Charu Monga, professor at IIT Guwahati, shares how she created the solar-powered waterproof backpacks ‘Jugnu’, using recycled plastic.
This article has been sponsored by MG Motor India.
“I have always admired the remarkable display of teamwork, traditions and thoughtful approach that communities in the Northeast display when they come together to help each other,” says Charu Monga, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. She adds, “The traditions they follow, the way they find answers to everyday problems — there’s a design to it.”
In a bid to explore how these principles can be combined with emerging technologies, she regularly conducts workshops to interact with children to develop innovative mindsets. During one such interaction, Charu recalls a conversation with a young boy, who recounted the difficulties the children face due to an early sunset and infrequent power supply. These factors were a hindrance to their playtime, as well as their desire to study and learn.
This challenge moved her to come up with Jugnu. “It’s fascinating how nature finds its way through the darkness. I found Jugnu the same way,” she says.
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Charu integrated a solar light into a backpack made of recycled plastic. The bag is waterproof, and the light is hands-free. “More importantly, the children don’t have to worry about charging this light, or forgetting it at school or at home,” Charu says. Each bag also comes with a unique lab kit, which the children can use to come up with their own inventions.
Subsequently, Charu also established community innovation hubs, which aim to provide everyone access to devices like Virtual Reality headsets and well-curated course content so that they’re encouraged to create and invent on their own. “So many children have come up with numerous solutions, like solar-powered boats and LED lights to solve the problems they were facing in their districts,” she adds.
Through this endeavour, Charu has held science, design, and creative workshops for over 2,500 students, and distributed over 200 Jugnu backpacks across 20 schools in seven districts.
“In a way, these communities are lighting up their own lives, just like fireflies,” she says.
Watch how Jugnu has lit up the lives of several children in the video below: