June 4, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) When his seventh grade life science class received the assignment earlier this year to invent something with Bubble Wrap, Anant Gunjeet knew right away what he would make: soft, comfortable shoes for his grandmother whose feet are in constant pain.
Anant, who is 13 years old, crafted his ‘Bubble Shoes’ in February and will soon send them to his grandmother, Usha Sharat, who lives in Delhi, India. Usha’s sister, Asha Amar, will deliver the bubbly shoes when she returns to India following a three-month visit with Anant’s family in Riverside. “My grandmother has peripheral neuropathy” as a result of diabetes and suffers with extreme foot pain, Anant said.
Usha Sharat is actually Anant’s great aunt, but in India older female relatives are referred to as ‘grandmother,’ said Anant’s mother Shivani Gunjeet.
Anant made the shoes for a seventh grade project at Villegas Middle School in Riverside. His teacher, Angie Barrett, presented the Bubble Wrap assignment to her students as part of an ethics-building project developed by La Sierra University’s Students In Free Enterprise team. The project is aptly called “Protecting Our Potential,” or POP.
On May 26, the Students In Free Enterprise [SIFE] team presented Anant with the Young Innovator Award during the La Sierra University School of Business annual awards ceremony. Because Anant’s invention so creatively and aptly represented the role ethics play in protecting tangible and intangible things of value, the SIFE team chose his Bubble Shoes as an example to other students, said Ricky Kim, SIFE’s POP project director.
During a seven-week trip to India last spring, Anant’s family searched for shoes Usha could wear without suffering. “Nothing would comfort her,” said Shivani Gunjeet, Anant’s mother. “We went to medical stores looking for shoes. We bought expensive shoes for her but anything that touches would shoot severe pain,” she said.
Then in February Anant received the Bubble Wrap assignment. He immediately thought of his grandmother. Using approximately three-fourths of 125 feet of Bubble Wrap, rubber soles, shoe laces, cotton balls and glue, he made the shoes in about three hours. “I got it the way I wanted it the first time,” said the soft-spoken youngster.
“I was just amazed,” said Shivani. “He’s an inspiration in my family.” Anant instinctively looks for ways to help others and exhibits a humble nature, she said. He’s also gifted with an entrepreneurial mindset. Anant plans to earn money this summer tutoring neighborhood kids for $10 each half hour of instruction. He’s made a flyer advertising his services. “He’s been very innovative from the time he was little,” said Shivani. “He’s just a remarkable kid.”
Over the long-term, Anant has his sights set on becoming an astronaut, he said. Meanwhile he helps care for his nine-year-old sister, Taaj, earns straight As in school and writes poetry.
La Sierra’s SIFE team implemented the POP project at seven schools including Villegas Middle School, Wells Middle School in Riverside, Loma Linda Academy and Redlands Academy. The team created a curriculum of lessons for middle school students complete with teachers’ guides and various activities including the Bubble Wrap project.
The young creators also had the option of entering their inventions in the nationwide Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors organized by New Jersey-based Sealed Air Corp., makers of the bubble-filled plastic packing material. The top three finalists in the event, created for students in grades five through eight, won three-day trips to New York City. The company this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the rollout of its Bubble Wrap product.
Sealed Air Corp. is a corporate donor for the nonprofit Students In Free Enterprise based in Springfield, Mo. Through its 1,500 active teams at colleges and universities around the world, SIFE strives to teach various populations market economics, business ethics and economic independence through entrepreneurship. Sealed Air is a sponsor for SIFE’s U.S. National Business Ethics competition and encourages SIFE teams to focus on ethics projects through a Web site the company created to aid the teams.
While he didn’t place among Seal Air Corp.’s top three finalists, Anant received the satisfaction of helping Usha and forging a closer relationship with her through his act of caring. The two communicate more frequently through e-mails and telephone calls, Shivani said. “Having done this for her, she feels so much more connected with him and he feels so much more connected with her,” she said.
And Anant will get his New York City trip after all. “I owe him New York,” said his mother, “so we will probably do it this summer.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University