Innovations with robots, the IIT Bombay way

  • Rozelle Laha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 02, 2016 15:03 IST
Young innovators get their act together at the e-Yantra contest at IIT Bombay. (Handout Image)

An apprenticeship is the best way to get hands-on experience of any subject you want to master. To help students learn the finer nuances of robotics, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay organised e-Yantra Robotics Competition (eYRC) to promote the concept of learn engineering by doing ­engineering.

Participating teams designed robots that could make day-to-day service delivery easier. One of them was able to pick up packages from courier companies and deliver them to their destinations. Another robot was able to detect service requests and deliver services within hotel rooms in order of priority. An amazing invention could collect and sort out hazardous waste and take it to a dumping site across a river crossing a bridge. One could even take down orders and deliver pizza to homes on time!

For youngsters participating in the project this was a dream come true. “We learnt the process of documentation, the way in which the project is to be written, and converting the coding into a flowchart format,” says Shubham Baranwal studying at the National Institute of Technology, Meghalaya who worked on the theme of hazardous waste disposal”

Discussing various ideas with teammates helped Harshit Goel of Maharaja Agrasen College, Delhi learn about the different ways to approach a challenge, and come to a unanimous ­solution.

e-Yantra is a national robotics outreach project of IIT Bombay funded by MHRD (GoI) and targeted at engineering and science colleges throughout India. The project runs the e-Yantra National Robotics Competition (eYRC) every year based on a small homegrown educational robot developed at IIT Bombay. A total of 19,568 students (representing 4,892 teams) registered for eYRC in August 2015. Out of these, 3,036 participants comprising 759 teams were shortlisted through an online test. e-Yantra provided robots to these selected teams, gave them training (for free) and assigned tasks that were evaluated over a period of four months. As a part of the tasks, these teams were asked to design robots for specific services for the following themes: Courier service, hotel guest service, gas leakage detection, puzzle solver (using gripper), puzzle solver (using LCD), search and rescue, hazardous waste disposal, recyclable waste management and pizza delivery service.

The top three teams from each of the nine themes were awarded cash prizes. The winning teams in each theme were awarded Rs 20,000. The second and third prize winning teams received prize money of Rs 16,000 and Rs 12,000 respectively.

The teams coming first in each of the nine themes also won a paid six-week internship at IIT Bombay over the summer. The summer internship programme puts these interns under mentors who help them work on challenging technical problems with 24x7 access to labs.

“Our engineering education system creates one-dimensional techies who are traditionally technology consumers. Our attempt is to open their eyes to their indigenous culture and its place in the world at large to increase their self-esteem as potential inventors,” says Kavi Arya (principal investigator, e-Yantra Project, IIT Bombay. “The purpose of the internship (beginning in last week of May) is to give the students an exposure to things besides engineering; especially to awaken them to the added value of the humanities and the arts.”

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