up a professional course. Lalitha applied to CEG in 1939, an all-male institution at the time. It was her good fortune that her father, Pappu Subba Rao, was Professor of Electrical Engineering there and he persuaded Principal KC Chacko (the first Principal with a Doctorate) and Director of Public Instruction RM Statham, who was all for women’s education (Miscellany, August 24, 2015) that it was time the College admitted women students — and Lalitha became CEG’s first woman student, a widow and a mother at that. With the gates opened, Thresia and Leelamma followed her in. Lalitha stayed on a year after they left to get her Honours degree. After a stint with the Central Standards Organisation in Simla, Lalitha spent a few years with her father, helping him with his research. He patented a Jelectromonium (an electrical musical instrument), smokeless ovens and an electric flame producer. But the need to make a living on her own beckoned, and she joined Associated Electrical Industries, a British firm.

Lalitha’s degree – note they had to strike out “He” and write in “She”- Image Courtesy -

Lalitha’s degree – note they had to strike out “He” and write in “She” – Image Courtesy –

She then began designing transmission lines, doing substation layouts and executing contracts. She was noteworthily associated with the work on electrical generators for the Bhakra Nangal Dam. After 30 years with AEL, including the time after it had been taken over by General Electric, Lalitha retired, much of the last years of her working life focused on supervising contract projects. She was the only woman engineer from India to attend the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists which was held in New York in 1964. Thereafter, she was active in international women’s engineering organisations internationally till she passed away in 1979. She had once said, “Electrical Engineering runs in my blood. My father, four brothers, nephew and son-in-law are all Electrical Engineers.” Shantha Mohan adds a request to all this information: “If you have information about women engineers from CEG from the 1940s to the 1960s, please let me know at Shantha_rm@yahoo.com  /  or facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/cegwomen/

The Philippines connection

Many moons ago, on December 22, 2014, I had written about Tambaram railwayman Noel Fuller’s search for roots. At that time he had discovered that his great grandfather, Albert James Fuller of Madurai, had married Ellen Matilda Narcis, really a Narcisonian and an Armenian. Her line Noel traced back to Coja Sultan David who arrived in Madras from Isfahan in Persia around the 1720s. Coja Sultan David became a leader of the Armenian community in Madras and his son, Aga Shawmier Sultan, was the owner of that ‘Great House in Charles Street’ in the Fort known as Admiralty, or Clive House . Noel’s search for his Armenian ancestors’ tombstones led him to that of the wife of Coja Sultan David which he found on St Thomas’ Mount. The Aga Shawmier Sultans, husband and wife, are buried in the yard of the Armenian Church in Madras, a church raised on the site of the Shawmier chapel which the family gifted to the community. All Noel could discover at that time was that Coja Sultan David had died in Pondicherry in 1754 and had converted to Roman Catholicism just before he passed away so that he could be buried in consecrated ground, the Armenians having no church of their own in Pondicherry. Pondicherry yielded him no tombstones, but the information that after the English had taken the city in 1761 they had ravaged it, reducing even tombstones to rubble. The story then goes that in 1765, when the East Indiaman Earl Temple was to sail for Manila, it needed ballast and the rubble of Pondicherry was loaded on it. In the South China Sea, the ship hit a reef and sank. Salvagers in 1997 found in it, intact, the 1,335 kilogram tombstone of Coja Sultan David. There’s a missing link here, but the tombstone, its engraving still clear, is now in the Philippines, an exhibit in the Manila Museum.

Wrong again

My computer help once again sent out the wrong picture and, so, last week we had, with Subedar Subramanian, Brigadier K Sampath, one of the speakers, instead of the Subedar’s son Durailingam as mentioned. My apologies to Brig Sampath and Durailingam. The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places, and events from the years gone by, and sometimes, from today. – Courtesy    /    Read More …  SWE,    &    LinkedIn Article

11 female engineering students win ‘Women of Mettle’ Scholarship Programme

Avenue Mail | Jamshedpur |

11 female engineering students win ‘Women of Mettle’ Scholarship Programme

11 female engineering students win ‘Women of Mettle’ Scholarship Programme

Jamshedpur, June 13 : Tata Steel, today, announced the winners of its pioneering initiative, ‘Women of Mettle’ Scholarship programme, aimed at encouraging gender diversity in the manufacturing sector. In keeping with its commitment to the young generation, Tata Steel announced the scholarship programme, ‘Women of Mettle’ in January 2017. The programme aims to identify, groom and encourage female engineering talent for a sector that historically has imbalanced gender representation. Female students in their second year of engineering from select 45+ engineering institutes across India were invited to be a part of this initiative. Through a rigorous multi-phase process, a total of 30 candidates were selected for the 2-day finale, which witnessed an amazing showcase of talent, hard work and competitiveness.

Top 11 candidates emerged as the winners of the 2017 edition. The winners are eligible for a scholarship amount of Rs 2 lakh (Rs.1 lakh in the 3rd and 4th year respectively), internship opportunity in their third year, sponsorship to participate in technical conferences, a pre-placement job offer and mentorship from the senior leadership of the organisation. Speaking at the Grand finale of ‘Women of Mettle’ Scholarship programme, Suresh Dutt Tripathi, Vice President, HRM, Tata Steel said, “Our constant pursuit of excellence has enabled us to take up new challenges and set industry benchmarks. Building an equitable culture and a diverse leadership team is a responsibility we take seriously. Women of Mettle is one of the first programmes in the manufacturing industry where we not only provide scholarships but a career at Tata Steel.” The winners of the Women of Mettle Scholarship Programme 2017 edition are- Sharon Manvika Deva from NIT Warangal, Megharanjini, CET Bhubaneswar, Dedeepya Regatti, NIT Warangal, Khyati Mahatab, CET Bhubaneswar, Ragini Sreenath, IIT Madras, Subhashree Nayak, CET Bhubaneswar, Urja Agrawal, CET Bhubaneswar, Anupma Arya, NIT Jamshedpur, Daria Nair, IIT Madras, Saloni Ranjan, BIT Mesra and Aakanksha from IIT Kanpur. – Courtesy

Indian American Raja Chari, selected among 12 NASA astronaut candidates

By IANS | Washington |  8 June 2017 |

Raja Chari, who will report for duty in August this year, is from the state of Iowa who graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science.

Raja Chari is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Indian American Raja Chari, a Lieutenant Colonel with the US Air Force, has been selected by space agency NASA among 12 astronaut candidates who will conduct research off the Earth for deep space missions. Chari, who will report for duty in August this year, is from the state of Iowa who graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School. Currently, he is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After receiving a record-breaking number of applications — 18,000 — to join an exciting future of space exploration, NASA on Wednesday picked 12 — its largest astronaut class since 2000. Vice President Mike Pence joined NASA leaders as they introduced the members of the 2017 astronaut class during an event at the agency’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston. “These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American programme,” said Pence. “And to this newest class of astronauts, it’s my honour to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the US, Donald Trump. Your President is proud of you, and so am I,” the Vice President added.

The astronaut candidates will return to Johnson in August to begin two years of training. Then they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket. “We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy,” he said. With the addition of these 12 members, NASA now has selected 350 astronauts since the original Mercury 7 in 1959. “These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations,” said astronaut and Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa. The 12 new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot. – Courtesy

A planet is named after this Bengaluru girl of Inventure Academy (Sahithi Pingali). Here’s why

Jun 08, 2017 |  Times Now |  A planet is named after this Bengaluru girl. Here’s why |

Bengaluru: While all of us aim for the skies, Sahithi Pingali, a class 12 student of Inventure Academy, Bengaluru goes a step higher and marks a planet by her name instead. Sahithi joined an elite league of people to have a minor planet in the Milky Way named after them, after excelling in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college science competition. Ms. Pingali presented her paper, — “An Innovative Crowdsourcing Approach to Monitoring Freshwater Bodies”— based on her experiences after having developed an integrated mobile phone app and lake monitoring kit that obtains data through crowdsourcing. It wasn’t just an award at ISEF that she won. The Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which has the right to name minor planets, decided to name a planet after her after she came within the top 3% of ISEF. While the Indian contingent took home 21 awards in all, Ms. Pingali won three awards and was awarded “overall second place” in the Earth and Environment Sciences category. “I definitely didn’t see this coming. I was expecting one special award at most. I haven’t yet digested the fact that I have a planet named after me,” she told The Hindu.

Currently, she is pursuing an internship at the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Michigan to further improve her method to detect water pollution. “I want to make it more accurate and expand it to detect arsenic,” she said. Her work on Varthur Lake has already seen her get a Gold Medal at ISWEEEP (The International Sustainable World Engineering Energy Environment Project) Olympiad at Houston (U.S.), earlier this year. She is currently pursuing an internship at the University of Michigan, where she’s working with Ph.D. students and professors in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. – Courtesy     /    Read More …https://www.societyforscience.org/content/press-room/intel-international-science-and-engineering-fair-2017-grand-award-winners

IIEST Kolkata creates first smart grid project to generate power from renewable energy

The Hindu Business Line | Kolkata, May 17Press Trust of India |

The aim is to generate 32 kW of power from whichever resource available and synchronise the smart grid to take the power in the system for use

Sources of energy

“The power to be generated from solar energy depends on the availability of sunlight while wind energy will be produced during nor’wester and tropical storm. The power from biogas will be generated from vegetable waste collected from the campus kitchen and outside markets,” the professor said. “In the integrated project, by the Centre for Excellence for Green Energy Systems (CEGESS) of the institute, we are aiming to generate 32 kW of power from whichever resource available and synchronise the smart grid to take the power in the system for use. Thus we will not be depending on one resource,” Roy said. Roy added that the world will be faced with serious situation with the depletion of hydrocarbon source. “Since coal-hydrocarbon based energy technology leads to environmental degradation, the future lies in renewable energy based technology,” he said.  The eminent scientist said, this being the age of smart technology, the institute needed to look forward.  “The government planners and academicians should be involved in big way as technology is changing very very fast.“The next 50 years will witness unimaginable change in technology, which cannot be static,” he added. – Courtesy

RobotiX by Satyajeet Mahapatra, the farming tool of the future is here

One India.com | Prabhpreet Singh Sood  | May 9, 2017 |

Muniratham, a farmer in his mid-fifties, in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, witnessed his crop yield fall by half following damage to his crops as he was unable to take serious notice of the details being sent to him on his phone. The previous cycle when he did notice them, his yield had been better than ever. The notifications were being sent to him by a new product, RobotiX, that he had set up at his farm, which led to the increase in the first cycle. It was this product that helped him to understand the reasons for the loss in the second, and take corrective steps to get the optimum results again.

He is one of the lucky ones when compared to so many other farmers throughout the country who end up in debt and take extreme steps such as suicide due to inability to repay loans following crop damages from reasons like poor rainfall, wrong choice of seeds, lack of knowledge of proper agriculture practices among others. And this is where a product like RobotiX aims to come in and change the way of not only how farming is done in the country but also improve lives of farmers by taking care of the problems that usually lead to crop damage. Satyajeet Mahapatra, one of the founders and the CEO of eXabit Systems, the company that invented RobotiX, believes that not only can such problems be easily solved, but scientific farming can also lead to India becoming the food bowl of the world in a decade’s time. “Through RobotiX the farmer is guided in a way that not only protects the crop from damage but is also able to increase the gross output of crop by using Precision Farming practices,” said Mahapatra. “I call it the MRI machine for crops.”
RobotiX and how it helps The solar powered product, two kg in weight and 40 cm tall, comes equipped with sensors that monitor crop health, but also soil temperature and humidity, and the microclimatic conditions such ambient Temperature and humidity. It also provides the farmers with real-time data through phone notifications and also the companies android app in five languages- Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and English- helping them make the right decision like the right time and level of irrigation, required, among others. But Mahapatra believed, this would not have been enough as farmers would have to take care of all the problems manually and this might not give the best results. This led to the company to introduce automation technology, which takes over the role of the farmer, by providing solutions such as irrigation, fertilisation and misting, and allowing them to remotely control these from any corner of the world, by reading the data on the ground. “The automation technology allows steps like water being provided through valves which are connected to the device in the farm in case that is what is required or by switching the fan on or off in case of greenhouse farming,” said Prashant Sahoo, founder and COO of eXabit Systems. Along with such on-farm technologies, the product also helps the farmers choose the right seeds, the right crops for particular kinds of climate, soil etc., and will also eventually be able to forecast which crop will be the best for the land and what the output should be if all the criteria are followed. The company also puts users directly in touch with experts who help them guide through such choices.
The team and its journey so far Putting all this together has not been easy for the team at eXabit, a company founded by four engineering college friends, Amulya Mishra, Avinash Agarwal, along with Mahapatra and Sahoo. While they had always planned to do something of their own as Sahoo explained, but after college, they all went their separate ways, as all them ended up working for various multinational companies. “But we never forgot our original plan,” recalled Sahoo. It was in 2013 that they started working on their plan, and it was in September 2014 that they finally started eXabit. Though they started providing post-harvest services that year, the work on the prototype of RobotiX was rolled out into the field in October 2015 and was ready for sale in July of last year. From asking friends and family for the initial investments and conducting field trials to get customers, to now when they have investors and more than 40 customers waiting in the pipeline waiting for the new batch of the 200 new RobotiX instruments to come off the assembly line, the four company and its founders have come a long way.
The last challenge But Mahapatra believes a far bigger challenge lies ahead for them now that the product design and performance has been perfected. “The real problem is in the resistance to change that the Indian farmers have. They are still stuck with the traditional way of farming and in the choices they make,” said Mahapatra. “The solution for their conventional problems are here with a product like RobotiX but for real improvement to come in agriculture in India the old mindset needs to be broken and such solutions to accepted and applied without hesitation,” he added. If this is true, it can quite possibly explain what has led to farmers, including Muniratham, to face losses. If he had seen the data and taken action or followed the advice he could have been able to avoid the loss he suffered, like so many others who do not have a tool like RobotiX at their disposal. – Courtesy

Hacking up apps : NASA Space Apps Challenge 2017

The New Indian Express | Unnikrishnan S  |  Express News Service  |   07th May 2017 |

EcoSnap team which was selected for Global nomination

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Detecting fire in the wild is always a tough task. Often the alert comes in late and by the time fire fighting begins a large number of flora and fauna get destroyed. It is a global issue and any cost-effective solution naturally gets attention. Ani Sam Varghese and his team became the People’s Choice Winner in the recently held NASA Space Apps Challenge, touted as the largest hackathon, in the city.
Compared to the expensive solution of a geo synchronous satellite, the team from Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology in Nalanchira developed Low Earth Orbit Thermal Imaging System (LEOTIS) involving multiple sensors for accurate forecasting of fire and geographic mapping of terrain for emergency services. It can detect and track forest fires and alert local public through nodal stations. Public can also share events of uncontrolled fire though the companion app. Ani is a technical assistant at his alma mater. He took up the challenge with his students and a former batchmate Joji John Varghese, who now works at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. Harikrishnan, Abhinand S, Naveen S are computer science engineering students of the college.  The 48-hour hackathon challenge was put forward by the US space agency NASA to develop solutions that could contribute to space exploration missions and help improve life on Earth. Over 200 youngsters with a technical bend of mind registered for it. Technopark in Thiruvanathapuram was one of the three locations in country to host the hackathon after Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad. Each location has three winners including popular choice winner.

Redleet team is the People’s Choice Winner

Global Nominees

Students of the College of Engineering also came up with impressive performance this year. The team consisting of first and second year students of the college developed a crowd sourcing application, EcoSnap, for tracking invasive species in the neighbourhood over time. The team has been selected a global nominee. “The app helps people to track the movement of species. Movement happens when there is a change in the ecology and tracking it would help understand ecological problems,” said Vishnu S Nair who is a student of Applied Electronics engineering in CET. For the Kovalam native it is the second global nomination. Other team members include Athul Krishna A, Hari Nair, Abhijith Nandagopal and Amal Ashok.  The second global nomination went to the team Gryphons. They created an application called ‘Sunshine’ which helps people understand energy output from a solar panel, and a tool to plan energy consumption based on expected energy output from solar technologies. Ajaz Sidhiq, Daniel James, Amal S Raj and Amrith M are the team members. –  Courtesy   /     https://2017.spaceappschallenge.org/locations/kerala/       –      https://2017.spaceappschallenge.org/

MIT engineer Raghunath Manohar receives patent for invention

The Hindu | Mangaluru |  Special Correspondent| Manipal, May 09, 2017  |

Raghunath Manohar

The Indian Patent Office has granted patent to an invention by Raghunath Manohar of Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), a constituent of Manipal University. A statement issued by the university here said that Mr. Manohar’s invention, “A Multi lens System which is a microscope and a component of a telescope”, was approved recently. He had applied for it in 2009, and is the only inventor of the device. Earlier, he had received a U.S. patent for “Marking Gauge”, of which too, he was a sole inventor. Giving details about the invention, Mr. Manohar, Deputy Engineer (Laboratory), Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing, MIT, said that the telescope has 9 lens, which form the erecting lens system using 9 biconvex lenses of same focal length and diameter 10 cm and 50 mm, respectively. The optical system in the apparatus has eight PVC tubes of the required size. This is called the distance tube pieces. The above are slid into a slightly larger PVC container pipe having a collar at one end with a hole at the centre to view the image.

 The housing tube has external screw threads cut on it to help focus and see distant objects clearly. The container tube is the erecting eyepiece-cum-compound microscope. To use this as a telescope, another bigger tube was used as an objective lens with larger diameter and focal length of 110 mm and 210 cm. This objective tube is fixed to the container tube housing the 9 lens erecting lens system. Thus, it functions as a telescope. Mr. Manohar said that this invention of his has certain advantages over existing microscopes and telescopes. It has a wider field of view about three times of the existing ones; it can be used as a compound microscope of 80 X while some existing ones in addition to giving inverted image give 10 X magnification only when used as a simple microscope. This can be made using locally available lenses and PVC pipes. Colour free image is obtained due to achromatism of the equivalent lenses which is the characteristic of the optical system, he said. – Courtesy

India provides youngest engineering talent in the world: NXP

Economic Times, Auto |

In an exclusive interaction with ETAuto, Lars Reger, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology officer – NXP Automotive said, “India will be a huge R&D site for us, though we have not yet decided on manufacturing here.”

NEW DELHI: At a time when there is a lot of hue and cry over H1B visas and Indian talent eating the jobs abroad, the $10 billion Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductors sees Indian engineers as the largest asset for the company when it comes to R&D and developing complex technology to support autonomous vehicle.  In an exclusive interaction with ETAuto, Lars Reger, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology officer – NXP Automotive said, “India will be a huge R&D site for us, though we have not yet decided on manufacturing here.” In total, NXP has 15 big R&D centres across the globe out of which three such centres are in India; the biggest one in Noida followed by Bangalore and Hyderabad.  Lars Reger emphasises on the fact that, for the company, the average age of engineers in India is lowest among all other centres which allow them to get the fresh talent and design new things.  “We need people who have fresh knowledge from universities as the technology is getting complex and changing rapidly,” he said. To keep the momentum going the company further plans to hire more than 100 engineers this year in India.

While Indian R&D centres are working closely with the global team, yet it has become a hub for developing complex micro controller used in autonomous and electric cars.  According to Lars Reger, “NXP India is growing at a rate of 11 percent which is much faster than the standard industry growth rate of 6-8 percent globally.” This is because the need to bring electronics for functionality is also increasing at a faster pace here. Lot of regulations like safety and emission norms, demand for infotainment and telematics are also increasing which is further triggering the growth. The company is also working very closely with tier-1 suppliers on radios and immobilizers.  With electrification and autonomous vehicles coming in, the electronic content per car is expected to grow manifold. Currently, in the developed markets like Europe and US, on an average every car has electronic content worth $400 which is expected to double to $800 per cars as the volume of electric cars grows in the next 4-5 years. India still has minimal electronic content per car compared to these nations but expected to grow fastest with changing policy in safety and emission.  The value of electronic content per car will further rise with additional $400 to $1200 of electronic content when self-driving cars become reality in the next 10 years. Thus, NXP which has developed India as its R&D hub will have a massive contribution.  However, as the technology gears up for the next leap the danger of hacking and misuse increases. In such a scenario companies like NXP has big focus towards creating safe and secure environment. “We spend one-third of the expenditure on making the chip and software hackproof,” Lars Reger said. – Courtesy

Bengaluru engineering student Antony Jenitter develops an intelligent watering system for urban gardeners

Economic Times | Technology | |

Antony Jenitter has sold 27 indoor gardening devices which are priced Rs 299 and is working with prospective clients such as SAP Labs for the outdoor solution.

Many Bengalureans have been witness to those glory days when they could endlessly water their gardens and still have water left to wash their porches and cars.  Some still continue to spend huge volumes of water on their greenery at a time when water is a scarce commodity. Now, an engineering student has come up with an innovation that allows the garden city to hold onto its gardens but water it sustainably.  Antony Jenitter a sixth semester student of telecommunication engineering at CMR Institute of Technology, has built the system keeping farmers in mind but quickly adapted it to cater to urban needs, sensing an opportunity.  “Many people and places in the city are interested in or have greenery. However, they end up wasting a lot of water trying to maintain it,“ Jennitter said, giving the example of his college which has limited or no water supply on two days of the week and yet does not fail to generously water its plants with a hose on days there is water supply.
Several soil-moisture and temperature sensors are placed at predefined spots and are connected to a controller. A tablet, in which green patches of the campus are mapped, uses the sensor data to graphically display the water levels. Connected to this are sprinklers which automatically turn on and off based on moisture requirements.  The system is customised to water with precision. “For instance, if there is a circular patch of greenery, the sprinkler will be modified to water only in that radius. This way, not an extra drop of water is wasted,“ Jenitter said.  Another problem he found was that individuals who grow plants on their balconies or indoors often let them dry when they travel or forget to water. To address this, he has built a compact indoor garden watering device which is the size of an average smartphone. “When attached to a pot, the device will ensure that it is watered optimally ,“ he said.

After his idea was incubated at CMRIT, Jenitter decided to commercialise it. He registered it as the proprietor under the name Irrrigatronics in January this year. He has since sold 27 indoor gardening devices which are priced Rs 299 and is working with prospective clients such as SAP Labs for the outdoor solution, which is priced based on the area and other requirements.  Professor Kalaga Madhav, of the Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering at CMRIT, said Jenitter’s system has also helped the college optimise its water usage in the gardens.  “When you ask a gardener to use less water, it means nothing to him. However, a machine actually ensures you are neither over-watering nor underwatering,“ he said.  CMR Group of Institutions chairman and Rajya Sabha member KC Ramamurthy said that with the current unpredictable weather conditions, and failing monsoons, such innovations are crucial. “The government must take notice of such small-level frugal innovations and develop them to implement on a large-scale.“ –  Courtesy