Fresh Leaf Forever

Fostering a New Era of Sustainable Innovation and Equality

February 07, 2024 Vai Kumar interviews Innovation experts, Sustainability enthusiasts Season 3 Episode 16
Fostering a New Era of Sustainable Innovation and Equality
Fresh Leaf Forever
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Fresh Leaf Forever
Fostering a New Era of Sustainable Innovation and Equality
Feb 07, 2024 Season 3 Episode 16
Vai Kumar interviews Innovation experts, Sustainability enthusiasts

This episode is a rich exploration of the innovative ecosystem where Gen Z's ingenuity is celebrated, mentored, and developed into solutions for real-world problems.

In this re-purposed content from prior seasons of the show, we unpack how innovation is key to solving issues we face, including our sustainable future.

The Gen Z cohort is rapidly emerging as a force of innovation and leadership in STEM, along with some great mentors, who have been themselves entrepreneurial, in
mindset !

This transformation is the crux of our episode, featuring five of our guests who appeared from 2021-23  to discuss their niche areas.
[ Use links below to get to each of their  full episodes. ]

Chapter Highlights from this episode:

- Neha Shukla, AI Ethicist, Innovator, Speaker, on How we can build an innovation eco system
- Rachna Nath, a TIME Innovative Teacher on connecting learning to real world issues
- Stephanie Espy, author STEM Gems on empowering women to be STEM Leaders
- Sarah Syed, a Top 20 under 20 Youth, on sustainability and innovation
- Diya Nath, an International Best Selling author on her innovation "Oxi Blast"

For those young minds ready to forge their path, we impart wisdom: find your purpose, embrace your unique story, and trust the adventure that lies ahead. 

Join us as we foster a world where innovation and empowerment are not just ideals, but realities for rising stars in every field. You can become the next problem solver!

Send us a Text Message.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Videos available on YouTube channel.
Follow host Vai on socials - Instagram , YouTube, LinkedIn for thought leadership content.
Head to my website for enlightening blogs & service offerings.
This podcast comes to you from Listen Ponder Change LLC, founded by Vai Kumar.
Every support the show contribution is much appreciated !!
Subscribe https://www.buzzsprout.com/1436179/support and help us amplify our voice and reach!

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode is a rich exploration of the innovative ecosystem where Gen Z's ingenuity is celebrated, mentored, and developed into solutions for real-world problems.

In this re-purposed content from prior seasons of the show, we unpack how innovation is key to solving issues we face, including our sustainable future.

The Gen Z cohort is rapidly emerging as a force of innovation and leadership in STEM, along with some great mentors, who have been themselves entrepreneurial, in
mindset !

This transformation is the crux of our episode, featuring five of our guests who appeared from 2021-23  to discuss their niche areas.
[ Use links below to get to each of their  full episodes. ]

Chapter Highlights from this episode:

- Neha Shukla, AI Ethicist, Innovator, Speaker, on How we can build an innovation eco system
- Rachna Nath, a TIME Innovative Teacher on connecting learning to real world issues
- Stephanie Espy, author STEM Gems on empowering women to be STEM Leaders
- Sarah Syed, a Top 20 under 20 Youth, on sustainability and innovation
- Diya Nath, an International Best Selling author on her innovation "Oxi Blast"

For those young minds ready to forge their path, we impart wisdom: find your purpose, embrace your unique story, and trust the adventure that lies ahead. 

Join us as we foster a world where innovation and empowerment are not just ideals, but realities for rising stars in every field. You can become the next problem solver!

Send us a Text Message.

Buzzsprout Get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Instacart Grocery delivery
Free delivery on your first order over $35.

Enjoy PIOR Living products
Enjoy PIOR Living products at a 20% discount and free shipping on orders over $75 Code FLF20

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Videos available on YouTube channel.
Follow host Vai on socials - Instagram , YouTube, LinkedIn for thought leadership content.
Head to my website for enlightening blogs & service offerings.
This podcast comes to you from Listen Ponder Change LLC, founded by Vai Kumar.
Every support the show contribution is much appreciated !!
Subscribe https://www.buzzsprout.com/1436179/support and help us amplify our voice and reach!

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Fresh Leap Forever, a podcast that gives you fascinating insights week after week. Here's your host, Vaikumar.

Speaker 2:

Hey folks, welcome to another episode on Podcast Fresh Leap Forever. We asked several experts to share their thoughts on how we could use innovation to solve real world problems. Here's what they had to say your role in empowering Gen Z to create tangible solutions. To that end, you started innovation corner. Why did you feel the need to create something like that? I know you talked a little earlier in the show about how people feel like they are with ideas, but they just need some help, and also even with your own journey. Who was your motivation or your biggest help?

Speaker 3:

That's a really great question.

Speaker 3:

So I think I started innovation corner because I wanted to and, as you said earlier, I think I'm in a really lucky situation in terms of how supportive the supportive environment that I'm in and I wanted to be that supportive environment for a lot of other students around the world who might not have mentorship or who might not have a school with a lot of resources, and so being that guiding force for students in terms of providing that innovation framework, providing the mentorship and the support and resources to innovate, that was a huge thing for me, and being that guiding force was something that I was really excited about.

Speaker 3:

I went through a program called Girls With Impact, which is an online business and entrepreneurship academy, also right in the beginning of COVID, and so going through that program also helped me realize all the ideas and the vision that I had for 6 feet apart, helped me realize that and bring it out into the world, which was amazing to see.

Speaker 3:

So Jennifer Openshaw is a huge mentor to me and supports me in all the things that I'm doing in terms of both in terms of a business aspect and getting the word out there, but also in a personal way, so she's a really huge mentor for me and, of course, my parents they're super supportive Teachers in school as well are really really great inspirations. But then again, looking at big companies for doing remarkable things in terms of utilizing AI to solve problems, or thinking of ethics and situations, or using the latest technologies to be a force for good in our communities, instead of just looking at the economic side of things, focusing on helping people and making their side of the world a little bit better that also really inspires me, just to see big companies doing great things and supporting communities.

Speaker 3:

So I think, in terms of where to begin, what to do, yeah, I think the biggest thing is a lot of like my generation. We don't know where to start. We have those ideas, we're ready to do something, we're ready to make that change. We don't know where to start. So I think when students just are unsure about innovation, they just sign up for a workshop and then they had, they experienced just a huge shift in their perspective and it's really empowering to see that as a teenager. Yes, you can be a problem solver, yes, you can be an innovator, and it's just amazing to see that. I think that first step is so, so crucial, because once you get there, the rest is just part of that amazing journey and a lot of times you don't even remember how you stumbled upon something or how you can't wait that you're going to take that first step because it's so, it's such like it's almost like half a second, and then you realize like, okay, this is what I want to do. And once you're past that first step of deciding that I want to be a problem solver, I want to solve this problem, I'm passionate about this, and once you get there, the rest becomes such an amazing journey and there are so many people and so many companies ready to support young people who are young people who are solving problems. So my message to everyone is just take that first step, because the journey will be so rewarding and having that innovation framework to guide you is just the best way to start finding mentors, finding support and really just getting involved with problems that you're passionate about in your community.

Speaker 3:

Personally, I've never actually taken a computer science course in my school. I'm like not that opportunity. So all of the stuff that I've learned is all self-taught. I learned AI, microprocessors, building software and hardware all of that individually, on my own, outside of school, outside of my parents' help or anything like that. So I think the biggest thing for me was starting, I guess, igniting that spark with YouTube videos and watching Keynotes at different places on YouTube whether that's like yesterday was the Apple WWDC, which is awesome, a worldwide developers conference, so there's a bunch of things that are available to you to spark your interest and then again building up that complexity.

Speaker 3:

So then reading science daily articles I love reading MIT Tech review articles I get their newsletter every morning and having you know surrounding yourself in a really information-rich environment, but also kind of blocking out some of the noise, and we really live in a very noisy world. So figuring out what you want to focus on is really, really important. So starting off with, you know, basic YouTube videos, basic books, and then going on to reading articles, and the biggest thing for me is just online courses doing online courses and learning how to learning what even AI is, and then having courses, technical courses, and how to program in AI, how to build an algorithm, how to, you know, optimize it all these different things, and there's so many online courses available on the internet. So I think it's such a rich bank of resources for us as young people, but also adults and companies and parents. There's so many resources.

Speaker 3:

So, definitely just not being afraid to type how to learn AI and include, you know, like AI courses or blockchain courses, nanotechnology there's so many tools and technologies and what I try to do in my workshops, too is, you know, introduce students to things that they maybe had never thought were possible in schools. Again, even in school computer science courses, it's mostly just HTML, java or CSS, and if there's so much out there in the world in terms of emerging technology that our generation can leverage in terms of solving problems and creating that positive change, so I'm always, you know, encouraging students to check that out. There's so many online courses which were definitely my biggest help.

Speaker 2:

Okay, and there do you see society going as far as the ding and innovation ecosystem.

Speaker 3:

That's a great question. I think the most important thing for us right now, with all the problems that we're seeing in the world, with all the things that are happening, we need a lot of rapid changes and the best way to do that is with a really rich innovation ecosystem. We need to foster ingenuity and problem solving and innovation, and I think this is a we need an all hands on deck approach to solving these problems. We don't need it's not just companies that should be solving these problems. It's companies.

Speaker 3:

Adults, parents, students, young people are such an essential part of the equation of solving real world problems, and when you create an innovator at a young age, not only are they going to be solving problems as a young person, they're also a problem solver for their entire rest of their life.

Speaker 3:

So as an adult, they could be creating a life saving device or life saving technology and creating that ecosystem where we have this pipeline of young people becoming innovators, solving problems and then, in turn, the world is becoming a better place. That's really what we need to see, and my vision for the next I don't know 10, 15 years is having a world where everyone is empowered to solve problems and will to solve problem faster than problems are occurring and there will always be new problems and there will always be the next big challenge that we all have to come together and solve. But we need to have this pipeline where it's really possible to solve these problems in a quick way and just be able to create that positive impact on the world and have this collective effort to solve those problems.

Speaker 2:

How much is scientific inquiry significant when it comes to kids learning and developing themselves?

Speaker 4:

I think the biggest thing that a teacher can do by is connect concepts to things that are happening in their own daily lives. You know, when I teach photosynthesis I do not just go in and write the equation on the board and I just try to make it relevant for the students, so that you know that inquiry process starts with the students, even before the content is stopped. They understand why they're learning the concept, because if we can connect all of those content to real life situations and scenarios, I think the kids will understand it better and they'll understand the relevance of it and do well. I think at this point, even for math concepts, just teaching them as math concepts is not important. Give them as a problem, Give them design challenges that can incorporate not just math but biology, physics. It needs to be more integrated. That's what I feel.

Speaker 2:

And I love this Hicco plan thing because it's an AI powered sustainability stuff which helps you decipher between recyclable and non-recyclable.

Speaker 4:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

So how do you talk about all these innovations and patterns and also your role in the community in general as far as preserving the environment?

Speaker 4:

All of these projects. One of the basic things that my students have done is understood that there is a problem, a problem related so, and with EcoClan primarily the project came out of. You know, the students saw that a lot of students did not care whether they were throwing their garbage or recycle, so they decided that they're going to build this clan that's going to get into recycle bins and then if anybody wants to come and throw it in a recycle, can we just not recycle, but it's going to spit out and saying, nope, put it in a trash. So very simple concepts that we can actually implement in every schools and colleges and, you know, everywhere. So that was that.

Speaker 6:

Fortunately, project-based learning is becoming more and more common in the different school. You know, that's definitely the way we want to go, where you are taking something that's real-world, something that's happening currently, something that the kids care about, and you're figuring out how you can apply math and science to that real-world problem. So you know, I like the idea of surveying kids. You know, okay, what do you guys care about? What problem in the world would you want to see? What do you want to help solve?

Speaker 6:

You know what bothers you, what keeps you up at night, what keeps your parents up at night, and then just have them throw ideas.

Speaker 6:

You know, whether it be homelessness or poverty or climate change or whatever it is they care about. It could be something global or something more local, more community-based. So then, once you have a chance to survey the students in your classroom and understand what they care about, what their concerns are, then that's, you know the topic of a project that you can use to incorporate different modes of learning around that project, so that becomes a central theme that all the learning revolves around. So I think that again, that sub-baric, I think more common practice in schools and becoming more mainstream and getting the student input. It's particularly important, I think, for them to really latch on to it. You know that's not always the case, because teachers, you know, plan ahead and they have things in mind that match up to the curriculum, match up to the standard, but whenever possible they give students either option or to let them choose. That's just the right way to get them really engaged in learning and also connect what they're learning to something that they care about.

Speaker 2:

Wonderful, yeah, right there, you brought out several things right Homelessness, poverty, climate crisis, so much, and I think, even this whole climate crisis. It's like a bigger piece of a puzzle which has so many other components around it, like gender inequality, poverty everything you know, because lack of education is contributing to that in some way as well. What is it that you're seeing, stephanie, even today when it comes to gender inequality in STEM, and how better can we address that?

Speaker 6:

The most recent stat is that 16% of engineers in the workplace are women, 16% are women and under 6% are women of color. So there is a definite inequality, gender gap, in engineering, and it's them in general, especially for women of color, and so that is really why I do what I do because I am one of those 16% and I am one of the under 60% women of color, and so it's critically important that we set up initiatives early on to get girls interested in math and science and STEM, particularly those careers that are changing the world and those careers that are just underrepresented by women and people of color. So I think there's a huge opportunity. Yeah, the numbers are not where we want them to be, and so there is work to be done on all levels to help close the gap, to help bring more girls and women into STEM career.

Speaker 2:

If we want to see, few years down the line, that 16% becoming at least 40%, where you know there's that much involvement of women in STEM, how better can we tap into student potential and get them going in the right direction?

Speaker 6:

So the more opportunities, the more touch points you have with students and girls early on, and often the more interest develops, and that develops over time. So continuing to ignite curiosity and continuing to expose girls in particular to a wide range of opportunities in STEM, and giving them different project-based learning activities to connect to things that they care about, those are the ways to really change these numbers and to help them to understand how STEM careers really do impact the world. So how, then?

Speaker 2:

do you empower that population? It's a lot.

Speaker 6:

I'm not. Another challenge, outside of having a solid foundation in math and science, is not knowing the opportunities that are that exists. We've all heard that phrase you can't be what you can't see. You want to be what you don't see. So for a lot of girls they can go Well to their adulthood before they even know the opportunities. So is it's all about making sure they know early the different careers are available for them and that they have role models in those careers.

Speaker 6:

And so stem gems is about giving girls role models and early exposure to stem careers and to women in stem, increasing the visibility of women that are currently working in stem so they are In the limelight, they are highlighted and recognize so that they can serve as role models and mentors to the next generation.

Speaker 6:

So the symptoms book share the stories of forty four phenomenal women and forty four different careers, because it shows the breath of careers and also shows the breath of women that have pursued these careers and it really appeals to some of the different types of girls and you know they can find themselves in these stories and then they can adopt new role models they didn't even know existed. So it's just giving them a whole new set of women to look up to. They are not mainstream. You know you're not going to turn on your television and and or look on a cover magazine and see these women, but you will open this book and you'll see them and you'll learn more about them and their work and what they do and how they change the world and their and you'll walk away hopefully inspired and empowered to pursue a STEM career.

Speaker 1:

Similarly, to pursue we're trying to strive for a better, sustainable future your projects.

Speaker 2:

You have an AI based transparent rotating solar cell initiative, iot in agriculture to reduce water consumption, 3d printed by OD Gradable coffee bar, and then you're also focusing on the future of food and the room for growth there. So why don't you talk about all of your technology initiative?

Speaker 1:

of course. So I really am passionate about technology, most specifically, in the nanotech, material science and the space, and so a lot of those projects are actually projects that I'm working on right now. So, for example, the AI based rotating solar panel, and really what led me to work on this project was the fact that most solar panels today only have an efficiency of 22% yet, and so really I think that with nanotechnology, especially like graphene, quantum dots or perovskites and we can increase this efficiency significantly, and so that's something that I'm working on, and as well. In terms of the biodegradable coffee pods, I actually worked in grade nine a on a project to design a biodegradable plastic made from Third of again peels so banana peels and tail peels and the key in making any biodegradable plastic is having this higher starch extraction rate. Essentially, what ended up happening was, in this project, I was able to design a small little prototype, and so right now, what I'm trying to do is design a proposal to take this small prototype to a Much, much larger opportunity, which is the 3D printing space, because the 3D printing space is only growing and in it, can really provide a lot of different opportunities.

Speaker 1:

So one thing that I was really interested in is designing biodegradable coffee pods, because sometimes when we go make coffee in early beautiful coffee machines, the coffee pods are not biodegradable, so they're made out of plastic and sometimes as well that plastic, even though it is recyclable. A fun fact that I recently learned after doing a lot of research was that Some stations, let's say wherever you're from, for example in Toronto, some recycling plants in Toronto, they don't actually recycle that, that number of plastic. So let's say, let's say it's number five.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean a lot of times we end up throwing it with the regular garbage right. I mean like more as a Ration. Is that the convenience aspect, or lack of, you know, like a recycling mechanism or whatever that baby?

Speaker 1:

and so what's really important is to make sure that you know this project. I wanted to be biodegradable, so that this way there is no sort of eco negative impact, and so that's a project where I'm trying to design also like a 3D printable PLA, because the LA is a type of plastic as well, and if we can design a biodegradable 3D printable plastic, this means that a lot of our items that we use every day can be made using a biodegradable plastic, and so that's one of the projects that I'm working on. Thank you for thinking about me. I'm also really interested in the future of food. It's cellular agriculture, aquaponic farming and all of that really interesting tech space in terms of our food existence. That's something that I'm learning more about.

Speaker 2:

The period, or the innovator of Oxyblast, which is full of flavonoids and superfoods. How did you formulate it? What?

Speaker 5:

Let's start off with what flavonoids are.

Speaker 5:

Flavonoids are plant metabolites that are found mostly in fruit petals and, like I said, in plants, and they are sought to have numerous health benefits, like they're good for your skin, they're good for your digestion, they're good for hair health as well. They're really good for your body, and just incorporating them into your diet is just a must to have a better lifestyle. So, to reap the benefits of flavonoids, a lot of people like to peel their vegetables and fruits and that's where most of the flavonoids are. That's where 30% of the nutrients of the fruit itself is in the peels that they discard. Also, there are different parts of the fruits, like, for example, the core of an apple or the inside of an orange, that might have extra fiber order nutrients. So I wanted to implement those into my product and taking fruits and vegetables and implementing them into a powdery substance, and that can be something that could be added to smoothies, soups, teas, and you can even add it to non-addiable products, even on your face, like a face mask, and that's how I came up with OxiBLAST. Okay.

Speaker 2:

What would be your advice to young innovators like you? You have come up with thoughts to BLAST. What would be your advice for them to be successful? And for those that may not even realize that they have some ideas that they can bring to the forefront right? What would be your advice to those kind of young innovators for them to be successful?

Speaker 5:

So first, I think, would be really believing in their why. Why are they doing this? Why does this interest them? What is your story behind it? So believing in your cause? What are you looking to change in society with this goal? What are you looking to change about yourself as well? Because you want to learn from your own experiences as well as others. So, just considering those questions, why am I doing this? How will it help society? What is my story behind it? Think about those and nobody will be able to take that away from you. They cannot pick at you and say that didn't happen, because you know it happened and that's your goal. Nobody can take your goal away from you, nothing.

Empowering Gen Z Through Innovation -Neha Shukla
Connecting Learning to Real World Concepts - Rachna Nath
Empowering Girls in STEM Education - Stephanie Espy
Sustainability advocacy, innovations - Sarah Syed
Oxi Blast Founder on Sustainable Innovations