Try to train the mindset. If it doesn’t work out, be grateful that you reached this point. – Rohan Thanjan

Rohan Thanjan is a 19 years old Enthusiastic Technopreneur and Independent Researcher from Kerala. His primary focus is on research projects, which relate to road safety.  He devised a number of circuits and techniques to help prevent traffic accidents. His work is mostly focused on open-source road safety. He even developed a prototype for a warning system which sets off an alarm when the driver is either drowsy or distracted while driving for four-wheeler vehicles. He enjoys assisting others and bringing about positive improvements in society and the country.

Rohan co-developed a lock system which prevents a motorbike from starting without the rider wearing the helmet. It also prevents starting up if there is a presence of alcohol in the breath. He is in the process of testing various blockchains networks to make an economic and easily available version of the sleep alarm system. Rohan intends to work for the well-being of society in the near future, focusing on issues related to accidents and therefore minimizing both death and wealth loss.

He is one of the Finalists of Glocal Teen Hero India 2021. We had a few conversations with him regarding his projects. The major highlights of the interview are given below;

How was your experience when you were announced as a Top 6 Finalist of Wai Wai Glocal Teen Hero India, 2021? 

I was attending classes so I didn’t check my feed. The day went by as normal. When I was on my way home, I checked my phone. It was full of messages congratulating me. I was shocked, confused and excited. I usually don’t receive messages. Then when I reached home, my family congratulated me and said that I was selected. I was happy and grateful.

How long have you been starting your journey as an independent researcher? Can you share your journey experience?

For as long as I can remember. I just didn’t know that I was doing independent research. I only understood what I was doing when I attended a workshop in 2015.

During my childhood, I would always receive many toys. And instead of playing with them, I would break them open to learn the mechanics behind them. On my 10th birthday, my maternal uncle gave me a toolkit. It was the best gift. Then I started to build hobby circuits and soon after I learnt how to code and to use Arduino. That was a big leap. I partially automated my home. In 2016, I learnt about blockchain and I started to develop DApps. But most of them were failures. Still, I contributed to the development of inventory management systems in blockchain ecosystems. Those were converted to open source projects later.  Then I moved on to engineering projects. In 2019, I co-developed “Helmet as a Key” with Alan Akkara. In 2020, I developed two Anti-Sleep systems and a sleep detection algorithm.

What is the best thing that keeps you motivated?

Definitely my family. Even though I consider myself a self-motivated individual, I wouldn’t be who I am without their love and support. I was determined to develop road safety systems so that my mother could come home early and safe because she commuted through a highly accident-prone route. I enjoy the process more than the result. 

What kind of safety methods do you develop to reduce road accidents?

I develop both adaptive and fixed systems to reduce road accidents. The fixed systems track head movement, eye movements, etc. using Inertial Measurement Units and find sleep patterns and trigger an alarm if it matches a pre-existing pattern. Once trained, they can only continue to function using that data. But in the case of the adaptive system, it constantly monitors the user while the vehicle is in motion using a sensor array and changes the parameters according to the user.

The ‘Helmet as a Key’ uses tactile sensors to detect if the rider has worn a helmet and an alcohol detector to find out whether the person is drunk. The helmet will send an RF signal to start the motorbike only if the person wears the helmet and is not drunk. The interval between two consecutive packets were optimized to increase the energy efficiency.

How did you develop a lock system?

That was part of the ‘Helmet as a Key’ project. I received help because I specialized in software-oriented projects. We redesigned the killswitch for the motorbike and added a relay between the wires in such a way that the engine can only be primed when the RF receiver receives the signal from the helmet and triggers the relay.

What are your future plans that you are planning to execute in upcoming days?

For now, I’ll focus on acquiring more skills. Do a couple of interdisciplinary projects. Make a community for tinkerers and engineers. In a span of 5 years, I would either establish a startup or join a company for a job. Either way I’ll have experience.

What message would you like to deliver to teenagers?

Observe the world around you. Ask “Why” and “Why not”. Try to be an empath. It will help you realize the problem statements. Build a network of like-minded people or a support group. It doesn’t matter if the network consists of 5 or 10 people. All that matters is how you work together. When you approach a problem, experiment while you still can and don’t hesitate to seek help. Not everything you do will be successful. Appreciate failures and constructive critics. I still remember multiple times where the prototypes were running fine and abruptly stopped functioning before the presentations. But we didn’t give up, we tried our best and didn’t care about the result.  It helped me to grow. Try to train that mindset. If it doesn’t work out, be grateful that you reached this point.

Glocal Teen Hero is a platform for teenagers to identify and honor outstanding teenagers whose creativity, commitment, experience, and strong leadership have helped them achieve success in an increasingly challenging environment. This award recognizes and honors the exceptional teen whose work is sustainable and who can think out of the box addressing the issues and creating an impact in society. Fostering a collaborative community among recipients and strengthening the recognition of today’s young leaders is a primary goal of the Glocal Teen Hero Award.


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