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15-Year-Old Invents Solar-Powered Ironing Cart, Aims to Make India's 10 Million Ironing Carts Less Polluting

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When she was 12 years old, Vinisha Umashankar watched an ironing cart vendor throw out burnt charcoal in her hometown in southern India. She started thinking about all of the ironing vendors across India who use charcoal to heat an iron and press clothing for a fee and the tremendous environmental impact of the common practice. "It made me think about the amount of charcoal burnt every day," Vinisha recalls, "and the damage it does to the environment." The science-loving Mighty Girl decided to come up with an environmentally friendly alternative and, after poring through college level physics textbooks to understand how solar panels worked, she designed a new ironing cart that uses solar panels to power a steam iron. Three years later, the now 15-year-old has gained worldwide acclaim for her invention, which she hopes to start manufacturing within the next few months, and even addressed COP26, the U.N.'s climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Indian government estimates that there are 10 million ironing carts across the country, each using 11 pounds of charcoal daily. The smoke generated by burning charcoal contains particulate matter which contributes to the country's poor air quality, which is already among the worst in the world, and harms both human health and the environment. "That’s when I learned that something as common as an iron can have such dangerous consequences," observes Vinisha.

When she started researching her solar powered iron cart concept, Vinisha determined that five hours of sunshine could provide enough energy for six hours of ironing. Her design was recognized by India's National Innovation Foundation and engineers there helped her to build a prototype and apply for a patent. The cart, which she calls Iron-Max, is attacked to a bicycle to make it easy for iron vendors to transport. She included a coin-operated cellphone charging port in the prototype that gives vendors an additional way to make income. There's also a battery that can be used to store energy from the solar panels for use on cloudy days.

Since completing her prototype two years ago, Vinisha's invention has attracted global attention. Last year, she won the Children's Climate Prize, a Swedish award recognizing young innovators; the jury for the prize wrote that "if implemented on a large scale, this is an invention that can have a significant positive impact on India's air quality and people's health." She also became the youngest person nominated for this year's inaugural Earthshot Prize, launched by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge this year. Recently, she was given the opportunity to speak at COP26 where she told world leaders: "You are deciding whether or not we will have a chance to live in a habitable world. You are deciding whether or not we are worth fighting for, worth supporting and worth caring [for]."

Looking forward, Vinisha has big plans for Iron-Max and hopes to start manufacturing the carts within the next few months. She also hopes to come up with more inventions to help reduce humans' impact on the Earth. "We are trying to restore our planet in less than a century, and that’s not much time compared to the time it took us to get to this point," she points out. "[But during the pandemic] we worked our way around and figured out alternative methods to get things done. I believe we can take the same initiative for the future and for our planet."

Children's Books and Science Kits For Mighty Girl Inventors

The EARTH Book

The EARTH Book

Written by: Todd Parr
Recommended Age: 2 - 4

"I take care of the earth because I know I can do little things every day to make a BIG difference." This book draws direct connections between suggestions for environmentally-friendly life and the way those actions protect the Earth — using both sides of the paper, for example, means fewer trees cut for paper, which also protects the wildlife that lives within those trees. Best-selling author / illustrator Todd Parr’s signature art style is colorful and fun — and printed on recycled paper with soy inks. The book also includes a poster full of reminders of how kids can take care of the Earth every day.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$15.49 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£7.99 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$15.99 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£9.64 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$35.31 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$9.99 (USD)

Interstellar Cinderella

Interstellar Cinderella

Written by: Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by: Meg Hunt
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

This retelling transports Cinderella into outer space! Hardworking Cinderella is kept doing menial appliance repairs, but at night, she studies how to build and repair rocket ships. When her family strands her on an empty planet. all Cinderella's fairy godrobot needs to provide are tools; that allows Cinderella to repair a ship, get off the planet, and provide some much needed mechanical assistance to the Prince! She’s also smart enough to know she’s too young for marriage, opting to take up the post of chief royal mechanic instead. Tinkering kids will love this mechanically-inclined Cinderella.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$20.77 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£9.26 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$27.99 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£10.34 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$32.87 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$10.44 (USD)

The Most Magnificent Thing

The Most Magnificent Thing

Written by: Ashley Spires
Illustrated by: Ashley Spires
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

The little girl in this story has an idea in her head for the most MAGNIFICENT thing... so with the help of her puppy sidekick, she collects some bits and pieces and starts building. Except that the result isn't quite as magnificent as she wanted, so she tries again... and again... and again. Eventually, frustration overtakes her, and she not only smashes, pummels, and explodes, she also quits. It's not until she takes a walk with her dog and clears her head that she can see the potential in all her previous design and build something that she really does feel is magnificent. This fun picture book sends a great message to young readers about the importance of persistence.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$16.95 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£9.17 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$26.25 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£9.33 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$28.58 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$16.99 (USD)

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like An Inventor

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like An Inventor

Written by: Temple Grandin
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

World-renowned scientist, inventor, and autism advocate Temple Grandin knows that the world needs all kinds of minds! In this unique book, Grandin invites readers to think of themselves as inventors, and to give themselves permission to tinker, build, and experiment. 25 kid-friendly projects are included, along with intriguing anecdotes from Grandin's own childhood and interesting sidebars about the science behind some of the inventions she describes. Throughout, she reminds young people that there are many ways to look at any problem — so as long as you keep an open mind, you can always find a solution.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$27.90 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£9.99 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$21.73 (AUD)
The Book Depository
(Unavailable)
The Book Depository
(Unavailable)
Amazon.com
$9.99 (USD)

Girls Think of Everything

Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Girls Think of Everything

Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Written by: Catherine Thimmesh
Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet
Recommended Age: 8 and up

Every day, we use items and products invented by women — and yet few people could name one woman inventor. This book changes that! Author Catherine Thimmesh surveys a wide variety of inventions, from Stephanie Kwolek's Kevlar to Patsy O. Sherman's Scotchgard, that have changed the world, exploring how these women came up with their ideas and how they made them a reality. Engaging and inspiring, and updated in 2018 with even more stories of inventive women, this book celebrates female ingenuity and the women who refused to give up until their inventions became part of our everyday lives.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$23.64 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£11.34 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$35.50 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£11.34 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$35.58 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$11.79 (USD)

Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth

Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth

Written by: Rachel Sarah
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

You don't have to be larger than life to protect the environment: these activists show that you can take bold steps before you turn 25! Inside this book, you'll find the stories of 25 activists who have participated in climate strikes, given speeches, sued their governments, and founded organizations pushing for change. You'll meet girls from all over the world, from a girl with cerebral palsy from Harlem who tackles how climate change and disability rights interact, to a girl from Brazil whose love of surfing prompted her to work to protect our planet's oceans. With each story including a color photograph, social media handles, responses to interview questions, and more, this is a hopeful picture of the future of environmentalism that invites young readers to see that they can be activists too.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$21.05 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£10.41 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$25.48 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£10.77 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$30.82 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$14.79 (USD)

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved The Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved The Planet

Written by: Kate Pankhurst
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

Around the world, bold and daring women are doing their part to save our planet and protect the environment! In this book from the Fantastically Great Women series, best-selling author Kate Pankhurst — descendant of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst — introduces young readers to environmental activists like Edith Farkas, the Antarctic researcher who helped identify the hole in the Ozone Layer; Isatou Ceesay, who is educating and empowering women in the Gambia as they take wasteful plastic bags and turn them into upcycled products; and Anite Roddick, whose store The Body Shop was on the forefront of ethical consumerism. This lighthearted and appealing book is a tribute to thirteen women leading the charge in environmental activism.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$15.68 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£5.94 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$13.75 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£6.35 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$19.08 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$12.43 (USD)

How to Change Everything: The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other

How to Change Everything: The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other

Recommended Age: 10 and up

Climate change is happening now, but we can do something about it — and young people are leading the movement! Naomi Klein, best-selling author of This Changes Everything and On Fire, introduces young readers to the science of climate change — what's happening and how to stop it — as well as to questions about how combating climate change can also work to create a fair future for everyone, not just people in the developed world. Then, she introduces readers to young leaders worldwide who are doing their part to fight for climate justice! This empowering call to action is a reminder to young people that they have more power than they think — and a roadmap for making their voices heard.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$27.53 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£6.61 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$29.41 (AUD)
The Book Depository
£16.18 (GBP)
The Book Depository
A$38.73 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$15.79 (USD)

Young Inventor Lottie Doll

Young Inventor Lottie Doll

Manufacturer: Lottie Dolls
Recommended Age: 3 - 8

Young Inventor Lottie is ready to try building, engineering, fixing, and, of course, inventing! She's got a tool belt and plenty of tools to use, including a hammer, a screwdriver, a wrench, scissors, and a flashlight. And of course she has work boots and a sturdy hard hat — safety first! Budding builders will love this doll, based on the body of a 9-year-old girl, who does all the activities that real girls do.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
(Unavailable)
Amazon.co.uk
£23.95 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$26.39 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$27.99 (USD)

Snap Circuits Green Energy Kit

Snap Circuits Green Energy Kit

Manufacturer: Elenco Electronics Inc
Recommended Age: 8 and up

The Snap Circuits Green Energy Kit makes learning about electricity and alternate energy fun! This award-winning kit features 125 step-by-step projects that teach kids how technology allows us to use renewable energy sources — and to make the most efficient use out of whatever power source we use. With over 45 parts, including green energy components like a fan, a solar cell, and more, there's plenty to learn about making clean power... and like all Snap Circuits kits, no soldering is required, allowing kids to quickly and easily build the projects in the kit or prototype their own circuits.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$177.14 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£64.99 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$139.64 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$89.99 (USD)

Solar Power Kit

Solar Power Kit

Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Recommended Age: 8 and up

Learn about the incredible potential of solar power with this kit from Thames and Kosmos! Six different models, including a bulldozer, a locomotive, and even a helicopter, all get powered by a solar cell. The cell in the kit generates 1.5 volts in bright sunlight, but it's also interchangeable with a solar-charged battery for cloudy day fun. This kit is sure to get kids thinking of how we can use the energy all around us in innovative ways. The same company also makes a Solarbots 8-in-1 Solar Robot Kit for ages 6 and up that lets kids explore how solar power can make their robots work.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
(Unavailable)
Amazon.co.uk
(Unavailable)
Amazon.com.au
(Unavailable)
Amazon.com
$53.99 (USD)

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