He has invented a wheelchair that operates through breathing, a super sense technology that only requires slight head and hand movement to operate computers, an anti-theft security system for cars wherein a simple phone call can prevent the car from being stolenÖ At 20, the list of Susant Pattnaik‚Äôs inventions far exceeds his age. His brilliance has not only been recognised on home turf, where he has been honoured with the President‚Äôs award thrice, but also internationally on prestigious forums like MIT, Nasa and TED. Susant was only 17 when MIT Technology Review published his paper and last year, when he was 19, he became one of the youngest speakers to have ever stepped on the TED podium.
‚ÄúThey say good things come to those who wait. I don‚Äôt believe in that. Why wait? I have to make it possible and do it as quickly as possible. You can either succeed or make mistakes, so why wait till 40 to be successful?‚ÄĚ he says, explaining his hunger to create.
Susant was a Class IX student when his first invention happened ‚ÄĒ a laser light based home security system, wherein when the thief crosses the light, a shutter traps him. ‚ÄúThose days in Bhubaneswar a lot of thefts and robberies were taking place, which made me think of building a security system. I always try to solve practical problems. In the case of the breath-operated wheelchair, I was trying to build something that would make the disabled self-sufficient,‚ÄĚ he says. He had demonstrated the mechanism at the Kyoorius Design Yatra, where he received a standing ovation.
When he was 10 years old, Susant‚Äôs father had gifted him a remote-control operated car. While he loved to play with it, it got him thinking how would it work without a wire or any connection to a power source. ‚ÄúI dismantled it to learn how the circuit was designed. After that, I would dismantle whatever electronic device I could lay my hands on ‚ÄĒ fridge, computers, TV. In fact, once the TV conked off with a blast when my mother tried to switch it on; it was a narrow escape,‚ÄĚ he says with a smile.
A ‚Äúsocial entrepreneur‚ÄĚ, a ‚Äútech entrepreneur‚ÄĚ and a ‚Äúserial entrepreneur‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ these are the three sobriquets he works under right now. Besides being a second year student at the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research in Bhopal, that is. He‚Äôs the co-founder of two companies ‚ÄĒ one that does R&D for innovations, refines the ideas and sells them and the other takes raw ideas from companies, converts them into working prototypes. ‚ÄúCurrently, a few medical equipments, including the breathing apparatus, are in the pilot stage where we are improving on the technology based on internal feedback. But they are expected to launch in the market in six months from now,‚ÄĚ he says.
Susant has also founded an NGO called Scientific Innovation Foun-dation to help unsupported inventors take their creations to the international level. Multi-tasking seems to come easily to this 20-year-old prot√©g√©. ‚ÄúThe key is to have a good management team and distribute work accordingly. I don‚Äôt go to college. I just attend the exams. The authorities have been kind enough to make an exception for me,‚ÄĚ he adds.
And how does he cope with fame and success? ‚ÄúI meditate for 15-20 minutes daily, it keeps me calm. I¬† like to enjoy life. I‚Äôm not a workaholic who has no time for friends or relationships,‚ÄĚ he clarifies. Ask him if he has a girlfriend, and the young adult blushes. ‚ÄúI do get a lot of proposals,‚ÄĚ he says with a smile, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm spoilt for choice. But no, I don‚Äôt have a girlfriend yet.‚ÄĚ He‚Äôs also quite a sports enthusiast. ‚ÄúI play football, badminton and watch movies. I lead a very normal life. My parents have no clue about what I‚Äôm doing. My father is a veterinary doctor and mom is a homemaker. They know that I‚Äôm an inventor who has got several awards. But they feel at my age I should study, innovations can wait. When my father accidentally found out that I don‚Äôt attend college, he was not very happy,‚ÄĚ he reveals
Clearly, that hasn‚Äôt deterred Susant. ‚ÄúWhen I was receiving an award from former President APJ Abdul Kalam, he told me, ‚Äėno matter what people tell you, never give up on your passion‚Äô. His advice has stayed with me.‚ÄĚ