I am a maker.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a screwdriver in my pocket and an urge to open up everything around me to ‘see what’s inside and figure out how it works’.
I have always loved to tinker, explore and build and I have read, researched, networked and learnt as much as possible from fellow makers and mentors. This passion has taken me to Hackathons, Robotics competitions and Science fairs. I joined a Robotics Club. I convinced my parents to allow me to set up a workshop in the guest room and then spent all my gift money on equipping it with the tools I needed.
However I realized that most kids did not share my passion for STEM. One of the purposes of my project builds is to show people that Robotics and STEM are not boring and difficult subjects reserved for highly qualified ‘nerds’ in a lab. They can be fun, simple and mind-bogglingly interesting.
I launched my YouTube channel, 'Making with Mihir', and my website 'mihirvardhan.com' to inspire more youth to join the maker movement. However, I soon realized that the DIY project videos I had been making were enjoyed by robotics enthusiasts but were not inspiring everyone and may, in fact, have been doing just the opposite.
I figured that interesting and comical robots were the best way to show people the fun and interesting side of Engineering that I fell in love with. My ‘Robot-That-Shoots-You-In-The-Face’ build has been the most popular so far. It went viral on YouTube and the UK-based HackSpace magazine featured it in their Feb ’18 issue.
By building such robots and explaining the basics of how they work, I hope to instill in youth that spark of curiosity that will inspire them to just grab a screwdriver and build something, break it down, and build something else. This process of experimentation will teach them, like it has taught me, more than any textbook in any school can. The practicality and application of this ‘something’ are nothing as compared to the learning that comes out of building it.
Today, I am the Founder and Head of The Robotics and Innovation Society at my school and have mentored over 100 kids in STEM, Engineering and critical problem solving. I am a strong believer in reaching out to all those who want to learn and, on my recommendation, this is the first society to have no minimum age requirements. I am proud to say that I have united kids of different ages and backgrounds over their love for STEM and hope to continue doing so in the years to come.
I have recently started to focus on how my builds can make a real difference in the real world – with a focus on sustainability. In 2017, I researched regenerative braking in e-rickshaws and I conceptualized, built and tested a model solar-powered air ionizer to treat pollution. In 2018, I raised funds for a 19.5kW grid-tied solar plant at an orphanage to reduce their carbon foot print and costs. I designed and project-managed the installation.
I have the honor of being named in the Avishkaar Maker Hall of Fame, 2018, and the honor of winning the Innovator’s Award for the solar plant installation, in recognition of a high-impact social initiative.
I believe that research is core to progress. I believe that we urgently need practical, affordable and accessible solutions for sustainability.
My name is Mihir Vardhan and I am a maker.