At first glance, Anushka Naiknaware might seem like any other middle school student. She loves to laugh with her friends, she’s an avid ice skating, and her favorite animal is the red panda. She also created a smart-bandage that tells doctors when it needs to be changed.
Anushka, who’s favorite subjects are math and science, found inspiration for her project when studying human anatomy. She stumbled upon the problem of chronic wounds, and how preexisting conditions like diabetes can make them especially hard to heal. In fact, the protocols for managing these types of wounds, which are more prevalent than certain types of cancer, have been nearly void of innovation as medicine has advanced over the years. So Anushka decided to see if technology could help change this reality.
Tireless research and boundless curiosity paid off when Anushka realized that the moisture levels of chronic wounds played a pivotal role in how quickly a wound would hear. So she set out to create a bandage that would help doctors manage the moisture levels of chronic wounds by signaling when the bandages needed to be changed.
Anushka used her knowledge of nanotechnology, another passion of hers, to design an inkjet-printable biocompatible sensor that would wireless transmit wound status updates to a mobile phone application. Basically, the bandage would give a visual reading that would show how moist the bandage had become, and if that moisture level was outside of the ideal range.
While she was working on the project, Anushka learned of the annual Google Science Fair. The 2016 theme was “Everything is Better with Science.” Anushka, obviously, agreed with that sentiment, and decided to submit her project online. Later, she was shocked and delighted when her name was listed among the global finalist.
Anushka traveled from her Portland, Oregon home to Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California for the three-day fair and the awards ceremony. In the end, she finished in the top ten. She even won the Lego Education Award, and is the youngest person to do so at 13 years of age. The award comes with a $15,000 scholarship, a free trip to Lego Headquarters in Denmark, and a year-long mentorship with a Lego executive.
The 13-year-old is continuing to refine her invention, and may go on to patent it in the near future. She says her goal was and is to make an affordable and accessible biosensor that will help doctors provide better wound care so that people with all types of wounds can heal faster.
In an interview with Curious Science Writers, Anushka was asked if she had a message for other students who might have ideas or passions in the STEM arena. Her advice? “Whatever it is that you’re trying to do or you’re curious about, don’t be afraid to try!”