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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The ideas lab

Months before Valentine’s Day,engineering student Gaurav Minocha had found the perfect way to get his message across—a tiny blinking heart that goes berserk every time somebody touches it.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
February 15, 2009 2:22:17 am

From a blinking heart to a personal power plant,Dhananjay Gadre’s innovations crowd his lab and home

Months before Valentine’s Day,engineering student Gaurav Minocha had found the perfect way to get his message across—a tiny blinking heart that goes berserk every time somebody touches it. This gift of love was born in a forbidding surrounding—a sparse laboratory of the Centre for Electronics Design and Technology at the Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology in Dwarka. The heart is made of rows of tiny bulbuous eruptions fuelled by LED,technical knowhow and the engineering creativity of Minocha and his professor,Dhananjay Gadre. “The lights start flickering madly when somebody’s hand reaches towards it. Touch the bulbs,and the flickering intensifies into a mad series of winks and blinks,” says Gadre.

It isn’t love alone that fuels Gadre’s creativity. The laboratory is filled with geegaws that range from the bizarre—a face-shaped monitor with lips moving to music or a spinning top that flashes messages—to the awesome—a battery-less remote control that Gadre promises can reduce environment pollution in ways unimaginable. “I hate batteries. They are not bio-degradable. They seep into the soil,soak in the water and make their way into our blood stream as poison particles,” he says. The battery-less gadget is a conventional TV remote fused with a syringe-like contraption. He adds,“Shake the remote twice as you would a bottle of medicine and…” He aims it at a faraway plug point that starts blinking. “And you can use it to switch channels and increase the volume,it can be used as a normal remote with one exception. No battery changes,ever. I use it at home.” Gadre calls these nuggets of creativity his jugaad collection,of which some quirky pieces will be showcased at CeC & CaC (pronounced ‘Sek & Sak’),a Carnival of e-Creativity & Change-agents Conclave that will be held in Bhimtal near Nainital later this month. Accompanying him there would be student Nehul Malhotra.

While most of Gadre’s innovations are open source he intends to patent his “favourite work”. Made of translucent cylinders,the Personal Power Plant is an alternative to electricity. “The device is strapped to the knees and attached to an FM radio (battery-less) or a mobile phone. Go trekking in a remote area or just move your legs,and the magents create enough power to charge your cellphone or play the radio. You don’t need electricity,” he says.

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Gadre’s creative streak wasn’t obvious as a child. In fact,as a child he broke everything in sight. “The first time I constructed something,rather than pull it apart,was in engineering college. It became an addiction.” Even as the world swore by India’s software talent,Gadre was having visions of the future. “China is to the US in hardware what India is to the US in software. China is just a short distance away from overtaking us unless India upgrades its hardware capability,” he says. Technical innovations crowd his home and lab. He launches into lengthy technical talk about magnetic force,LEDs,lights,power of vision and the jargons of physics. He lifts a small box with a slit for a cellphone screen. “This is a contact-free tachometer. Attach a magnet to a fan,and the screen shows the speed of the whirring blades,” he says. Another innovation is a slim pencil-shaped thing that Gadre operates as a matchstick,striking it against a conventional matchbox packed with magnetic balls. “Hardware is so much fun that it becomes an addiction for a lifetime,” he says. As far as he is concerned,a crazy blinking heart says it better than roses.

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