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Meet 12-year-old Kavya Vignesh is building Robots to save Honey Bees

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New Delhi, Apr 12, 2017: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.” (IANS)

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Honeybees Finding It Harder to Eat at America’s Bee Hot Spot

The conservation lands of the Northern Great Plains were a go-to spot

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FILE - Volunteers check honeybee hives in Mason, Ohio, May 27, 2015.
FILE - Volunteers check honeybee hives in Mason, Ohio, May 27, 2015. (VOA)

Bees are having a much harder time finding food in the region known as America’s last honeybee refuge, a new federal study found.

The country’s hot spot for commercial beekeeping is the Northern Great Plains of the Dakotas and neighboring areas, where more 1 million colonies spend their summer feasting on pollen and nectar from nearby wildflowers and other plants.

But from 2006 to 2016, more than half the conservation land within a mile of bee colonies was converted into agriculture, usually row crops such as soybeans and corn, said the study’s lead author Clint Otto of the U.S. Geological Survey. Those crops hold no food for bees.

For more than a decade, bees and other pollinators in America have been dwindling in numbers because of a variety of problems, including poor nutrition, pesticides, parasites and disease. And outside experts said this study highlights another problem that affects the health of bees.

This area — which Otto called “America’s last honeybee refuge” — lost about 629 square miles (1,630 square kilometers) of prime bee habitat, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And bees that have a hard time finding food are less likely to survive the winter, Otto said. They may not be hungry, he said, but they aren’t healthy either.

John Miller, in his 49th year as a North Dakota commercial beekeeper, said the Dakotas and Minnesota were once the last best place for bees.

“Now they are the least worst,” he said.

FILE - A honeybee packs pollen from this almond tree blossom before returning to her hive.
FILE – A honeybee packs pollen from this almond tree blossom before returning to her hive. (VOA)

Miller, whose business was started in 1894 by his great-grandfather, has watched the average colony honey production drop from 120 pounds per hive 30 years ago to about 50 pounds now. But the price has gone up five-fold, and beekeepers like Miller are getting paid to truck their bees to California to pollinate crops there, mostly almonds.

The federal government pays farmers to keep some land wild and that benefits bees that feast on grasslands, flowers and weeds, Otto said. But the conservation program has a cap on how much land it will pay for — and during the ethanol boom, farmers found they could make more money in corn and soybeans.

“Commercial beekeepers are scrambling to try to find places to take their bees when they are not in a crop requiring pollination,” U.S. Department of Agriculture bee researcher Diana Cox-Foster, who was not part of the study, said in an email.

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“The conservation lands of the Northern Great Plains were a go-to spot,” she wrote.

More than one-third of America’s commercial colonies spend summer in the Northern Great Plains. The area east of the Dakotas is too developed, and the weather to the west is too dry, Otto said.

Bees are crucial pollinators for more than 90 percent of the nation’s flowering crops, including apples, nuts, avocados, broccoli, peaches, blueberries and cherries.

“Without honeybees,” Otto said, “our dinner plate looks a lot less colorful.” (VOA)