Origin stories: Students turn inventors at this Mumbai festival
Maker Mela 2019, held last week, displayed some interesting inventions. School students, collegians and entrepreneurs gathered at Somaiya Vidyavihar to pitch to experts and investors at the annual event.
Organised by Somaiya’s Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory (RiiDL) from January 17 to 19, Maker Mela featured 18 students among the 100 inventors aged 8 to 83, from Pune, Nashik, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, Jaipur and Tripura, among other cities.
One team created a 3D-printed arm, with moving fingers. Another had worked out a prototype for an underwater vehicle that could take pictures of coral reefs and marine life and share them in real time over Wi-Fi.
“We are happy to be able to act as facilitators for inventors, help them meet other creators, network and possibly take their ideas forward,” says Samir Somaiya, president of Somaiya Vidyavihar.
Gaurang Shetty, chief innovation catalyst at RiiDL, says that apart from showcasing their innovations, students get feedback to help improve.
“Out of the lot, we shortlist six to eight of the top innovations. There is a session arranged for them to pitch their ideas to industry experts. The experts ask them various questions, and this is where the team’s presentation and communication skills come handy. They learn a great deal through the pitching session. And as they move around checking other exhibits, they get to interact with other inventors as well.”
A handy trick
For 21-year-old Reethan DL, a mechanical engineering student from Bengaluru, the physical rehabilitation centre near his house was the inspiration to create a 3D-printed prosthetic arm and hand. “Our primary aim was to make it low-cost, because affordability is a big problem with today’s prosthetics,” he says. He and fellow engineering students Shreyas SP and R Aishwarya worked with Mukesh Patil, head of the department of mechanical engineering at their college, BNM Institute of Technology, and with L Vijayashree, head of the MBA department, to create a prototype.
They have received a grant of Rs 2.5 lakh from the Karnataka state department of science and technology. “The arm we have created costs less than Rs 10,000,” Reethan says. “My team already was well-versed in 3D printing and it wasn’t much of a task to make the prosthetic arm. The prototype cost us Rs 12,000 to Rs 17,000. But if we create in bulk, the it will be much cheaper to make. With the government grant, we are now planning to make more such arms, reach out to the disabled at give it to them at a low cost,” he adds.
It took 20 students a whole year to create a Wi-Fi-enabled autonomous underwater vehicle that can take pictures of oil fields or coral reefs or aquatic life and relay them virtually, in real time. The vehicle also has a surveillance feature that can display obstacles along the way.
“We invested Rs 4 lakh on the device,” says Vivek Mange, 21, an engineering student at KJ Somaiya who was among the creators. “Unlike the other submersibles that use advanced technology, our aim was to make one with simple coding and image processing that can give quality images,” he says.
Their version is also lighter. “Generally, the machines weigh 200kg to 300 kg. But our machine weighs just 15kg to 17 kg. It can be remote-controlled gives us video footage while simultaneously displaying obstacles and showing the paths available,” Mange says.
Vishrut Bhatt, 21, an engineering student from Ahmedabad, created what he calls Handicare, a device that consists of a seat, a set of six wheels, a steering handle and brake, to help the physically challenged move around independently.
The device is modelled on a toy car. It runs when the handle is moved and can be steered in a left-right direction as well.
Bhatt describes Handicare as a device for those who have use of their hands but have leg impairments and cannot move around easily. “I have got 200 people use Handicare through an NGO in my locality,” he says. “It moves at normal walking pace.”
It cost him Rs 30,000 to make Handicare, he says. “But I sell it for only Rs 2,500. I have approached the Gujarat government to help us reach as many disabled people as possible.”