Career Articles

Sonam Wangchuk: Innovator, Engineer And Education Reformist

Hey students,

Do you remember the movie, 3 Idiots? This movie was released in 2009 and yet when you think about it, some memorable scenes come to your mind. The storyline of 3 Idiots is based on Sonam Wangchuk’s story. Let’s get to know him better!

  1. Sonam Wangchuk is known by the nickname Snow Warrior.
  2. He was born on 1st September 1966, in Uleytokpo, Jammu and Kashmir.
  3. He didn’t receive formal education until the age of 9 and shortly after was enrolled in a school in Srinagar.
  4. He was considered slow as he didn’t speak the language.
  5. In 1977, he escaped to Delhi and pursued Mechanical Engineering from NIT, Srinagar, although his father wanted him to become a Civil Engineer.
  6. He tutored 10th standard students to fund his education.
  7. Sonam Wangchuk is better known as an innovator and education reformist.
  8. To address the problems of the younger generation he started Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) in 1988.
  9. The SECMOL campus runs completely on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting or heating, even during winters in Ladakh when temperatures fall to minus 25 degrees Celsius.
  10. He created awareness among the students about the solar education system and harnessed solar energy.
  11. He has been instrumental in launching Operation New Hope that has reformed the present education system by making the books more contextual.
  12. The collaboration of government, village communities and the civil society to bring reforms in the government schools system. This movement led to raising the 10th standard exam results in the region from 5% success to eventually 75%.
  13. The real Phunsukh Wangdu doesn’t believe he has done anything special but considers he did what humanity needed.
  14.  Russian Bolshoi ballet dancer, educationist, entrepreneur and a certified karate black belt holder, Gitanjali JB has partnered with Sonam Wangchuk in his mission.
  15. HIAL (Himlayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh) was founded by Sonam Wangchuk and its founding members are Gitanjali JB, Suparna Bhalla and Sanjay Prakesh.
  16. HIAL is an institute for mountain development.
  17. He has been awarded an honorary D.Litt degree by the Symbiosis International.
  18. The project Ice Stupa by Sonam Wangchuk is based on the concept of freezing water during winters so that it is available for irrigation and purposes during spring in the mountainous regions.
  19. The stream water is frozen to form huge ice towers or cones of 30 to 50 metres that resemble mud structures called Stupa or Chorten.
  20. These Ice Stupas can be built near villages and require little effort and investment.
  21. They are artificial vertical glaciers.
  22. Sonam has been leading the communities in the mountain regions to lead sustainable lives.
  23. The solar battery house is an innovative design by Sonam Wangchuk and it uses indigenous materials for passive solar heating for buildings.
  24. To provide shelter to the Indian Army soldiers from the extreme Ladakhi winters, Visaka Industries has partnered with Sonam Wangchuk.
  25. ATUM is India’s first patented integrated solar roofing solution that serves all functions of a traditional roof while giving 20 percent higher installed capacity as compared to the conventional solar panels in the same space.
  26. He has 400 patent to his name and is even sought after by the Japanese.
  27. He has won the prestigious Global Award for Sustainable Architecture 2017 that recognises the work on “passive solar heated Earth buildings and the Ice Stupa project on sustainable architecture.”
  28. Sonam Wangchuk is among two Indians who have been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as the Asian version of the Nobel Prize.


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