Srishti ’19 Spotlight: Team Robocon
News, 2nd March 2019
This February, Geek Gazette met up with Team Robocon to discuss their plans for the upcoming techno-hobby exhibition, Srishti’19. The Team, working on the problem statement since last August, is also gearing up for Robocon nationals later this year. The mechanical drills and racing wheeled-robots are clearly audible as we chat about the inner workings of the robotics team and more.
GG: Could you give us a brief history of the group? What would you say are its major achievements?
TR: The Team was established by 3 students in the year 2008. We have represented IIT Roorkee in the nationals ever since. A surprising number of the on-campus folk seem unaware that Robocon is actually an international robotics competition. To cite achievements, we got the Best Debut Team award (2008), Most Aesthetic Robot award (2014 and 2016). 2018 was very good to us, we ranked 7th in the competition and also bagged the Most Innovative Design award.
GG: What sort of experiences does Srishti have to offer Team Robocon and what is the general reception to your exhibits?
TR: The crowd response has always been very enthusiastic. The bots that we make are ‘game-playing bots’. So we usually plan Human vs Robot events which makes it very engaging for the crowd. For instance, we put up a shuttle-throwing bot last year and organised a shuttle-throwing competition which was a big hit. We don’t feel hesitant to say that very few people working in robotics at par with our work, in the campus. So not only the students, but the professors also appreciate our work.
GG: What will Team Robocon be presenting at Srishti’19?
TR: Usually, Robocon nationals take place long before Srishti, so we have our bots ready for showcase in the exhibition. This year, the Robocon competition has been delayed and we are still working on the bots. Also, due to the highly competitive nature of our competition, we can’t disclose the mechanisms we’re using this year. So we’ll probably tone down on the level of human-robot interaction this year. A major attraction would be the Quadruped robot, a four-legged walking robot, probably the first of its kind in the campus. Otherwise, we are also thinking of making a bottle-flipping robot, capable of flipping a robot mid-air and landing it upright.
GG: What were the inspiration and resources that went into the idea and design? Any particular piece of research or previously-made model?
TR: Originality and innovation have big roles to play when you compete at the scale we do. Before getting into the technicalities of design and fabrication, we work on raw ideas for tackling the problem statement. These are brought up by our team members. Everyone has different ways of approaching the problem and everyone brings something different to the table, which makes the process a lot more fruitful. We brainstorm to find a solution to the competition’s problem statement. Again, we are hesitant to actually cite the research work and models we’ve referred this year but they only provide a base to further build-upon.
GG: Are there any research applications of your work?
TR: The work relies heavily on new ideas so yes, we can definitely write research papers or apply for patents. But due to constraints of time, we rarely do it. In 2018, we made a Pole-Walker robot capable of ‘swinging’ about poles while moving forward. The design was particularly challenging as compared to our previous work, and so we ended up writing a research paper. We were invited to present that research paper at IIT Bombay. This year’s quadruped has taken a much greater level of brainstorming on our part. All modesty aside, most of the designs and actuations being used are new and this is truly exciting for robotics at the undergrad level. So we expect to publish many research papers after the competition this year.
GG: How do you think being in an IIT has helped you while pursuing this project? Any specific institute facilities, online or otherwise, which have come into use?
TR: The amount of funds and other facilities that IIT Roorkee has given us is amazing. We don’t think this kind of support is provided by any other college. The professors and dean have been very supportive and helpful, especially our faculty advisor, Dr Ganpule and Prof. Pathak (Mechanical Department). We also feel the Tinkering Lab is the single-most important facility for us. The 3D printers and CNC machines are very helpful. Also some research papers of our institute, have helped us in forming our ideas for creating the bots.
GG: What was the general timeline while working with the project or otherwise?
TR: Our project work starts from the summer vacations when we all stay back. The project starts with research phase in the summer in conjugation with training the first yearites. This continues until the next problem statement which comes in late August. After that we start working towards the problem statement; prototyping, designing, manufacturing and lastly testing the bots before going into the Robocon competition.
GG: What are the final goals or aspirations for the project-work? Any industrial applications?
TR: The main focus is always on winning the nationals and succeeding to the internationals. After that if the project fulfills a societal need, we move on to research for industry-based applications and products get marketed. Back in 2015, the theme was ‘Robominton’ in which we built autonomous badminton-playing robots. Because the bots had quite some scope in the sports-goods market, the chinese team ended up patenting their design.
GG: What makes this year’s exhibits different from the past? Any academic research or innovative methods used this time?
TR: For one, we’ll be forced to keep things a bit confidential this time. The four-legged walking robot will definitely be the star attraction. Normally we don’t like referring to research papers as we believe it somehow hinders the originality we strive for here. This is also what sets us apart from fellow tech-clubs. But this year we couldn’t follow this pattern for we’re introducing a quadruped robot. It is an multi-terrain robot capable of walking, turning and even climbing obstacles. A wheeled robot is limited to plain surfaces but a quadruped can easily move through a rugged terrain. This kind of tech has applications in defence, surveillance and navigation if marketed successfully as a product. We’ve spent a lot of time going over past research, and coming up with quite a bit of our own, for designing it. We mostly use basic manufacturing units like 3D printers, one of which we happen to own and some other advanced mechanical units in our departments.
GG: What role does Srishti play each year in the progress of the team?
TR: Srishti has always been very special for Team Robocon. The freshers are recruited in their first semester, sometime around October. The projects they exhibit in Srishti is their first chance at hands-on work in robotics. They work on everything from idea proposals to the manufacturing and testing of the robot, under the guidance of mentors form Robocon and MaRS. The exhibition also gives us a chance to showcase the Team’s year-long project work to the IITR crowd.
For more information about their exciting endeavors, make sure to check out Team Robocon’s booth at Srishti ‘19, from 9-10th March.