Tuesday, 9 September, 2008

The Dream

I remember that night all to clearly. A guy from IIT - Kharagpur came to our hostel,to market their event - Kshitij. He told us about the various technical events happening there, stressing,especially, on the robotics events. He was like- "This is simple stuff,yaar. Even school students over there participate in these events". Wait a minute... There was not a single guy in the 1st year hostel who knew one damn thing about robotics, (apart from the cute morse-talking R2D2 from star wars,that is :P). After this guy left, me and some of my schoolmates,who managed to go to the same college, got together and started givin this some serious thought.
We approached some seniors, and with some partial guidance, managed to construct a simple chassis with 4 motors. But we were surprised that it didnt run. We didnt know that without gear coupling, the bot wouldnt have the necessary torque to move (an analogy- tryin to boil an egg without lighting a fire), which is a pretty lame mistake, somethin which would make us the laughing stock of fellow enthusiasts. But this was a start. We wanted to participate in our college's technical fest - Kurukshetra-07, but failed to garner the necessary basics. So we decided to attend a workshop which was to give us our first real taste of robotics. But 2 days was time enough to get only the basic info right. Robotics, in actuality requires loads of patience and practice(especially electronics).

The real turning point in our robotics-journey, was when we met the ultimate techie- Niranjit, and his friend- Darshan, whose grasp of mechanical design is second to none. With Niranjit's guidance, we started off with basic circuitry and stuff like that and were soon able to construct a manual wrestler bot, which managed to win a consolation prize at the ECE dept's symposium. I still remember those nights in Thala(Niranjit)'s room, which had barely enough space to house his bed. We would work all night,all the while bugging Niranjit to debug our circuit. This went on for quite a few months and we gained a bit of experience with autonomous bots. But sadly, we were the only 1st years in the college involved in robotics. We wanted this to change. And the seniors too,werent ready to handle another group of eager 1st years intent on disturbing their beauty sleep :P. That was when the plan for a robotics club was mooted. After several nights of animated discussions with the guys from CEG Tech Forum or CTF (our college's student technical body,responsible for organising Kurukshetra), we had a plan ready.

Take care of the club.Or else......... (Darshan's message to us :P)

I still remember that day when we presented the club to the dean, who half-listened to our impassioned description of the club's "Mission" and what our "Goals", both short term, and long term, were. He okayed it,as a part of CTF, but asked us not to expect any funds from the college. We were overjoyed that our dream had now been realised (if only,to a certain extent, though.But hey, it was something!). Then started the plans to organise classes. The club conducted several classes on robotics basics, with seniors giving lectures as well as hands on demos on robotics. The Orientation class proved to be a big hit, as students stared with wonder at the robot-videos we had compiled for them. We had huge attendance for the classes, sometimes overflowing so much that classes were held in two separate rooms. For any one to get started in robotics, kits are essential. So the idea of providing low cost kits (priced at around 500 bucks, whereas we ended up spending 2k during that workshop I talked about earlier) was what really gave robotics in CEG, a big boost.

Clockwise from left: Kokki, Seshatri, Me,
Darshan & Niranjit (the 2 thalais), Papu and Naren

The mere feeling of guiding friends and juniors taking their baby steps in robotics is so humbling and exhilarating at the same time. Me and my team mates ended up making some good friends among the juniors. The high point,really, was when the participation of CEG students at Kurukshetra touched double figures. From the days when hardly 5 people were working on robotics only a year ago, we were now at a stage where around 40 students had managed to construct working robots, which is something truly unbelievable. By the end of the year, the club had a strong base, the seniors had done their job well... It was really sad to see them leave college, as we had become very close over the 2 years.

This year, we decided to make the club an independent entity. The founders had appointed a board of final year members to the club. We managed to get a faculty advisor(a Dr.T.V.Moorthy, to whom we are very much grateful) and in Mr.George(who happens to reside in the same block as me), we found a very friendly treasurer. Despite not getting permission to market the club during the 1st year admissions, which is a sort of traditions where the coffers of all clubs swell, we managed well, thanks to the club orientations- 2 evenings where 1st years got to know about each club from the various presentations. The 1st class for the freshers went very well, and I can say many of them are hooked on to robotics. After the 1st and 2nd round of registration, we have around 250 members, which will increase as the weeks go by.

Yes. What we once thought would be a distant dream, has now taken shape.
The Robotics Club of CEG is here to stay !!!!

1 comment:

Vivek said...

yeah, i remember the day the IIT guy came.. though, i thought the whole thing was a joke and never gave it much thought thereafter..