Meet 15-year-old Saanvi Mehra, an ambitious young girl who’s created an app to help kids with down syndrome. And, she’s ready to take over the world through innovation, technology, empathy, and diligence. At a glance, Saanvi would come across as a class 10 student who is eager to explore the world. But the description might fall short of her aspirations.
This young girl from the Shriram Millennium School in Noida has successfully designed (and approved) a project. It’s to identify children afflicted with Down Syndrome. This project is close to her heart due to a personal experience, hence she chose to go with the topic. As a part of Google India Code to Learn contest for the year 2020, Saanvi designed the project. The project supposedly has the potential of saving more than 20,000 children’s lives annually in India alone. Down syndrome, also called Down’s syndrome, is a condition in which a child is born with an extra copy of their 21st chromosome. This causes physical and mental development delays and disabilities. Through her Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Model, children afflicted with this genetic disorder can be identified just through their photographs.
One might wonder how through photographs? “There have been studies and investigations done for Down syndrome (DS) detection by studying the facial features associated with the disorder. Some common characteristics present in people with the disorder include distinctive facial features. Such as, slanting eyes, small chin, round face, flat nasal bridge, Brushfield spots in the iris, abnormal outer ears, and flattened nose.” Saanvi further explains, “Machine learning techniques can facilitate the recognition of facial dysmorphic features associated with genetic syndromes.”
Saanvi uses Cloud AutoML Vision Multi-Label classification model to assign labels and train the model. She started with around 100 images for the two labels. And, tested and validated with multiple images once the model was trained and deployed. Furthermore, she did not specify a specific region but used images of kids from across the world including India.
As per Saanvi’s blog post, the syndrome’s prevalence in India is estimated at roughly one out of every thousand children (1:1000); leading to over 30,000 children being born every year with this genetic disorder. The survival rate in India is barely 44 percent. The reason for this high mortality is non-diagnosis/late-diagnosis due to lack of access and in-affordability of medical diagnostic facilities. Saanvi hopes to work with pediatricians to offer an early diagnosis of Down syndrome in children. “I look forward to working closely with hospitals and pediatricians after my board exams. This is so that we can save as many children as possible,” Saanvi added.
This is not the first time Saanvi made something remarkable. As a class six student, in 2016, Saanvi along with her school teacher Shalini Khurana came up with a mobile application called ‘Vidyadaan’. Project Vidyadaan is an initiative that aims at providing a platform to donate used books to underprivileged kids. Available on the Google Play Store, Saanvi realised how every year textbooks or academic books are discarded by privileged children. “Instead of discarding it, she thought of donating it in a common platform, which can then be taken up by underprivileged children,” said Vibhor Mehra, father of Saanvi. Saanvi has been organising a stall every academic year since then.
Saanvi also came up with another mobile application called ‘Shramik Rozgar’ during the COVID-19 lockdown for the Indian migrant workers. This app would help connect employers and employees and help find jobs for everyone – labor and skilled workers. “Saanvi is a bundle of energy in our house. She is sensitive, emphatic, and loves technology! Even though she is a confused child, she loves using technology to solve social problems,” added Smriti Mehra, Saanvi’s mother.
Smriti who is a System Engineer Manager at Adobe Systems is also a proud mother. When asked about Saanvi’s aspirations for the future, she said, “Saanvi and her computer teacher (Shalini Khurana) are always cooking something that has to do with technology, AI or machine learning. Along with this, she’s been encouraged about taking up International Relations as her expertise but it’s all up to Saanvi to decide.”
Uttara Singh, director of the Shriram Millennium Schools while talking about Saanvi’s project said, “We are very proud of Saanvi and her noble project which will save thousands of lives of children afflicted with the syndrome. She has taken forward the values of our institution and we are ready to support her in any way we can.” She encouraged more students to pursue programming and solve problems around them like Saanvi.