iSensoBotz - Introductory Workshop on Robotics
August 10, 2014
Few weeks ago, I volunteered at a local robotics workshop. It was a tiring, yet very rewarding, 4 days of robot building from the 25th - 28th of July. The venue was a minor hindrance for me; but after all the fumes and smog, and after going through two separate routes of transport, I arrived at the venue at AITM (Asian Institute of Technology and Management).
The workshop was a workshop indeed, but alongside also a qualifier for the National Robotics Championships to be held in IIT, Bombay in March 2015. The organizers were two Indians from ARK Technosolutions : Kelvin Lewis and Shahabudin. The event was also supported by Robotics Association of Nepal. The extremely helpful and friendly co-ordinators at the event were Abhigya, Bikram and Nibesh.
Well, Google Maps is lying anyways. :D It took me at least 1.5 hours to reach there.
The event was slated to kick off at 9am sharp. And so, I had arrived by 8:45am. The auditorium was jam-packed with hundreds of students extremely eager to complete their registrations to grab their seats for the event. After a short while, the registrations were done and dusted, and there was a hall filled with 25 teams of 5, unsurprisingly, most of whom had registered for the workshop through their own pocket money. ( Yep, their school just didn't support them. Not an uncommon thing here.) So, it was great to see all that enthusiasm coming from within the students.
The event began with welcoming the chief guests and organizers. Kelvin talked about the workshop schedule and that how the sections were going to be divided. After a short break, we began to start talking about robots.
The first session of the first day was devoted to developing a basic understanding of robots among the students. The organizers had brought along a slideshow presentation and talked about the types of robots (military, medical, industrial, home-use) as well as the general components involved (sensors, actuators, chassis, power supply).
After getting to know more about robots, it felt as if the students were more than eager to start building one. The organizers had brought along small-sized kits as well, for every team. The price of the kit was included in the registration costs. One kit contained a pair of geared motors (100RPM), two digital IR sensors, one digital sound sensor, two 9V batteries, an arduino clone (some used atmega8s while some atmega328s), an acrylic plate for the chassis, robot wheels and a castor wheel. It was a really simiplistic kit, but there were a lot of things that could be done from these few stuffs.
Kelvin (the organizer) talked about the Arduino and went a little bit in detail to discuss about the components on the board. It was very fun moving around the place helping out the students who badly wanted some help (in most cases I forced them to find a solution on their own!).
The first day's program ended at around 5pm and by then, the students had learnt to control LED states and control the motors' directions. The first day of coding was mostly limited to controlling output devices. All the participants were reminded to arrive at the auditorium at 9AM sharp the next day.
Inside the very first hour, the students learnt to read sensor values and by 12, most of them had their own working line followers. But there was a competition that remained and 3 winners were going to participate at IIT Bombay's mega robot event. Each and every component, as well as the code were the exact same for all the teams. The outcome of the competition definitely was going to involve a little bit of luck and a little bit of tactics. Some participants were clever enough to bring fresh sets of batteries for the contest, however, the max voltage of the batteries was limited to 9V as per contest rules. It was time for some line-following !
The competition was really electric. Every time a winner was declared, team members celebrated as if they'd won the world cup, but being in that atmosphere, it sure was difficult for anyone to stay quiet!
The 3rd and 4th day went in a similar fashion with another lot of teams coming to get there hands dirty in the field of robotics. Similar things took place on these days too.
I leave you now with a few snaps from the event. Taking pictures was the easiest thing to do as there was always something going on at every camera angle!
Getting things geared up
Massive Participation of students
"We want the kits!", say the kids. "Thy wish shall come true!", reply the organizers!
Participants busy inspecting their respective robot-kits
Focused at the presentation!
Discussion and assembly of kits
An overview of the event venue
A deserted look : participants out for some food.
The line following track. The lines weren't very even in length. The surface looks uneven, but it was flattened later on for the contest.
An aerial view of the workshop
2nd Runner-ups of the line-following contest
Runner-ups of the line-following contest
...And the winners!
Similar enthusiastic faces were seen on Day 3 and Day 4.
I better get out of here. These guys' build process is looking pretty serious!
I also managed to capture a couple of line following contest videos amid the wild-and-pumped-crowd. You should find the videos at the top.
I had the opportunity to interact with many students from so many different schools across Kathmandu valley, and assist them along the way. It felt really good when most of them were thanking me and the other volunteers at the end. But what they had achieved, despite the contest results, was truly due to their own perseverance over a period of 4 fantastic days. It was more about getting to know about robots, than about winning.
Overall, the 4-day event was a great teaching-learning experience for me, and a never-before-seen exposure to building robots for the high school students.
That's all I managed to capture guys. Catch you in the SB (oops, I hope we'll see our good 'ol SB really soon!)