A Ukrainian teenage prodigy has won a global award for developing a landmine detector drone while sheltering from the war in his basement.
Igor Klymenko, 17, from Kyiv, beat more than 7,000 entries from 150 countries to win this year’s Global Student Prize.
“I am deeply humbled to receive this award today,” Igor said on Tuesday after accepting the award.
“But the truth is, everyone I know in my homeland is a hero who deserves to be recognised, and I dedicate this award to all of them.
“Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters. They are all doing extraordinary things.
“Many are on the frontline risking their lives, many are volunteering to prepare and deliver food, and many keep working to keep our country moving.
“But we’re all fighting for our freedom.”
His invention, called the quadcopter mines detector, can help geo-locate explosive objects and provide coordinates of their location within two centimetres.
The device, which has received two official patents from Ukraine, can spot landmines without setting them off, potentially saving lives.
When hostilities in Ukraine began in 2014, Igor said he wanted to find a way to help his country.
“I started creating different devices for the mining territories and one of them was the quadcopter mines detector,” he said in an interview with Chegg.org, which organises the Global Student Prize with the Varkey Foundation.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Igor moved to the countryside to finish his final year of secondary school and continue working on his invention.
“There were a lot of challenges which impacted me in the development of my project,” Igor added. “The biggest of them was the war – the hostilities near my village.
“I was living in a basement with eight people and I was continuing working on my device.”
Igor said he would hear sounds of explosions and warplanes but he continued working “to help our military”.
Igor was awarded the $100,000 (£84,000) prize on Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting during the UN General Assembly Week in New York.
He plans to use the prize money to further develop his prototypes and raise awareness of the global landmine problem.
He is working with investors and various organisations to get his device rolled out in Ukraine and is improving the drone by adding new technologies, including spray paint to mark the location of a landmine and using AI (artificial intelligence) technology to identify the type of landmine and best course of action for safe removal.
Igor said he took an active role in encouraging young people to study science at school, and during the war he conducted online maths and physics lessons for his peers.
He said he has taken part in different competitions since a young age to “show the world my ideas”, adding: “We shouldn’t stop. We should work ahead and create new innovations to help the world.”
Igor completed his education at the Kyiv Polytechnic Lyceum of the National Technical University of Ukraine and recently started studying computer sciences at the University of Alberta in Canada.
The Global Student Prize was launched last year as a sister award to the $1m Global Teacher Prize, to shine a light on the efforts of extraordinary students who are reshaping the world for the better.
Dan Rosensweig, president and chief executive of Chegg, said: “Huge congratulations to Igor. In times of crisis, we need innovation and resilience to help overcome unimaginable adversity, and Igor’s commitment to tackling the global landmine problem is truly inspirational. He is a thoroughly deserving winner of this year’s Chegg.org Global Student Prize.
“Now, more than ever, students like Igor deserve to have their stories told and have their voices heard. After all, we need to harness their dreams, their insights, and their creativity to tackle the daunting and urgent challenges facing our world.”
Last year the prize went to Jeremiah Thoronka, a 21-year-old student from Sierra Leone who launched a start-up company called Optim Energy that transforms vibrations from vehicles and pedestrian footfall on roads into an electric current.
With just two devices, the start-up provided free electricity to 150 households as well as 15 schools attended by more than 9,000 students.