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Young Achievers

Harshwardhan Zala

Ahmedabad-based hi-tech innovator Harshwardhan Zala (14) is the latest teen wonder to join the growing tribe of teenage social entrepreneurs countrywide. Founder-CEO of Aerobotics7 Tech Solutions Llp (estb.2016), this young prodigy recently inked a Rs.5 crore memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gujarat government’s department of science and technology. The MoU was signed at the 8th Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 staged in the textiles city between January 9-13. Harshwardhan’s Eagle A7 smart drone is designed to detect and defuse landmines in hostile terrain. 

A class X student of the state board-affiliated Sarvodaya Vidhyamandir in suburban Ahmedabad, Harshwardhan started frequenting a local cyber cafe to learn English — taught in state-board schools only after class VI — on the Internet. “Once I learned English, it was easy to pick up programming and coding skills by accessing open source technology software,” says Harshwardhan, the only child of Pradyumansinh Zala, an accountant, and homemaker Nishaba. Thus far, this young inventor has designed and built 16 robots and eight drones.

According to this budding tech whiz, the Eagle A7 smart drone which attracted huge interest at the summit, is equipped with infrared sensors, a thermal meter, a 21-megapixel camera and a bomb. “It is designed to generate oscillatory waves covering an eight sq. metre area while flying two feet above the ground. The waves help detect landmines, while a controlling base station using exact location data transmitted by the drone, drops the bomb on the landmine, exploding it,” he explains. A television documentary depicting Indian soldiers suffering grave injuries from landmines prompted Harshwardhan to conceptualise the Eagle A7 in August 2015. 

Presently focused on preparing for his class X board examinations scheduled for this month, Harshwardhan has received an invitationfrom the globally top-ranked Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Boston, to enroll in its electronics engineering degree and research programmes. “Right now, my top priority is to raise funding for my company to take forward my mission of solving the world’s toughest challenges through smart solutions,” says this inspiring teen and walking-talking advertisement of the power of self-learning.

Paromita Sengupta (Bangalore)

Avantika Agrawal

Kolkata-based Avantika Arya Agrawal is one of a small group of women causing ripples in the nascent sport of riverine rowing. This 17-year-old and her youthful team won a silver medal in the women’s coxed fours 1,000 metres race, in a nail biting final against Sri Lanka’s national women’s team at the 75th ARAE (Amateur Rowing Association of the East) 2017 Rowing Regatta held at the vintage Madras Boat Club between January 9-14. This class XI student of Kolkata’s highly-ranked Modern High School for Girls also bagged a bronze in the women’s double sculls (1000 m) event.

An annual event instituted by ARAE (estb. 1933) — a rowing enthusiasts’ association affiliated with 17 premier rowing clubs in Asia — the regatta is one of the continent’s most competitive meets and attracted the participation of 200 rowing enthusiasts from 14 clubs in India and Asia. 

The only child of Tanmay Agrawal, an aquaculturist, and social worker Anuranjita, Avantika took to the sport in 2014 inspired by Kolkata’s rowing culture. After training for a year with coach and mentor Shashi Kumar Singh, she won her first gold medal in the West Bengal Rowing Association’s Junior State Games in January 2015 in the women’s coxed fours event, and a silver in the women’s double sculls. A year later, she bagged a silver in the Bengal Olympics Association State Games in the open women’s coxed fours event, and dominated all students league and inter-school events. 

Rowing is a testing endurance sport which requires peak fitness, says this gritty sportswoman. “I practice before school for two hours every day and three hours on weekends. The fitness regimen involves sprints, aerobics, ergometer, circuits and weights training. I begin my day with sugarcane juice and follow a gluten-free diet supported by egg protein,” she discloses.

Looking ahead, Avantika aspires to study sports science after completing her higher secondary education. “The infrastructure and coaching facilities for competitive rowing in India are comparable with the best in the world. My dream is to train intensively and make history by bringing an Olympic medal home,” she enthuses.
Power to your oars!

Baishali Mukherjee (Kolkata)

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