Anurudh Ganesan, age 16, of Clarksburg, Maryland, has been named a national winner of the 2016 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 inspiring, public-spirited young people from across North America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top fifteen winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.
Anurudh invented the VAXXWAGON, a wheel-powered cooling system that keeps vaccines viable during the final stages of transport to remote locations. His system can be hitched to a bike or simply pulled by a person or animal for the critical last leg of a vaccine’s journey— usually five to ten miles. His “no ice, no electricity” design, accounts for the lack of water and electricity in so many remote locations of the world.
Anurudh’s idea was born of his own vaccination experience in India, where his grandparents carried him as an infant 10 miles to a remote village to receive a vaccine only to find that it had overheated and was no longer viable. He was able to receive the vaccine the next day but realizes that so many others aren’t as lucky, with 4,000 children dying every day from vaccine-preventable diseases. He decided that solving the problem of last-leg transport could help and spent months formulating his ideas on paper.
Anurudh took his initial design to professors at nearby Johns Hopkins University, who not only validated it but offered funding. After nearly two years of refining half-dozen prototypes, he has tested his latest design for 200 hours and has a patent pending, with plans to scale up and get the device to those in need.
“I’m committed to seeing this project through to the next phase,” says Anurudh. “I will have succeeded when the first person’s life is saved because of VAXXWAGON!”
The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T. A. Barron and was named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Each year’s 25 Barron Prize young heroes are as diverse as their service projects. They are female and male, urban and rural, and from many races and backgrounds. Half of them have focused on helping their communities and fellow human beings; half have focused on protecting the environment.
“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” said Barron. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes— people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.”