This Article is From May 14, 2012

Asperger's syndrome is no obstacle for this young Kolkata inventor

Asperger's syndrome is no obstacle for this young Kolkata inventor
Kolkata: Asperger's syndrome has never been a disability for Shashank Agarwal. The 20-year-old has invented a light sensitive alarm to monitor tigers, a vertical-axis windmill that can withstand strong winds and an aeroponic structure to grow plants sans soil.

Now he is going to New Zealand for a degree in environmental management.

"Once I get my degree and the requisite experience, I plan to start a company and introduce technologies for ecological conservation and provide employment opportunities to others. I hope to do something for the cottage industries too," Shashank told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

However, future looked not this bright some time back. Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism. Those suffering from it find it more difficult to communicate and interact, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and confusion.

Suffering from a mild form of Asperger's since his childhood, Shashank was not ready to study in a mainstream school. His parents admitted him in Akshar School, set up for the mentally challenged children.

Shashank's autism type makes social interaction difficult and creates repetitive behaviour and interests. However, linguistic and cognitive matters develop normally in the affected child.

"As a child, he always had the idea of changing the world and he was obsessed with tigers. We nurtured his interests and his father took him to visit all the bio-reserves of the country," said Shobha Agarwal, the teenager's mother.

Shashank left the school after matriculation and cleared his higher secondary exam in humanities from The Heritage School in 2011.

"He had an aptitude for science from the beginning. We put him in charge of the school's science fests which he executed brilliantly. Although he has passed out, he is participating in this year's fest too," said The Heritage School principal Seema Sapru.

Shashank is an expert in recycling and transforming magazine pages, pen refills, cardboards into models that store solar power, some of which adorn the principal's room.

His expertise even impressed the authorities of the New Zealand's Southern Institute of Technology who decided to forgo the mandatory International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination for Shashank.

Shashank said his pet project is a solar gauntlet -- a portable solar torch powered by solar energy and equipped with LED lights with a battery indicator.

"I have been to the Sunderbans thrice and have tested it there," he said.

He said he learnt to use the LED lights from people erecting a Durga Puja marquee in south Kolkata.

At his college in Invercargill city, Shashank is eager to study subjects such as geographic information systems, resource management and conservation principles.

"Indiscriminate use of non-renewable resources have taken a toll on our environment. Indians have all the solutions but we do not put them into practice like the rest of the world," he said.