A young White Rock girl with a love of debate took her prowess to the international stage this year – and walked away with gold.
Pratyasha Awasthi, a Grade 6 student, learned April 3 that she was among four top finishers in Eye Level Learning Centre’s 2020 Oratacular, a North America-wide competition open to students in Grades 1-8.
Challenged to talk about an invention she thought would change the world, the 11-year-old came up with an idea for the ‘Doc In Closet’ – a coat that can do medical checkups, diagnose conditions, administer blood tests and more.
“Just put it on and it can talk to you about your problems and diagnose you right away – and zero wait times,” Awasthi explains in her speech.
“You can even play games on it, to distract yourself while Doc In Closet does a full body scan and even orders medication.”
Awasthi, who attends the Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning (SAIL) at Brookside Elementary, told Peace Arch News that she got an idea for the device while attending a challenge program earlier this year that focused on epidemiology – before the pandemic was “a big thing.”
“I thought it would be really helpful for countries around the world that don’t have that many doctors,” Awasthi told PAN.
“It was a lot of things (that led to the idea) and they all kind of seemed to point in the same direction, of something medical, and I thought, what’s something we use every day?
“The first thing that came to my mind was a shirt. But then I thought a coat would be a better idea, because you can just put it on and take it off.”
Other competitors’ inventions ranged from human wings and robots operating hospitals to a cure for the common cold and COVID-19.
Awasthi, who plans to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon, said she had wanted to include in her speech the potential for Doc In Closet to help save lives during the COVID-19 crisis, but ran out of time. Entries were limited to three to five minutes, she said.
Videos of each competitor’s speech were posted to YouTube, and public votes were factored into the judges’ final decisions.
Awasthi – who also entered last year, sharing her opinions on war – said she was “really surprised” to clinch the win. She said she took time to study last year’s winning speeches to see what they had in common, and adapted her entry to a similar structure.
And while she’s disappointed the prize of a trip to Seoul, Korea to participate in a Model United Nations camp is off the table due to the pandemic – winners will receive US$500 instead – Awasthi said she’s “definitely” not dissuaded from taking another crack at the title next year.
She said she plans to donate US$100 of her prize money to Peace Arch Hospital.