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Meet a 12-year-old who is building robots to save honey bees



Robot Bees

New Delhi, April 12 : Just like any other girl her age, 12-year-old Kavya Vignesh likes to have fun when she is not studying. But unlike many others, she likes to make those moments memorable by creating something that helps solve some real-world problems.

Yes, you read that right. These days, she is busy giving final touches to a robot that has the potential to save honey bees in residential areas — and for making a presentation of her bot at an international robotics event to be held in Denmark next month.

Vignesh, a Class 7 student of Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunj, is part of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious — India’s youngest ever team to qualify for the First Lego League – European Open championship in Aarhus, scheduled for May this year.

Using a combination of robotics and hi-tech components, Vignesh has developed a Bee Saver Bot that removes honey bees — the species primarily responsible for pollination and honey production around the world — safely and carefully without harming them or humans.

“I have been practising Robotics since I was nine. My aim in life is to use the power of robotics to solve some real-world problems,” Vignesh told IANS.

Over the past three years, she has won several robotics championships (Delhi Regional robotics championship 2015 and 2016) and is now excited about representing India in the forthcoming international competition.

The robot — Lightning McQueen — is made using Lego Mindstorms EV3, the third generation robotics kit in Lego’s Mindstorms line.

Lego Mindstorms is a programmable robotics construction set that gives you the power to build, programme and command your own LEGO robots. The Lightning McQueen uses EV3 large motors, colour sensors that are used for line following, gyro sensor to take accurate turns, and pneumatics for multi-tasking.

The First Lego League championship is organised by FIRST Scandinavia foundation in cooperation with the city of Aarhus, Aarhus University, Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering and IT-forum.

It will witness some 100 teams and 1,000 children from all over the world competing on their skills in construction, programming and presentation of ideas and solutions while also sharing their culture, values, making friends and having fun.

Here’s why Vignesh chose only honey bees.

“We chose honey bees, because they are mostly overlooked. Bees are mostly killed by us humans through pesticides, colony collapse disorder and many more ways,” Vignesh said.

“We learnt that more than 85 per cent of the world’s crops are pollinated by honey bees. Every third bite of food comes from a bee pollinated crop or animal that depends on bee pollination,” she emphasised.

In general, when people see a beehive near their houses and in parks and the like, they tend to call the pest controllers, who burn the hive, killing nearly 20,000 to 80,000 bees.

“So we thought of building a solution that can safely relocate the beehive without harming the bees,” Vignesh said.

The ‘Bee Saver Bot’ scans the beehive, and relocates it by building an enclosure that safely transports the beehive to the nearest bee farm, without harming any humans or bees.

“This solution can save millions of bees from getting hurt and actually relocate them back to bee farms from where they can be back on the fields where they contribute so much to our food chain,” the robotic champion noted.

In her efforts to participate in the event, Vignesh started crowdfunding through Fueladream — a Bengaluru-based platform that allows for pooling of funds for a cause.

“Although crowdfunding in India has been relatively a new concept, it is growing very quickly,” Ranganath Thota, Founder and CEO at Fueladream, told IANS.

“Funding is the biggest challenge for students in India. Crowdfunding is a very democratic way to tell your stories and use social media and friends to raise money,” he added.

Vignesh’s achievement also earned her praise from Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.

“Proud of 12-year-old Kavya Vignesh, representing India at the European Robotics Championship in Denmark,” Sinha said in a tweet.

Vignesh, who is also a digital graphic designer, said that she looks up to her mother, Shikha Suman, founder of a health-tech start-up, as her role model.

“Believe in your dream and do whatever you want and don’t let anyone bring you down,” Vignesh said as a message to children.

To parents who put all their focus on their children’s studies alone, Vignesh says, “All work and no play may make children dumb; so they should balance out studies as well as such extra-curricular activities.”

(Rachel V. Thomas can be contacted at [email protected])

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Musk deletes SpaceX, Tesla Facebook pages, Sonos withdraws ads




Los Angeles, March 24: The Cambridge Analytica scandal continued to take its toll on Facebook on Friday as verified SpaceX and Tesla pages on the social network disappeared and speaker company Sonos decided to pull its ads off several social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, for a week.

Earlier, Mozilla announced that it was pulling its Facebook ads in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and continued concerns over data security, according to an Engadget report.

The Facebook pages of SpaceX and Tesla disappeared minutes after Elon Musk responded to a comment on Twitter calling for him to take down his rocket company SpaceX, electric carmaker Tesla and his own official pages in support of the #DeleteFacebook movement.

“What’s Facebook?” Musk on Friday morning sarcastically replied to a tweet from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton urging his followers to delete Facebook by tweeting “It is time.”

Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, Inc, replied to a comment on Twitter calling for him to take down the SpaceX, Tesla and Musk official pages in support of the #DeleteFacebook movement by saying “I didn’t realize there was one. Will do.”

Less than half an hour, the verified Facebook pages of SpaceX and Tesla, Inc are no longer accessible, Xinhua reported.

Prior to the deletion, both the two pages had over 2.6 million Likes and Follows, and super high engagement rates.

The boycott “#DeleteFacebook” started after the US and British media reported that the data of more than 50 million Facebook users were inappropriately used by Cambridge Analytica, in activities allegedly connected with US President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted on Wednesday that his company had made mistakes in a data leak that caused grave concern about user privacy possibly abused for political purposes.

Sonos said that starting on Monday, the company will pull all advertising from Facebook, Instagram, Google and Twitter and will donate the money it would have spent on ads to RightsCon conference that brings together tech companies and activists to discuss digital rights issues.

“We will also go dark on our Facebook and Instagram social accounts next week in solidarity with those seeking to build a healthier, more consumer-friendly tech ecosystem,” Sonos said in a blog post.

“We are concerned by the recent revelations about Facebook and the exploitation of its platform,” it added

The company stressed that all people have the right to know how their data are being collected and used, and that each technology company has an obligation to honour the commitments it makes to the customers’ privacy.

“For us, this isn’t about one social network or advertising platform; It’s an acknowledgement of the work we all have to do – Sonos included – to enable our industry to play a productive, empowering role in our society, in a way that works for everyone,” Sonos said.


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Fear that AI will take up both skilled & unskilled jobs: Rajan

We have to make sure Indian capital is available because often it is closest to the ground and understands the financing better




Kochi, Mar 23 : Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan today expressed fears that Artificial Intelligence would take up jobs–both high skilled and unskilled.

With advances in Machine Learning,Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, this was going to change still further, as they take up the jobs,ranging from those in unskilled sweatshops to high-skilled professions like medicine, the former RBI Governor said.

“What jobs will humans be able to do in 10-15 years that are immune from threat?Jobs that require high intelligence and creativity; jobs that require human empathy and jobs where human working for us bolster our status in some way,” he said, delivering the keynote address outlining his vision for India at #FUTURE Global Digital Summit, organised by the Kerala government.

He, however, India has to embrace technology and become a leader in the digital transformation taking place around the globe without being bogged down by unfounded fears of job losses, incomes or machines replacing humans.

Among the biggest obstacles to technology adoption were fears of man being replaced by machines a fear that has existed since the industrial revolution,but never materialised. “Two hundred years since the industrial revolution, jobs are still around. People and society adapt to do the things that machines cannot do,” he said.

“With technology, across every job there is going to be a restructuring, taking away the routine aspects and leaving the creative and customised aspects of that job,” he said.

Currently Professor, Finance at University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, Rajan said that in every industrial country, more jobs have disappeared in routine skilled and non routine unskilled jobs, which has partly led to the anxieties.

The former RBI Governor said another aspect of the fear was where the incomes would come from; the answer to which was an assured Universal Basic Income.

In the Indian context, he said “we have a huge hunger for capabilities at every level. If we can create incomes at some level, the aspirations of people will ensure their children move up in life and get the opportunities that they did not.”

In terms of business opportunities, the government needs to do far more for start-ups to flourish in India by creating easy paths to incorporation and funding, he said.

Rajan said that one of the big lacunae in India was risk financing and so start-ups go elsewhere because they need risk financing, which was not available in the country.

“We have to make sure Indian capital is available because often it is closest to the ground and understands the financing better,” Rajan said.

“We have to make sure that the companies of our future are incorporated in India, get Indian financing and expand significantly. We cannot miss out on the AI and Robotics revolution,” he said.

Another significant area where India effectively needs a revolution is education and skill building, Rajan said.

“We need to remedy weaknesses in education at every stage, build more world-class institutions domestically and bring the talent back from abroad,” Rajan said.

“We are not as global as we should be even now. Too many of our people are too poorly educated or skilled to compete in a globalised tech-enabled economy,” Rajan noted.

“If we don’t do that we will end up with a two-tier economy of a few “haves” and a vast population of “have-nots”, which is neither socially stable nor desirable,”he said.

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80% Indian internet users browse YouTube: Google

Touching 225 million monthly active users on mobile alone, India is one of the fastest-growing countries for the video platform, the company said.




Mumbai, March 23 : With the increasing penetration of smartphones, data becoming affordable and ever-growing availability of content, 80 per cent of internet users across all age-groups in the country are accessing YouTube, Google India said on Friday.

The Google-owned company highlighted how YouTube is associated with India’s internet growth story at “Brandcast 2018” event as it celebrated its 10th anniversary in the country since its launch in 2008.

“For brands, YouTube is now an end-to-end platform and as per the December 2017 ‘ComScore Video Metrix Multi-Platform’ it reaches 85 per cent of all highly engaged internet users, in the 18 years and above age-group,” Rajan Anandan, Vice-President, South East Asia and India, Google, said in a statement.

Touching 225 million monthly active users on mobile alone, India is one of the fastest-growing countries for the video platform, the company said.

“We now have more than 300 channels with over a million subscribers, from just 16 channels in 2014. We will continue to invest in programmes to support creators, and encourage more diversity and distribution of their content,” said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube.

The total number of online video consumers is expected to reach 500 million by 2020, the company said citing a report by FICCI-EY.

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