Two years back, innovation Lab was started at Kashmir University with the promise to provide platform to budding innovators. As Saima Rashid and Sheikh Tabish find out, the Lab is working on some potential ideas

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Er Rouf (sitting) with his group of innovators.
Er Rouf (sitting) with his group of innovators.Pic: Sheikh Tabish

It is a busy room. Five people in a group are working on some idea. A couple of machines, a disorganized computer, a guitar placed at one of the corners, and a wooden closet containing necessary equipment are inside Kashmir University’s Informal Lab—where new ideas are being explored, implemented and processed to pave way for innovations.

Housed in KU’s Humanities block, the Lab is a self-initiative taken by the students and professors of the Department of Electronics and Communication, KU—to innovate something meaningful for the benefit of society.

A group of four young innovators guided by their mentor are currently working on innovation called ‘Baby Pee Sensor’—the instrument which would foretell a mother before her baby would pee. The innovation is the brainchild of Electronics student of the varsity—Jahangir Ahmad, 20, a 4th Semester student.

A lean-figured youth wearing glasses, Jahangir says, the idea stuck him during his visit at his friend’s residence. He had heard that his friend’s father had got a paralytic attack. He saw the elder in an awkward state of mind— as he needed the support of his son to visit washroom.

“His state moved me greatly,” recalls Jahangir with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “I soon made up mind to innovate something to help him out.”

After much of mental works, he got an idea. But there were higher costs involved to make it tangible. He kept exploring the idea and arrived at another possibility: the idea could lend a support to lactating mothers who have to go through the ordeal of changing frequent napkins of their babies. The innovation was about to liberate the costs which napkins devour within two years of baby birth.

Once implemented, the innovation would be having a soft ballet with sensors on it. It would be worn around the waist of baby—which will check the total amount of urine in baby’s urinary bladder and pressure it creates. An alarm watch will be worn by mother or caretaker of the baby. When baby feel an urge to pee, the alarm in her arm will ring up. “This is how it works,” says Jahangir. Similarly, the innovation works in paralyzed patients.

But apart from this innovation, this innovation lab of varsity has many other things to offer. It was started in 2012 with the promise to provide platform to budding innovators. So far, the lab has successfully completed three innovations which are about to hit the market.

Instruments at Informal Lab at University of Kashmir.
Instruments at Informal Lab at University of Kashmir.Pic: Sheikh Tabish

The lab was founded by Er Rouf Alam Bhat, 26, Assistant Prof of Electronics and Communications department, KU. All the budding innovators discuss their ideas with him. After hearing them out; Er Bhat designs, polishes and shapes them into an innovation. “Problem brings solution,” asserts Er Bhat. “When you have a problem; only then, you can have an idea.”

Er Bhat who is mentoring the budding innovators is himself passionate about new ideas and innovations. It was during his student days at NIT Srinagar, when he thought of innovating a system—which could control the whole examination process. The innovation was aiming to hide the identity of the examinee. And, only bar codes would be visible on the answer paper. Even, the examiner would have no idea whose paper he was decoding. And then, the machine would itself put the paper under the respective examinee’s name. The results would have then appeared in the form of SMS.

“But when I forwarded this idea to concerned department,” continues Er Bhat, “I was told: ‘your machine will render examiners jobless!’ Anyways, rejections are the part of our lives.” The idea never materialized.

Since long, the text books impart an age old adage: Necessity is the mother of all inventions. It was same situation for Saima Ahad, a 7th semester student of Electronics Department of the varsity who got the idea to innovate, what she calls, ‘Smart Load Managed System’.

Like many of her mates, Saima stays in the campus hostel. But on the onset of winters, the hostel often makes the stay of students a bit awkward there due to low voltage. And, one of the immediate problems remains: ironing of clothes. It normally takes her one hour to iron her single dress owing to low voltage. It was during one such occasion, an idea flashed across her mind.

She began thinking: if priority-wise voltage would be given to electrical appliances—like that of iron, geyser, refrigerator and heaters—which are used daily and need more voltage. They will be given first priority. Similarly, laptops, phones and other gadgets need a bit less voltage and aren’t essentially used daily. As per her idea, these appliances should be given second priority. Bulbs and televisions need least voltage; they will be given third priority.

Saima’s innovation works like: If priority one device is plugged in, the transformer will take the voltage from priority two and priority third.

“I along with my three mates have innovated transformer which will give voltage according to the fixed priority,” says Saima, a sober looking girl wearing headscarf. “My innovation will turn all the lights off by itself. If the voltage coming from the main transformer is less; this transformer will use its own voltage and all the appliances will get the voltage according to their requirement, so it won’t put pressure on the main transformer.”

Similarly, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, 20, a 4th semester of the department from north Kashmir’s Pattan area is in line-up to give the final touch to his innovation—Electric Kangir. He wanted a permanent solution for the power cuts suffered by people during winters.

“We Kashmiris use Kangir throughout winters. I thought: apart from warming ourselves, why not use its heat for charging our basic and important devices like mobile phones and laptops,” says Bhat, a boyish-faced youth with palpable shyness in his body-language. “I discussed the idea with Er Rouf Sir and told him that a battery like device will be kept inside the lower part of the Kangir, besides a plugging board in which the charger pin will be placed. And, moreover, it will be affordable to everyone when in market.”

The mentor of these budding innovators is also working on his next idea to clean up the Dal. As a part of his doctorate research thesis, Er Rouf says his innovation will be very useful to restore the water body from unwanted ferns—one of the main problems of the water body.

And the immediate area of focus of his innovation would be on Azolla—a weed found in maximum quantity in Dal Lake. Already many efforts are being taken to clean up the Dal from all its sides, but this weed is multiplying uncontrollably.

The fern reduces oxygen level in water which makes it hard for aquatics to breathe. “I am in the process of making a network of skimmers which will be sent down to water to take out Azollas,” he claims. “These skimmers will work with the help of flying vehicle which will fly over the whole area of Dal to examine where Azolla are and then, this flying vehicle will itself send the message to the skimmer to take away the fern from the respective areas. After that, there will be no need of man power.”

Prof Mohi-ud-din, head of Electronic and Communication department KU says these innovations are being recommended at the national labs like PRISM (Paediatric Rehabilitation Intelligent Systems Multidisciplinary), DSIR and TOCIC (TePP Outreach cum Cluster Innovation Center).

“We first make these innovators present their projects at university level in presence of concerned experts called as ‘technology angels’. When they find them worth, only then I recommend their projects for further screening to DSIR and other national labs,” Prof Mohi-ud-din says. “In the beginning only PRISM and DSIR received and approved our projects but now TOCIC is also supporting us.”

With ideas assimilating and assembling inside varsity’s Informal Lab with palpable curiosity among students for innovation, the buzzword is: someday Kashmir’s own Edison might walk out of the Lab!


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