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Bengaluru teen builds smart spoon for Parkinson’s patients

By Anjali.Jhangiani@timesgroup.com | Oct 11, 2023

Aarav Anil has represented India in over 20 robotics competitions held in the US, Russia, France and other countries. The TOI #Unstoppable21 jury has picked the teenager from Karnataka as one of the Unstoppable 21 Indians under 21 years

Aarav Anil was searching for ways to make life a little easier for his uncle who has Parkinson’s, so he built a battery-operated smart spoon that would let a patient feed themselves more independently. His prototype bagged first place in a robotics competition held in Germany last November where the 17-year-old represented India.

“One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is hand tremors that make it difficult to do basic things like buttoning a shirt or feeding yourself. My uncle’s hands used to shake so much that by the time the spoon reached his mouth, most of the food would spill over. I made the spoon using a 3D printer and sensor motors. The spoon compensates for his hand tremors and maintains stability,” Aarav said.

Earlier this year, he tied up with RV College of Physiotherapy in Bengaluru to validate the product and gather feedback so it can be made consumer-friendly before mass production begins.

“Working on the feedback that the spoon was rather bulky, I tweaked the design to make it easier to grip and sent it back for trials. I also improved sensitivity to make it more responsive to higher frequencies,” Aarav said.

A student of class 12 at Presidency School in Bangalore South, Aarav has represented India in over 20 robotic competitions held in the US, Russia, France and other countries.

His fascination with robotics started at the age of nine when his mother gifted him a Lego kit that he just couldn’t stop playing with. “The combination of mechanics, software and electronics absolutely captivated my interest. Looking at how I was inspired by robotics, my mother quit her job and started an institute called Robolectro Team Studio to provide other children with a platform to learn such 21st-century skills six years ago.”

His father is a mechanical engineer and Aarav’s work as a mechatronics engineer comprises the best of both worlds. But whenever he hits a wall while working on his projects, he turns to YouTube. “Apart from my school teachers, it has been the source of all my knowledge. You can find a video about anything on that platform,” he said.

When he is not working on products to change the world for the better, Aarav is busy using his skills to upgrade his room. “I like to build stuff for myself, there is a lot of trial and error involved but there is so much to be learned from failures as well. It was very hot in Bengaluru this year, so I built a fan with speed controls, and lights with automatic brightness adjustment for my room.”

With just a few months left to start applying to colleges, he wants to pursue a degree in robotics and engineering in the Netherlands.

“When I visited the country for a competition, I found that they have good courses that are practical-oriented. Engineering courses in India are very theory-oriented, and very stressful to get into. I don’t like mugging up just to write exams, but I like to be involved in practical work and build stuff,” he added.

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