It has been more than seven years since the horrific gangrape and murder of a young woman in the national capital of India – the incidence knows as ‘Nirbhaya Case’ became a paradigm of the cruelty involved in such crimes. The mass civil movement that followed the mishap tightened Indian laws, which includes broadening the definition of rape. But, Cut to the present, have things changed?
We think not. We still do not flinch at news reports of acid attacks, rapes because they are very common. We do condemn these acts but how often do we act against them? Well, maybe not until it happens to someone close to us. However, 15-year-old (back then in 2015) Siddharth Mandala decided to cause a difference.
Siddharth was only 12 when the nation stood united in its anger and revulsion at the gangrape of a girl, whom media named Nirbhaya (fearless). For several weeks, Siddharth’s mom was a part of protestors and campaigners along with 500 others. Soon, Siddharth also joined his mom in the protests.
Weeks passed by waiting for the judicial system to come up with some action. Siddharth’s frustration started to pile up as nothing seemed to be moving. It could have been his mother, a relative, or friend. It was then that he decided to take things into his hands.
Siddharth decided to make use of the Piezoelectric effect that converts mechanical stress to electrical energy. At such a tender age, he created the base for his anti-rape footwear called ‘ElectroShoe’. This flip-flop styled footwear inflicts 0.1 amperes of current on the perpetrator and at the same time alerts the cops and family members of the victim. All the wearer has to do is kick the perpetrator.
Talking about the idea, Siddharth says, “To accomplish this, I created a unique circuit board that uses footsteps to charge itself with the help of piezoelectric effect, which I learned in my physics class. The more the user walks, the more energy is generated and stored in a rechargeable battery.”
At that age, Siddharth barely had any knowledge about the mechanism of his proposed idea. But instead of giving up, he decided to work on his own. After receiving many shocks from the device, he realized that he needed professional help from people in that field. Over the next couple of years, he pestered programmers and engineers, both online and offline, to solve issues that he faced one after another. Many of them became exasperated with his ‘nagging’ and stopped replying. But eventually, after 17 failed attempts, he came up with a viable version.
Siddharth firmly believes in Thomas Edison’s words, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
He took inspiration from him and started working on his project. In spite of multiple failures, he did not give up. The ElectroShoe is still in its developmental stage. Siddharth has a few kinks left to work out. He is finding a way to make the invention work with shoe styles other than flip-flops. However, he has filed a patent and plans to market the ElectroShoe soon.
This is not the end of his journey. While working on this product, Siddharth became an activist, influenced by his mother. He started the Cognizance Welfare Initiative (CWI), a Non- Government Organisation that spreads awareness about rape. He also teaches basic coding to the government school children and helps them to build their own projects dealing with microcontrollers.
Siddharth has also helped the society in many other ways. Along with his team, he filled over 30 potholes in and around Telangana with the renowned social worker Gangadhar Tilak. He was approached by USA-based organization Empower & Excel to be a part of their Indian Youth Wing as a team leader. Recognizing this young man’s efforts, the Education Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of Telangana, Kadiyam Srihari, awarded him with a letter of appreciation.
Siddharth has been invited by two universities in the US and Canada for his post-graduation. “I would like to do my majors in computer sciences, and minor in economics or business administration, which I believe will help me with my plans for my invention,” he says.
Today, when many people deny taking a stand for others, this young boy’s continuous and extraordinary efforts to stop crimes against women, somewhere makes us believe that our country is progressing. Kudos to his idea. We wish him all the best for his future endeavors.