HIS projects tackling environmental issues and nature conservation helped 23-year-old Daniel Ravindran Thangaraju become one of five students to win the Youth Environmental Award recently.
The award is sponsored by the National Youth Achievement Award and HSBC Bank. As his prize, the first-year electrical and electronic engineering student at Singapore Polytechnic will embark on a week-long study trip to the Acadia National Park in Maine, US.
The August research trip will give Mr Ravindran the opportunity to work with researchers from Canada's Churchill Northern Studies Centre, which studies environmental issues in the northern hemisphere.
He said: "We will help to deploy cameras that focus on fruits of marked plants to capture evidence of the birds eating those fruits."
Researchers will then analyse the data gathered by the students to detect changes in life cycle events and interaction between the plants and birds over time.
Mr Ravindran said he believes that "studying electronics can play a major part in tackling environmental problems that society faces".
For instance, at his previous school - the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West, where he completed his higher NITEC in electronics engineering - he used his knowledge of electronics to come up with a battery e-waste bin to safely dispose of batteries.
Most batteries contain cadmium, lead, mercury, copper, zinc, manganese, lithium and potassium, which are hazardous to the environment and to health.
"Unfortunately, one widely-used method in the world is to send them to landfills, but this is not an environmentally-friendly option," Mr Ravindran said. With guidance from his lecturers, he created a circuit to discharge the battery's remaining power.
He emphasised that it is important to do this. Otherwise, that could cause toxic compounds from the battery to leak into the soil and water, polluting lakes and streams, thus making them unfit for marine animals to live in.
Said Mr Ravindran: "The e-waste bin, made of transparent acrylic, contains a tray to collect and connect the used batteries to the circuit to discharge the power in batteries."
The bin will be placed beside recycling bins in ITE College West by the end of this month.
As the ex-chairman of the school's World Wide Fund Eco Campus student committee, Mr Ravindran initiated meetings to identify environmental issues and discuss ideas to tackle them. At one such meeting, he suggested nominating an energy-saving ambassador for each class.
He also organised a photography competition titled Animals In Their Natural Habitat for three ITE Colleges last year to raise awareness of the different animals living around us.
Said ITE College West student development officer Tan Peng Peng: "It is evident through his projects that Daniel always seeks new and innovative ideas to tackle the environmental issues he identifies."
When Mr Ravindran is not busy with his eco-projects, he watches documentaries to expand his knowledge of environmental issues. "I want to constantly remind myself that climate change is happening very quickly. It also motivates me to do what I can to save the environment," he said.
His mother, Sushila, said she has always supported his environmental activities. She said: "I think it's important to not just concentrate on academic grades but also be aware of the surroundings you live in. He has excellently juggled his studies and green commitments and I'm proud of that."
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