Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Young Bhutanese Scientist designs eco-friendly Dhobi

Vishma Rai is a second-year computer science engineering student studying in Delhi Technological institute and has recently risen to fame in the international media for his innovative discovery of the fully automated pedal powered washing machine called Dhobi. The President of India will grant him an audience on the 12th of March. He has also been given a semester off by the Institute formerly known as Delhi College of Engineering to commercialize his team’s product Dhobi. Vishma said “I conceptualized the idea at the end of first semester and this project wouldn’t have been successful without my Institute’s support.” Dhobi was awarded the first price for innovative green energy technologies for India in New Delhi last month. He is probably the youngest Bhutanese scientist to have made such an innovative discovery.

Vishma is an alumni of Phuentsholing High School and Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School but is not on a government scholarship; he applied for his United States visa which did not materialize and so he found himself in Delhi Technological Institute. Vishma said “this was a blessing in disguise as the boy’s hostel where there were no washing machines and there was a regular rush to go to a gym and spend a lot of money to avail its facilities to burn calories, inspired me to club both the ideas and come up with the prototype for Dhobi along with my team members,” of whom some are his seniors. The calorie burning, pedal powered, gear system with shafts and a motor, washing machine is aimed to not only make washing an easier affair for rural women populace but it also comes with an idea to break certain engendered social constructions. Women are generally considered technologically incompetent, laundry is seen as a woman’s affair and this machine would inspire change and also inspire men to lose weight and wash clothes thereby making laundry a cost effective family affair.

The Dhobi is based on bicycle components that stimulate motor action. There is also a gear system in place very similar to that of bicycles. An average electric fed washing machine rated at 2200 Watt for a washing cycle of 1.5 hrs costs Nu. 12 and if a household uses it twice a day, it easily comes to Nu. 24, and a monthly expense of Nu. 720. Dhobi is a onetime investment and will cost Nu. 3500 for rural areas and Nu. 4500 for the urban crowd wherein for the urban one there would also be a digitized meter that would monitor how many calories have been burnt. For the urban crowd it is also aimed to reduce unhealthy lazy habits, obesity, hypertension, heart diseases, abnormal blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments for which people either go to a doctor or to the gym. The parts are maintenance free and this machine will never become redundant says Vishma. He further adds “the only thing missing as compared to the electric washing machine is that there is no hot air drying system but the clothes come out significantly dry even without it.”

When asked how he will commercialize the product, he says “through microfinance and social entrepreneurial model adopted by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. He also hopes international bodies like World Bank and Asian Development bank will help distribute it for free. He also says “incorporating innovation and capacity building leads to newer ideas and innovation and would generate employment and lead to a self sufficient society. Helping the poor to be industrious will drastically decrease crime rates and other forms of violence.”

Dhobi is an eco friendly green technology project that harnesses energy, saves electricity and washes clothes. He derives his inspiration from scientists like Thomas Edison and James Watt. Apart from talking about Dhobi, discussing patent law with his Vice Chancellor and meeting eminent Scientists, Vishma is also very interested in E-waste management whereby he wants to supply rural schools in Bhutan discarded computers that can be re-assembled and reused. He also attended two international conferences last year; International Youth Forum, Seliger and World Youth Congress, Turkey and his travel was funded by the Cabinet Minister of Bhutan. He found these conferences online and managed to raise funds. Vishma feels very strongly about being a part of a global village and participating in it.

When asked if he would like to say something to the Bhutanese audience, Vishma said, quite like a scientist “I quote Jonathan Schattke, ‘necessity is the mother of invention, it is true, but its father is creativity, and knowledge is the midwife. And we feel that concept of pedal power washing machine may have struck many minds but few hands have worked it out.” In ten years time Vishma intends to be a Scio-Eco-Entrepreneur a term he hopes will be coined in time.

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