FRESH Encounters: Anant Vasudevan

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy?
I chose the Academy because it offered an educational environment where I could pursue diverse fields without compromise. In high school, I had to petition the school in order to take classes I wanted because the curriculum forced students to decide between art or a science. After my school agreed, I still felt there was a compromise: each subject was taught in isolation. Just like many classmates in the Academy, I found myself confined by traditional education and instead learning more on my own outside of school.

For each university I applied to, there was always a similar compromise, constraint, overburdened triple major schedule, and a haphazard promise at “interdisciplinary education”? The Iovine and Young Academy offered an uncompromising platform where I didn’t need to choose a single subject, but could explore subjects in the context of one another. More importantly, I loved the idea of learning by doing team projects, and that holds true today; in fact, I find myself learning even more from the incredible people around me.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on? 
Every month I challenge myself to focus on a problem around me and explore solutions. This exercise in cultivating creativity, building skills, and engaging with problems I’m passionate about has yielded products to various problems - from Pringles that you can’t reach from the bottom of the can to air pollution in Delhi. Here are a few examples below:

A young man holds up a cloth mask
A merged image of a rendered dwelling, then a real-life version below, with a young man standing in front of it.

Left: Reverse engineering pollution masks with replaceable filters to increase longevity and make them more affordable.
Right: Designing and building shelters that protect families from mosquitos, rain, and heat.

What inspired the project?
For the shelters I designed, I was motivated by the conversations I had with homeless families across the city. With each conversation, I began to develop a better understanding of the problem and opportunities soon emerged. The first MVP (minimum viable product) I built eventually included features to protect families against three major challenges faced by families: mosquitos, heat, and rain. The bamboo panels that fit into the side-ends of the pipe include mosquito netting to protect inhabitants from malaria and dengue. Meanwhile, the pipe’s shape creates a wind tunnel effect; by hanging a wet jute bag on the side, the wind can cool the interiors using evaporative cooling in the peak summer. Finally, the panels include a removable plastic flap that seals and protects the insides from rain. Equipped with the power of observation, a relentless pursuit to find answers, and the motivation to experiment, the possibilities are endless. The prospect that solutions to challenges like these can stem from the simplest of things compels me to explore and observe my environment.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you? 
Muhammad Yunus. “Don’t look back, you’re not going there.”

What are three goals you have this year?

  1. Get my driver's license
  2. Explore Los Angeles more
  3. Reach 500 tables — I fix wobbly tables and chairs that I find in the wild with blue tack. So far I've fixed 243.

What is one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?  
“Work hard, play hard”. You shouldn’t forget to work for what you want out of life but you shouldn’t forget to take a break sometimes and let yourself relax. It should be a balance. 


What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?

  1. Laptop
  2. Sketchbook
  3. Metro Cards
  4. Blue tack

Favorite way to de-stress:
Drawing highway intersections & taking a Metro somewhere random in LA.

Guilty Pleasure?

Thank you, Anant!

More information about Anant's journey and problem solving projects can be found on his website