Image of a Ukranian teen and a drone

A Bright Idea
Igor, 17, created a lifesaving drone.

Illustration by Randy Pollak; GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images (Kyiv); Aleksandr Shulman/AP Images (Tanks); Jeff McIntosh/AP Images (Igor Klymenko); Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images (Soldier); Courtesy Chegg.org (Drone)

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R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.7, W.3, SL.1, L.4, L.6

Finding Hope in a War Zone

How a teen from Ukraine is working to save lives in his home country—and beyond 

Before You Read: Check out our Background Builder slideshow

 

    Igor Klymenko, 17, and his family huddled together. They were in their dark basement. The sounds of explosions tore through the night.

    It was February 24, 2022. That morning, Russia had attacked Ukraine. Bombs had rained down on cities and towns. Missiles had hit military bases. Millions of Ukrainians had run for their lives. 

    Igor, his younger sister, and his parents had quickly grabbed whatever they could carry. Then they escaped their apartment in Kyiv, the capital city. The family headed to their country house in Vasylkiv. That’s a town about 23 miles away. The home had a basement that could serve as a bomb shelter.  

    Once there, Igor’s family still wasn’t sure they would be safe. No one slept that night. Bombs fell nearby, making the house shake.

    All they could do was hope that they would survive until morning.

    Igor Klymenko, 17, and his family huddled together. They were in their basement. The sounds of explosions tore through the night.

    It was February 24, 2022. That morning, Russia had attacked Ukraine. Bombs had rained down on cities and towns. Missiles had hit military bases. Millions of Ukrainians had run for their lives.

    Igor, his younger sister, and his parents had grabbed all they could carry. Then they left their apartment in Kyiv, the capital city. They went to their country house. The country house was in a town about 23 miles away. It had a basement. The basement could serve as a bomb shelter.

    Once there, the family still didn’t feel safe. No one slept that night. Bombs fell nearby. They made the house shake.

    Would the family survive the night?

    Igor Klymenko, 17, and his family huddled together in their dark basement. The sounds of explosions tore through the night.

    It was February 24, 2022. That morning, Russia had attacked Ukraine. Bombs had rained down on cities and towns, and missiles had struck military bases. Millions of Ukrainians had run for their lives.

    Igor, his younger sister, and his parents had quickly grabbed whatever they could carry and left their apartment in Kyiv, the capital city. The family headed to their country house in Vasylkiv, a town about 23 miles away. The home had a basement that could serve as a bomb shelter.  

    Once there, Igor’s family still wasn’t sure they would be safe. No one slept that night. Bombs fell nearby, making the house shake.

    All they could do was hope that they would survive until morning.

The War Begins

    In many ways, Igor was a typical teenager. He loved playing the guitar, hanging out with his friends, and learning about robotics. But after Russia attacked Ukraine, Igor’s busy life came to a sudden stop. His country turned into a war zone. 

    During the first days of fighting, Igor worried about his safety. He wondered if he would ever see his friends again. Once in a while, Igor’s father would make a quick trip to town for food and supplies. Other than that, Igor’s family stayed mostly inside for over a month.

    Igor felt helpless. He started to wonder: Was there anything he could do to make a difference in this war? Then he remembered a robotics project he was working on before the war. It was a drone designed to detect land mines. 

    In many ways, Igor was a typical teen. He played guitar. He hung out with friends. He loved learning about robotics. But after Russia attacked Ukraine, Igor’s life changed. His country became a war zone.

    Igor worried about his safety. He wondered if he would ever see his friends again. Now and then, his father would make a quick trip to town for food and supplies. But the family stayed mostly inside for over a month.

    Igor felt helpless. Was there anything he could do to make a difference in the war? Then he remembered: Before the war, he had been working on a robotics project. It was a drone designed to detect land mines. 

    In many ways, Igor was a typical teenager. He loved playing the guitar, hanging out with his friends, and learning about robotics. But after Russia attacked Ukraine, Igor’s busy life came to a sudden stop. His country turned into a war zone.

    During the early days of fighting, Igor worried about his safety and wondered if he would ever see his friends again. Occasionally, Igor’s father would make a quick trip to town for food and supplies—but aside from that, the family stayed mostly inside for over a month.

    Feeling helpless, Igor wondered if there was anything he could do to make a difference in the war. Then he remembered a robotics project he was working on before the war began—a drone designed to detect land mines. 

Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images 

Under Attack
This photo shows the destruction in Kyiv, Ukraine. Since the war began, more than 14 million people have left their homes to escape the violence.

Tools of War

    A land mine is an explosive weapon that is placed on or buried in the ground. Land mines explode when stepped on or driven over. They’re often planted in wooded or grassy areas. This makes it hard to spot them until it’s too late.

    Land mines kill and injure thousands of people around the world each year. And they aren’t just a problem during wars. Land mines left from past wars hurt people too.

    In March 2023 alone, Russian land mines killed 226 civilians in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is working to clear the mines. Special soldiers called sappers must walk through fields looking for them. It is dangerous work that takes a long time.

    Igor hoped his drone could help change this. 

    A land mine is a weapon that is placed on or buried in the ground. Land mines explode when stepped on or driven over. They’re often planted in wooded or grassy areas. This makes it hard to spot them until it’s too late.

    Every year, land mines kill and injure thousands of people around the world. And that’s not just during wars. Land mines left from past wars hurt people too.

    In March 2023 alone, Russian land mines killed 226 civilians in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is working to clear the mines. Special soldiers called sappers walk through fields looking for them. This work is dangerous. It takes a long time.

    Igor hoped his drone could help change this.

    A land mine is an explosive weapon that is placed on or buried in the ground. Land mines explode when stepped on or driven over. They’re often planted in wooded or grassy areas, which makes it difficult to spot them before it’s too late.

    Land mines kill and injure thousands of people around the world each year—and they aren’t only a wartime problem. Land mines left behind from past wars hurt people too.

    In March 2023 alone, Russian land mines killed 226 civilians in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is working to clear the mines. Special soldiers called sappers must walk through fields looking for them. It is dangerous work that takes a long time.

    Igor hoped his drone could help change this. 

Mohammad Javad Abjoushak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Getting Out 
People wait for a train to leave Kyiv after Russia invaded Ukraine.

A Lifesaving Drone 

Courtesy Chegg.org

    Igor first learned about land mines in fifth grade. He wondered if robotics could help solve the problem. Then one day, he and his cousin were playing around with a drone. 

    Igor had an idea. What if he created a drone that could detect land mines from the sky? That way, no one would have to risk their life searching by foot. 

    Igor didn’t act on his idea for a while. But in 10th grade, he told his science teacher about it. The teacher, Oleh Kozlenko, offered to help. 

    Igor spent much of his free time working on the drone. About a year and a half later, he finally had a prototype. He and Kozlenko began testing it.

    Then Russia attacked. 

    Igor first learned about land mines in fifth grade. He wondered if robotics could help solve the problem. Then one day, he and his cousin were playing around with a drone.

    Igor had an idea. What if a drone could detect land mines from the sky? That way, no one would have to risk their life searching on foot.

    At first, Igor didn’t act on his idea. But in 10th grade, he told his science teacher about it. The teacher offered to help.

    Igor worked on the drone. About a year and a half later, he had a prototype. He and his teacher began testing it.

    Then Russia attacked.

    Igor first learned about land mines in fifth grade. He wondered if robotics could help solve the problem. Then one day, he and his cousin were playing around with a drone.

    Igor had an idea: to create a drone that could detect land mines from the sky. That way, no one would have to risk their life searching on foot.

    Igor didn’t act on his idea for a while. But in 10th grade, he told his science teacher about it. The teacher, Oleh Kozlenko, offered to help.

    Igor spent much of his free time working on the drone. About a year and a half later, he finally had a prototype. He and Kozlenko began testing it.

    Then Russia attacked. 

FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images 

The Problem  
Russia has placed land mines all over Ukraine. Soldiers called sappers (above) find the mines and clear them.

No Time to Wait

    When the war started, it seemed Igor’s work would have to stop. Igor had left Kyiv. His teacher had joined the military. But by August 2022, both of them were able to return to Kyiv for short periods of time. They met up to continue testing the drone.

    The drone still wasn’t finished. But Igor began to think about how to get the word out. The drone would be useful only if he could get it into the military’s hands. 

    So Igor entered contests to bring more attention to the drone. One was called the Chegg.org Global Student Prize. The winner would get $100,000. “I thought it was impossible,” says Igor. “What was the chance that I’d win over 7,000 other students?” 

    But Igor did win. His drone made the news all over the world. Finally, the word was out about how it could help Ukraine. “I was crying,” he says. “The last time I cried, it was at the beginning of the war. Now I was crying for a second time—this time from happiness.” 

    When the war started, Igor’s work stopped. Igor had left Kyiv. His teacher had joined the military. But by August 2022, both of them were able to return to Kyiv for short periods of time. They met up to continue testing the drone.

    The drone wasn’t finished. But Igor wanted to get the word out. The drone would be useful only if the military knew about it.

    Igor entered contests to bring more attention to the drone. One was called the Chegg.org Global Student Prize. The winner would get $100,000. “I thought it was impossible,” says Igor. “What was the chance that I’d win over 7,000 other students?”

    But he did win. His drone made the news all over the world. The word was out about how it could help Ukraine. “I was crying,” he says. “The last time I cried, it was at the beginning of the war. Now I was crying for a second time—this time from happiness.” 

    When the war started, it seemed Igor’s work would have to stop. Igor had left Kyiv, and his teacher had joined the military. But by August 2022, both of them were able to return to Kyiv for short periods of time. They met up to continue testing the drone.

    Although the drone wasn’t finished yet, Igor began thinking about how to get the word out. After all, the drone would be useful only if he could get it into the military’s hands.

    So Igor entered contests to bring more attention to the drone. For one of them, the Chegg.org Global Student Prize, the winner would get $100,000. “I thought it was impossible,” Igor remembers. “What was the chance that I’d win over 7,000 other students?”

    But Igor did win, and his drone made the news all over the world. Finally, the word was out about how it could help Ukraine. “I was crying,” he recalls. “The last time I cried, it was at the beginning of the war. Now I was crying for a second time—this time from happiness.”

Looking to the Future