Students and teachers at the Holy Family Convent School at Badiadka in Kerala's Kasaragod district were in for a surprise on Tuesday when Gagan Ram, a Class 8 student, turned up with an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).
It was the election day at the school, where students would vote to pick their three representatives – students' leader, sports captain and arts club secretary.
Nine candidates were in the fray. Gagan's machine, which looked like a replica of the EVMs used in elections in India, had a button towards each name. Each vote would be displayed on a laptop screen attached to it.
As the election progressed, the number of votes against each candidate kept changing on the screen. The EVM functioned smoothly and no one raised any complaints. The counting was over in a matter of few minutes. Students greeted the winners – Class 10 student Sneha who was elected the students' leader, her batch-mate Minas who became the sports captain and Class 8 student Hima Fathima who won maximum votes to become the arts club secretary. But Gagan, the EVM developer, won the biggest accolades.
It was a dream come true for Gagan. "I developed the machine in just five days. I used Arduino microcontroller, which I had purchased from an online shopping site," Gagan told Onmanorama on Friday. "I also used my old laptop and some hardboard," he said.
The trigger for the project, according to Gagan, was chapter on democracy in his civics textbook. "My teacher Suhasini, during one of her classes, told us that EVMs reduce paper usage and save nature. I started researching on EVMs after that," he said.
A few days before the school election, Gagan told Suhasini about his invention. She in turn informed it to school principal Sister Savidha. Though not convinced fully, the principal asked him to bring the device next day.
"Gagan demonstrated the functioning of the machine to us and we were convinced. The polls went smoothly and the results were available instantly," Sr Savidha told Onmanorama over phone.
Sr Savidha said Gagan had explained each step of making the machine and the logic behind it. "Inventions are not new to him. Since Class 6, he used to come up with scientific inventions for the annual science competitions," she said. "We will use the EVM in the election in the coming years too," she said.
Gagan's passion for technology runs deep in his blood. His father M Purandara is a faculty of electrical engineering at Government Polytechnic in Periya in Kasaragod. His mother Purnima is a Sanskrit teacher at Government High School, Perdala, also in Kasaragod district.
Purandara said Gagan has been exploring the possibilities of using the microcontroller for the past one year. "He learns most of the stuff on his own, mainly using internet. I never hesitate to buy him whatever components he wants," Purandara said.
Gagan has learned programming languages, such as C++, html and QuickBasic. Now, he is learning Python.
Gagan has already developed a moisture sensor irrigation and it is being used to irrigate pepper plants on his house premises. "My next project is to build a Bluetooth home automation system which helps one control electrical appliances in a home using a mobile phone," said Gagan, whose wish is to become a scientist of repute.