We often hear parents complaining about how kids smash their toys. S Kavin Prabhu, from Rasichettipalayam village in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, was such a kid. But his parents, especially his father Sundararaj M, an automobile mechanic and farmer, never restrained his son from spoiling things. Because every time Kavin ruined a toy, he created something better out of it.
“My childhood memories are filled with images of being with appa (father) in his mechanic shop and watching him fix things. Very soon, I did the same with whatever stuff I had. I never left anything untouched in our home,” says Kavin, who is now a third-year mechanical engineering student at the Vellore Institute of Technology.
Kavin started to attend inter-school science fests from the age of eight and came up with surprising innovations. “When I was studying in 9th standard, I made a hearing aid out of some motor and other scraps. It was part of a project, and my inspiration to innovate the aid was my deaf grandmother. When the motor comes in touch with teeth, sounds can be heard, explains the 21-year-old inventor.
Apart from his father, his science teacher Shobhana also fuelled the innovator in him. “I attended several inter-college fests and science forums along with a friend. I got into advanced projects during 11th standard,” he shares.
During that period, Kavin invented a pothole detector – which, based on vibrations, ascertains approaching gutters. “It could also be used to understand the quality of roads.”
Even though all these projects didn’t go ahead beyond a certain limit, Kavin was elated when he got admitted into his dream course. He expected to work on bigger projects which would pave the way to his startup dreams in future.
But the COVID-19 induced lockdown made him stuck at home, and he lost several opportunities too. But now, unexpectedly, a four-axis Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) machine he designed using locally-sourced scrap with less than Rs 1,500 has become an instant hit.
“As a child, I was fascinated by watching a Telugu movie called Eega in which the heroine is a miniature artist. I always wanted to make something like that but not manually. So last year, while one of my friend’s birthdays was approaching, I decided to gift a miniature art made by myself. That’s how the CNC project kickstarted,” gushes the youngster.
The CNC is capable of micro-machining miniature statues on a piece of chalk. “I had no design in mind but only the deadline which is my friend’s birthday. Thus, trial and error is the only method followed here,” he adds. “I don’t like spending money to make new inventions. Every time, scrap is collected and what turns out from it is the end result.”
Kavin’s CNC can carve objects out of plastic, metal and wood, among others, by following a computer code. The prototype, which is about the size of a palm, is made of 90 per cent scrap materials, including parts from a discarded DVD writer, PVC pipes, old bearings bolts and nuts. The small size, low power consumption, and optimised design are the machine’s significant advantages, and Kavin is looking for an opportunity to optimise the design.
Apart from this, he has also developed a personalised portrait maker out of discarded printer parts.
“Other than scaling up the CNC project, I dream to step into entrepreneurship. An incubator startup is what comes to my mind now, but I will explore more options in the upcoming years,” says the passionate youngster.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)