Ashoka student wins the title of Young Earth Champions
From reading about UNESCO and other United Nations Bodies in his 5th-grade textbook in school to wearing a badge that says ‘Speaker - UNESCO’ while in college, it has been a humble honour and an amazing ride for Yashesswin
Yashesswin works with Bodhi Capital, India’s first student-run Undergraduate Investments fund as well as the Ashoka Investments Club. Along with this, he also actively rides and organises bike rides on and off campus with the Ashoka Cycling Club. Yashesswin and his team of high school and college students from Dexterity Global across India have been awarded the Young Earth Champions Title (Jeunes Champions de la Terre) for winning the Team up for Climate Challenge and were invited to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
Their project constitutes building the world’s first amphibious housing model that uses calabash as its buoyancy mechanism for the low-income district of Dhemaji in Assam. Dhemaji colloquially means ‘Playgrounds of floods’. Their team had been crowned the winners of the Challenge, in the process beating over 540 teams from top institutions.
Egis Foundation’s international student challenge for innovation “Team up for climate” aims to stimulate the creativity of students around the world in the face of climate change. Under the problem statement of “adapting and living together in the face of climate risks and how we can adapt to climate reality and promote the integration of affected populations”, 542 teams of over 60 different nationalities participated in the challenge. The project used locally-sourced and inexpensive materials for the house, an owner-led democratised construction approach, behavioural economic nudges, a community model to support the inhabitants along with an open-sourced globally replicable design, as a part of the solution.
Yashesswin says, “We strived to make our solution people-centric by understanding the socio-economic conditions of Dhemaji, Assam. We wanted our solution to be a part of the people and not separate, so we developed an elaborate implementation plan, focusing on public policy and behavioural economics to increase the likelihood of our solution being accepted by the people. We believe that in the state of Assam alone, 4.6 million people could achieve full-flood resilience We have always affirmed that the world is our family, and our solution can be effectively adapted globally, alleviating the problem of millions of people facing flood-caused displacement.”
After months of continuing to strengthen the project model and prototype, the team was invited to pitch the project at the Earth University (Université de la terre), being held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on a fully-funded trip, to the public and experts, speaking alongside more than 150 business leaders, scientists, economists, politicians, NGOs, and sociologists, and were awarded the First position, the title of Young Earth Champions and a cash prize of 7500 Euros. On the road ahead, they understand that the adoption of our model can prove useful to the local socio-ecological system while solving the issue of climate vulnerability through flood-resilient housing. The plan is to open-source the model and engage all stakeholders to mutate the model into shelters, schools, and other infrastructure across the world.
Yashesswin believes that his education at Ashoka has played an integral role in this venture, in terms of providing an ecosystem that develops a critical-thinking mindset and intellectual curiosity, while breeding a heart that carries care, concern, and empathy for our fellow citizens. With no academic background in environmental studies, sustainability, architecture, or engineering, it was a steep learning curve. And it is a culture of self-learning that helped us immensely throughout the process.
“Through the project, we are able to turn playgrounds of floods & vulnerability into playgrounds of resilience, and I am proud that it was an Indian team that won the competition and the flag will continue to fly high!”, concludes Yashesswin who is overjoyed with this achievement.