School kids construct machine to do away with manual scavenging

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A team of five students from Shiv Nadar School Gurugram has created a “lightweight, cost-effective and technologically advanced” sewer cleaner prototype called ‘Sewage Squad’, to “replace manual with a mechanised method of sewer cleaning”.

The prototype uses a water jet mechanism “to lacerate large sewage particles, followed by metallic cutters to cut through the sludge and finally a suction pump to suck out the sludge from the sewers”.

The five students from class XI who worked on the prototype are Palak Yadav, Sarthak Acharya, Ansh Gupta, Anavi Kothari and Bahaar Dhingra.

Speaking of the product, Acharya said, “It includes an in-built audio system that offers guidance on using different mechanisms in the product while a camera and LED light provide the visual view of target areas to the user on a small LCD screen.”

“A gas detection system in the product allows the user to assess the level of poisonous gases like ammonia, carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen sulphide in the sewer, enabling an opportunity to ensure proper protection,” he said.

The students said the “compact and simple design” allows it to be used in “narrow alleyways where heavy, industrial-grade cleaning machines cannot reach”.

The innovation is an outcome of the Capstone Project at Shiv Nadar School where students are “encouraged to ideate and devise economically viable and creative solutions to address real-world problems”. It was presented at the school’s annual tech event, Colloquium, which took place virtually and was assessed by an external jury.

Dhingra, one of the students said, “Our journey began in March 2020, just before the lockdown was imposed… We chose this problem because we wanted to attempt to eradicate this inhuman practice. We are currently working on improving our current prototype and making it so that it can be industrially implemented and then we will be testing in nearby sewers. We’ll also be connecting with some NGOs and take feedback from some manual scavengers and then improve it and test it again.”

Yadav, another student, said, “We have designed our machines in a way that manual scavengers can operate this machine without having any technical knowledge. Most of them are not literate, which could create problems for them. But for that, we have an audio manual that will help them in the process of cleaning.”

The prototype currently costs around Rs 10,000-Rs 11,000 but the students said, once they convert it into industrial grade, they expect the price to go up to around Rs 15,000-20,000.

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