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Meet the Science in Action Finalists, Part 2: Building a barrier against desertification, developing an app for farmers, and an app-driven map-based approach to emergency management systems


On August 6, the winner of the third annual $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award, powered by the Google Science Fair, will be announced. In this blog series we ask the students behind the projects to describe their work and themselves. Meet three young scientists who share their thoughts on how to improve the world.

Name: Agastya Seth
Age: 16
Country: India
Project: “Krishak”: Empowering Farmers for Better Agricultural Outcomes!

How does your project help the community you grew up in?
Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy, as it is in many developing countries. Although I live in a largely urban neighborhood and do not belong to a farmer community per se, thanks to the media I have been quite aware of the plight of small farmers in India. Their exploitation has led to a spate of farmer suicides in recent years. Low, unpredictable agriculture productivity and an inefficient and unfair supply chain in which the farmer barely gets to make ends meet make their condition abysmal.

I had a strong desire to try and do something about it, especially by leveraging my passion for technology. I realized that I am fortunate enough to have been born into a family that has provided me with education and all the possible resources. I felt it was my responsibility to do something more socially relevant.

What is your favorite hobby?
Playing and improvising on my keyboard and guitar. Besides music, l enjoy learning about and experimenting with the latest technology gadgets.


Name: Rahul Bhatt
Age: 16
Country: United States
Project: Stopping the Sahara: Building a Barrier against Desertification

How does your project help the community you grew up in?
The project impacts me because I live in California and the state currently is in a major drought. Our product can sustain plant growth while using less water due to the hydrogels. I believe this aspect of the project can make a major impact. However, I also believe the project truly means a lot to my partner, Amine. Amine comes from Algeria. He and his father have witnessed the harmful effects of desertification from firsthand experience. He really wanted to do something about it, and that’s where our product began. Our product’s major application involves its use in the Great Green Wall initiative, which aims to erect a wall of trees across sub-Saharan Africa to stop desertification. We feel that if we are successful, we can help improve the lives of millions who are forced to suffer from desertification’s effects.

What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years, and why? The past 10 years?
Of the past 100 years, I would have to say the Internet has been the most revolutionary invention. Even today we can see the growth of its impact on our lives. For better or worse, it has changed communication forever. In the past 10 years, I think the smartphone has been the most revolutionary invention. Over a billion people in the world, including nearly all of my friends, own a smartphone. I think it’s so revolutionary because it has combined so many useful technologies into one portable gadget.

What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby is playing sports. From basketball to tennis, I enjoy playing pretty much anything that keeps me active and is fun.

Name: Ashvin Kumar
Age: 14
Country: India
Project: A Real Time Map Based Approach to Emergency Management Systems

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?
I have many scientists that I really look up to for their contributions to science awareness, such as Nirupama Raghavan because she was the first woman in India to get a doctorate in astrophysics (and is the grandmother to one of my team members!), as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson for his contributions to modern science awareness, Albert Einstein for his enormous contributions to physics and Stephen Hawking for his amazing work.

What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years, and why? The past 10 years?
In the last 100 years, I think that the most revolutionary invention was that of the internal combustion engine, because it has allowed massive improvements in transportation, bringing people from all over the world together.

In the last 10 years, I think that the most important invention was that of social networking sites such as Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter, for connecting people and using the internet to bring people together.

Do you have a favorite band or song?
I enjoy listening to many different bands and artists, but some of my favorites are Of Monsters and Men, Imagine Dragons and Arctic Monkeys.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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