Vinisha Umashankar, a 14-year-old student from Tiruvannamalai, in Tamil Nadu, India, has won the prestigious ‘Children’s Climate Prize for the 2020 Clean Air Category’. The prize includes a diploma, medal and an amount of 100,000 Swedish krona ($11,600) to further develop the project.

Vinisha designed a mobile cart which uses solar panels to power a steam iron box instead of charcoal. Her invention is particularly noteworthy because in India, millions of ‘iron-wallahs’ or people who earn their living ironing clothes, use coal to power their irons.

According to the Department of Science and Technology of India, each vendor uses approximately 5 kg of coal per day. It not only causes pollution in the environment, but also puts the person operating such iron at severe risk of developing lung issues.

Vinisha noticed the issue first in her locality. When she realised the environmental damage caused due to this practice, it compelled her to think of a solution. In an interview, she stated, “I calculated the enormous quantity of charcoal being used, the pollution from it that worsens climate change, damages Mother Earth and human health. I wanted to create a renewable resource to replace charcoal."

For six months, she worked on developing her idea of creating the solar ironing cart. The device needs five hours of bright sunlight to fully charge and each battery can provide power for nearly six hours. The cart can also run on grid electricity or a generator in case of an emergency.