When Sahithi Pingali first began researching the pollutants in lakes across Bengaluru, she didn’t realise just how far her work would take her. Now, the Class 12 student of Inventure Academy is part of a handful of people across the world, with a planet named after them.
Pingali was researching the types of pollutants present in Bengaluru’s many lakes, the paper for which she presented at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), arguably the world’s largest pre-college science exhibition. Competing against 2,000 other finalists, Pingali’s paper titled ‘An Innovative Crowdsourcing Approach to Monitoring Freshwater Bodies’ won her the top prize under the sustainability solutions category.
Pingali’s research paper detailed her work in developing a data crowdsourcing system for her research. She had developed a smartphone app, and an amateur lake monitoring kit, that tapped into concerned locals willing to work to obtain data for her research into the city’s water pollution. Her prize, however, wasn’t just the top honour at ISEF.
The Lincoln Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which holds the rights to name minor planets, took notice of Pingali and her work and wanted to offer her recognition. As such, though the entire Indian team at ISEF walked away with 21 awards in total, Pingali received the best prize by far – a minor planet in the Milky Way bearing her name.
Pingali is currently pursuing an internship at the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Michigan, something she believes will help her improve the method and techniques she used to detect water pollution. But wherever her work may take her, Pingali knows she can just look to the stars and see her name up there.