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17-year-old Tamil Nadu girl builds satellite to study air pollution

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(Rep image)

A light-weight satellite built by a 17-year-old aspiring medical student from Trichy will study the effects of air pollution and global warming in various regions including major cities in Tamil Nadu. Named after Anitha, the student who committed suicide last year after she failed to clear NEET exams to get an MBBS seat, the 500g Anitha-SAT, packed in a conical-shaped capsule will take off in a helium balloon from Mexico City on May 6.

K A Villet Oviya, who built the satellite with help from industry experts and NGOs, said the satellite will carry sensors that will measure various parameters like temperature, pressure, air quality and concentration of gases including carbon monoxide when it reaches an altitude of 15km in its three-hour lifespan.

The satellite will also be fitted with GPS for positioning, gyrometer and accelerometer to measure orientation and angular speed, barometer to measure the height and a camera to live telecast the mission. The data will be transmitted to the ground station at Aztra Labs in Mexico City. Once the balloon gets close to the uppermost layer of the earth’s atmosphere, the balloon would explode and the capsule will begin its descent. A parachute would be deployed when the capsule reaches around 8,000m from sea level. After it falls in the sea, the satellite would be recovered.
“The gas sensor, which is fitted in the satellite, will measure the concentration of various gases like oxygen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide layer-wise in the atmosphere,” Oviya said and added that the data could be utilised by governments to come up with measures to curb air pollution.
For Oviya, who is now busy preparing for NEET exam, it was her short stint as a participant in a reality TV show identifying budding scientists, E7ham Arivu, three years back that motivated her to come up with the idea of building a satellite.
The turning point came when she got a chance to present one of her projects, smart irrigation system, to late President A P J Abdul Kalam. “I wanted to do something to create awareness about air pollution. My love for electrical and electronics drove me further to conceptualise Anitha-SAT,” said Oviya, who is awaiting her Class XII result.

The project, which took three years to be completed, was sponsored by founder of Ignite - India and Agni Foundation, Agnishwar Jayaprakash, who also conceptualised E7ham Arivu show.
Oviya was guided by Garuda Aerospace in Chennai, to design, procure components, fabricate and feed in the algorithms required for the satellite. “Building Anitha-SAT was not easy,” she said.

A few days back, Oviya met Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and education minister K A Sengottaiyan, who appreciated and honoured her for her effort. Apart from Anitha-SAT, Oviya had also undertaken a few other projects. Some of them include the automatic irrigation system based on soil moisture content, a bio-fertiliser and pesticide and a hand gesture vocaliser for people with speech and hearing impairment.
The day when her satellite lifts off from earth, Oviya’s dream of becoming a doctor will also take off, as she would be appearing for the NEET exam. “But I won’t be able to watch the launch,” she added.

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