Myron Lahola for New Pathway – Ukrainian News
Over the past several months the tragedy of war in Ukraine has shocked and distracted the world. Daily images of horrors perpetrated on the Ukrainian people overshadows any optimism in a return to normality especially for Ukraine’s youth caught in a whirlwind of bombings and atrocities.
In an almost fantastical departure from the reality of war I had the distinct and heartwarming honor and pleasure to meet a young man from Ukraine, who in spite of a sudden disruption in an otherwise normal school routine has attracted the world’s attention. With my passion and work with drones I jumped at the opportunity to meet Igor another drone enthusiast.
Ihor Klymenko, who at times reverts to the Russian spelling of his name, Igor explains to me how it was printed in his passport as well as many other documents so he stays with it to avoid confusion. Igor’s English is very good. He informed me he worked with an English language tutor immediately after the war started and it became obvious he would be seeking to attend a western university.
On February 24, 2022 Igor lived in Kyiv with his mother, father and nine year old sister. In the first few days when it became clear the Russian forces were intending to take Kyiv, Igor’s family packed some belongings and fled to the village of Vasylkiv, south west of Kyiv where his grandparents lived. For the next several months a root cellar in his grandparents house was home to Igor along with his parents, his sister an aunt a cousin and of course his grandparents.
They all in turn kept themselves busy as volunteers delivering food and any other items available to locals in the village as well Ukrainian troops. As luck would have it Igor’s father brought an internet connection into the house when they would visit for vacation. This internet became the single most vital tool for Igor who constantly searched the world for scholarship opportunities to university as well as continue online learning from the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute where he attended before the dislocation. In this way his sister was able to keep up with her studies as well.
Two weeks into the war Igor received a response to his outreach from the University of Alberta and offered a special scholarship designed to assist Ukrainian students in the STEM stream for engineers.
The world radically changed for Igor again when on August 30, 2022 he and his mother arrived in Edmonton to be greeted by Robert and Janet of Camrose Alberta who would be their hosts in Canada. Igor describes his elation at being accepted to a full scholarship into a world renowned STEM faculty.
Very comfortable at the University of Alberta, Camrose campus, Igor continues with online studies in Machine building from Kyiv Polytechnic Institute as well as in person Computer Science in Camrose.
If all that adventure is not enough, with help from his mentor Oleh Kozlenko Igor’s application was accepted as one of seven thousand applicants for the GLOBAL STUDENT PRIZE by The Varkey Foundation partnered with Chegg.org. At the time I spoke with Igor he was one of top ten finalists.
For the last two years, Igor has been working on his latest research, Quadcopter Mines Detector, which he has successfully presented at numerous competitions and exhibitions. He was a finalist of the X Festival of Innovative Projects “Sikorsky Challenge 2021: Ukraine and the World” and received the Gold medal in the junior category at Malaysia’s 21st Technology Exhibition (MTE) 2022.
Igor has developed two working prototypes of his device and is now working with investors and various organizations for fast real-world implementation to help reduce the number of victims of explosive devices. He has received two official patents from Ukraine for his device.
On Sep 20th Igor Klymenko a 17-year-old Ukrainian prodigy won the $100,000 Global Student Prize for development of a land mine seeker that attaches to a drone. Like a true professional Igor tells me he will use the funds to build an operational prototype of his invention and then get a military certification.
Having some rudimentary knowledge of land mines, I asked Igor how his device can detect modern land mines that are made of plastic. Very excited to talk about his invention he explained that indeed most mines are plastic or composite material, but the detonator is always metal. It is this detail around which Igor developed a ground penetrating radar metal seeker mounted to a drone that upon detection can transmit very precise GPS location to a team of sappers who will then decide to disarm or detonate the mine safely. For the necessary artificial Intelligence software Igor is working with programmers from the University in Kharkiv.
After an uplifting discussion with Igor in English I reveled I had a fairly good command of Ukrainian. A final surprise for Igor was my offer to take him out to an open field and fly a couple different drones I brought with me. For the next two hours we had a lot of fun.
I wish Igor continued success with his studies and his invention. When Igor completes his BSc. in computer science Igor intends to return to Ukraine and continue working with Ukrainian students and Ukrainian army.