Aastha and Maria have been awarded for their creations that help people overcome day-to-day challenges Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

Aastha Das, GEMS Cambridge International School, Dubai

Although still in school, Aastha Das is already the founder and CEO of SHERO (which stands for She + Hero) and hopes to make the world safer for women by the click of a button and a bracelet taser. To that end, she has created the SHERO bracelet to protect women’s physical safety, and the SHERO: SheBot to protect women’s social media safety. The young student entrepreneur is also a winner of the 2019 Global Innovation Challenge and GEMS Innovation Awards. She had the opportunity to pitch her idea to an audience of entrepreneurs and investors at the Singularity University Global Summit in California. Keen to finding sustainable solutions to global problems, she considers herself a lifelong learner.

How does the technology work?

With just a click of a button, the SHERO bracelet, a ‘fashionable’ accessory, will activate a GPS-enabled SOS alert to the nearest police station and to the user’s guardian. It can also give a non-fatal electric shock to the perpetrator that will leave him unconscious for a couple of minutes. The other innovation, SHERO: SheBot, an AI-driven safety bot for protecting girls on social media platforms, works by detecting and blocking child predators before they try to contact the user and effectively reporting the predator’s account along with IP address to the respective social media platform.

How did you get the idea?

I realised that there are millions of women out there who either aren’t aware that they have the right to consent or are in a situation to speak up for themselves and seek help. That influenced the creation of SHERO.

How did it feel pitching the idea at the Singularity University Global Summit?

It was an experience of a lifetime. Apart from showcasing my innovation to an audience comprising innovators, industry heads, students and investors, I also had an exponential learning experience by listening to prominent speakers such as Peter Dimandis. I could connect with industry experts, investors, tech geeks and gain a new perspective to set my vision and mission as an entrepreneur.

Aastha is now looking for angel investors to support her SHERO Solution Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

What stage is the project in now?

On October 6, 2020, project SHERO became SHERO Solutions FZ LLC, a legally registered and licenced company in the UAE thus making me perhaps the youngest CEO and owner in the UAE.

We are yet at a prototype stage and looking for angel investors to support SHERO Solution to bring the product to market and contribute to women empowerment.

Have you worked on any other projects?

Yes, several. I led a team of three girls and created an app that provided a sustainable platform for students, parents and staff to buy healthy food from the school canteen at a click of a button. Our app bagged first place from 400 participants. I also led a team that won the Business Simulation Challenged for designing an app for VPS Health Care. The app focused on easy data transfer of patients and provided mental wellbeing support for patients suffering from chronic illness.

One of my current projects alongside SHERO Solutions is Dubai Young Start-Up Fund (DYSF). I was awarded the position of being the Director of the start-up incubator program at Cambridge International School. Along with the support of the Principal as well as the teachers-in-charge, Ms Lynda and Ms Lourdina, I launched DYSF. It nurtures students to become future entrepreneurs and provides them with the opportunity to get their seed funding from the startup incubator program. I mentor the cohort in a bi-weekly program to build their start-up and make them future-ready. I also conduct learning-oriented interactive workshops on target market analysis, stakeholder analysis, prototyping, personal branding, to name a few.

How do you balance schoolwork with innovating?

The current blended learning platform helped me balance my school and entrepreneur journey. My teachers at school have been very supportive and helpful too.

What tips/advice can you offer students?

Don’t stop learning. Keep exploring new skills and growing in life. Empathize with the world’s needs and come up with solutions. If it sounds mad or crazy then you know you are on the right track.

Maria Falaknaz, Year 9, GEMS Wellington International School

A technically enhanced walking stick that detects road conditions including puddles and other objects through multiple sensors on the cane stick, then alerts the user by a soft beep through a Bluetooth headpiece, thus making life easier for people with a visual impairment. That is the innovation Maria Falaknaz, a 9th grader at GEMS Wellington International School, developed that earned her a Silver Crest Award in Science for "Making a contribution to Science using Cutting-Edge Technology".

"It is clear that the work you have done in this project will be able to contribute to ongoing research. You’ve also used scientific methodology...," Crest, a UK-based organisation run by the British Science Association, which has links to leading scientists, said of the innovation.

When did you become interested in STEM subjects?

This passion was built on from a very young age. I was always a curious individual who always wanted to explore new topics. I was in multiple robotics clubs when I was younger and participated in stem competitions.

When and how did you get the idea?

I got the idea of this innovation when we were introduced to a Crest Award competition, and we had to choose a topic that affects the world and how to solve it. I was exploring the topic of technology and sensors in self-drive cars, and later thought of implementing it into an advanced walking stick for the visually impaired.

The visually impaired are so restricted with a normal walking stick; they need something more advanced to help them live their daily lives at ease. We named it Seercane, seer means ‘go’ in Arabic.

The sensors in self-drive cars served gave Maria an idea to implement the same technology into an advanced walking stick for the visually impaired Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

How do you feel about achieving a Silver Crest Award?

Receiving this award was hugely motivating and made me feel so thrilled that my idea was being appreciated. It encouraged me to continue developing the project and working on it so millions of people could benefit with this innovation.

Currently, I am working on this innovation with the NextGen10 team. I was one of 10 people out of 800-900 students who have the chance to work with HSBC, present their ideas at Expo 2020 and receive mentoring sessions with top class mentors.

What next with the innovation?

After NextGen10, and the Expo 2020 event, I plan to search for a big company that would help me in producing my innovation and making it become a reality either by financing or funding for the production of the cane stick or overseeing the product being implemented by a corporation

Who supported you on this initiative?

I had the help of a physics teacher in my school, Mr Cullen, and also the help of my class teacher, Miss Donaldson and of course, the support of my parents who always encouraged me.

How do you effectively manage schoolwork alongside innovating?

I’ve developed time management skill two years ago, when I went to year 7. I was exposed to additional subjects and more knowledge and needed to allocate time for each subject after school. So I had to combine my revision for school lessons and also my research for the innovation. It was a skill I was exposed to during the Crest award too, so I was consistently practicing it, and managed it perfectly.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’ve always had a passion for helping people and volunteering. I think being an oncologist or doctor would fulfil that satisfaction.

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