While we all dream to touch the skies, Sahithi Pingali, a class 12 student from Inventure Academy, Bengaluru has got a planet named after her. But this didn’t come as easy as it sounds as Sahithi had to excel in the world’s largest pre-college science competition called the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to join an elite league of people to get a minor planet in the Milky Way named after them.
Reaching to this height was no cake walk for Sahithi who first began researching the types of pollutants found in several lakes across Begaluru. She presented her research paper ‘An Innovative Crowdsourcing Approach to Monitoring Freshwater Bodies’ at the ISEF, the world’s largest pre-college science exhibition.
Sahithi’s paper competed against 2,000 other finalists and won her the top prize under the sustainability solutions category.
The research paper detailed Sahithi’s work in developing a data crowdsourcing system for her research. A smartphone app and an amateur lake monitoring kit were developed by Sahithi. It tapped into concerned people willing to obtain data for her research into the water pollution in the city. However, Sahithi’s prize was not just the top honour at ISEF.
The Lincoln Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) holds the rights to name minor planets. It offered her recognition after noticing her work.
In total, the entire Indian team at ISEF won 21 awards, but Sahithi got the best prize by far – a minor planet in the Milky Way bearing her name.
Sahithi, who is currently pursuing an internship at the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Michigan, believes this will help her improve the method and techniques she used to detect water pollution.
“I definitely didn’t see this coming. I was expecting one special award at most. I haven’t yet digested the fact that I have a planet named after me,” she told The Hindu.
“I want to make it more accurate and expand it to detect arsenic,” she said.
Earlier this year, she got a Gold Medal at ISWEEEP (The International Sustainable World Engineering Energy Environment Project) Olympiad at Houston (U.S.) for her work on Varthur Lake.