Inventor, non-profit co-founder and CEO, violinist and Indian dancer—Kavita Shukla, a modern-day Renaissance teenager from Ellicott City, Maryland, was named the 2002 Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprenticeship winner. Shukla impressed judges with her creativity, innovativeness and persistence. At the age of 13, Shukla was granted her first patent for "Smart Lid," a lab safety device for bottles containing hazardous materials—an invention conceived from her mother's forgetfulness to screw the gas cap on the car after filling the tank.
The inspiration for her next invention happened while she was visiting her grandmother in India. Shukla accidentally swallowed bacteria-laden water when she was brushing her teeth; her grandmother gave her seeds of the Ancient Indian herb fenugreek to ingest to prevent illness. The fenugreek worked, and when Shukla returned home she began to think of other potential applications.
An idea was sparked when she discovered a carton of spoiled strawberries in her refrigerator. She theorized that fenugreek could also be used to preserve food. Her experimentation proved successful: food wrapped in fenugreek paper lasted four to six weeks longer than standard packaging material. It is also natural, non-toxic, biodegradable and can be mass-produced. Shukla received her second patent in April 2002 for her fenugreek packaging paper.
Shukla's Invention Apprenticeship took place in June 2002 under the guidance of "Invention Mentor" David Payton, Principal Research Scientist & Department Manager of the Information Sciences Laboratory of HRL Laboratories in Malibu, CA. Payton exposed Shukla to different facets of the innovation process and to his team's methodology via robotics and bioengineering projects in the Information Sciences Lab at HRL. She programmed and studied complex emergent behaviors ("swarm behavior") and also had the opportunity to work in other labs.
The multi-faceted Shukla has received several international, national and regional awards, and has also co-founded a student-run water testing company, SAFEH2O (2000). In addition, she has been inducted into the National Gallery for America's Young Inventors. Shukla, who was featured in the November 2002 issue of YM Magazine as one of the "20 Coolest Girls in America," serves as a role model to young ambitious girls and aspiring inventors.
Shukla and her sister continue to work on Varsity Science, a book to inspire youth in independent scientific research and moreover, address the problems in America’s science education system in America. In September 2005, she will enter her third year at Harvard University, where she is on the pre-med track and concentrating in economics.