Road to Robocon


Logo of Robocon 2012An hour past midnight, when most of the campus has called it a day, it is an unexpected surprise to find that CFI is abuzz with brazen activity. With less than three weeks to go for the annual battle of motor, metal and code at Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) Pune, T5E dropped by CFI as IIT Madras’ Robocon team gears up for Robocon 2012, to be held from February 28th to March 3rd.

As is the want of International Robocons, the problem statement this year, has a flavor of the host city, Hong Kong. In a popular festival there at midnight, several athletes scramble up a tower of buns with the aim of grabbing the “luckiest” buns kept at the top which, as per tradition, are believed to bring Peng On Dai Gat, meaning peace and prosperity. Given this interesting game, the festival also goes by the “Bun Mountain Festival” moniker.
The Robocon version of this game requires each team to employ 2 autonomous and 1 manual bot. The manual bot, interestingly, is required to carry the operator himself on it. The challenge being, the weight of the robot (minus that of the operator) gets restricted to 25 kg with a power supply of 2 x 24V batteries. To make things more difficult, one of the autonomous bots is required to carry the other. In the final leg, the manual bot needs to lift the other autonomous bot in air to complete the task.

Traditionally, Robocon problem statements have never been easy, but then, IIT Madras has been able to put together fairly competent teams in the past. This year’s team, led by Tanuj Jhunjhunwala, a 3rd year undergraduate, comprises of 25 members, mostly 2nd and 1st year undergraduates. It is worthy to note that the team has 5 girls for the very first time.

The preparations had begun around August end and involved building of small prototypes and testing, module by module. With the mantra as Work Smart and not just Hard, 3D models of the robots and the arena were made in SolidWorks and the simulation was then analyzed to work upon the final design.

“All of us turn up right after our classes get over, to put in the required hours of work. In the weekends, we go back to our rooms only to take a bath or a restroom break”, chuckles Tanuj. The enthusiasm and the dedication are quite remarkable considering that the team toiled in December for the first 20 days and even during Saarang.

The extended Quiz week in February has put additional pressure on the team. However, with the designs done, plans made and strategies chalked out, the team is currently working day in and night out to meet deadlines.

The high point in IIT Madras’ Robocon history was in 2009, when the team represented India at ABU Robocon Tokyo. “Even though we didn’t win at the international level, we had a lot to take away from the whole experience. It’s not so much about the prize as it is about the journey”, reminisces Rajan “Mazaa” Gupta, the current Events Core who was one of the members of the famed team.

“We still have a long way to go. There is tremendous scope for improvement in terms of technology, management and efficiency in the system. But we’ll get there. We are on the right track. Our race is primarily with ourselves, to push ourselves to newer limits”, says I. V. S. “Rigid” Sandeep, the current CoCAS, who was also a member of the Tokyo team.

To this day, the IIT Madras’ team remains one of the most feared and respected teams at Robocon. As we stand on the shoulders of giants, when this year’s team goes to Pune like the previous ones, it is expected to surely make heads turn… and topple a few!

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