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The recent up’roar’ at IIT Bombay caused by leopards sneaking in into the metallurgy department near the S1 Bay area asked for strict measures and immediate solutions. Amidst the hullabaloo and confusion, a remote-inspection vehicle has entered into the hall of fame of the few student-made indigenous technologies that have been put to gainful use.

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The Student Design Competition organized by ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) is a prestigious platform for students to invent engineering solutions to a range of real-world problems. This year’s problem statement, which was devised keeping in mind the tragedy at Fukushima Nuclear Reactor, posed the challenge of making a remote-controlled vehicle, which could pick up and drop things using a gripper, to reduce as much of human intervention at disaster sites as possible.

The team from IIT Bombay stood up to the challenge and made its way through the national level at Vijaywada, and represented the country at Malaysia for the Asian round, and after emerging victorious there as well, went all the way to San Diego, USA.

But what use is technology if not put to real use? And like most robotics team, the ASME robot would have met the same fate of being shelved away as all other student made bots had it not been for their faculty advisor. Prof. Ramesh Singh, of the Mechanical Engineering department, suggested that the bot be used to track the two leopards that had been sighted but had not yet been caught.

Remote controlling the robot

Remote controlling the robot

Usually in such situations, manual tracking has always been done through a mobile cage. A person can stay inside this cage to protect himself while being able to steer his way during surveillance. But this does not totally eliminate the danger for the person. The robot, which consists of two cameras, one at the front and one near the gripper arms, has the capacity to run on its LiPo batteries and keep a watch on an area while being remote controlled. After tweaking up the systems a bit and setting the bot in working order in the morning of the 25th of July, the bot started surveying in the afternoon until the evening.

The robot, though, could not spot the other two leopards, probably because the area to be surveyed, which was two stories high, was not fully in the range of the robot. There were various possible alternatives suggested, like the ‘quadrotor’- the air surveillance vehicle which was developed by Technovation (of the Student Technical Activities’ Body) but finally the forest department took some specialized measures to be able to track down the elusive leopards. Nevertheless, this incident should definitely encourage students to bring forth technologies that can solve real world problems when the need arises.

The entire ASME team responsible for building this robot consists of Anurag Meena, Somin Soni, Arpit Gupta, Kriti Gupta, Ravi Yadav, Kumar Keshav, Jaivardhan Lal and Piyush Divyankar.