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Recently the UMIC team from IIT Bombay participated and ranked 4th in the ASME Student Design Competition, organised by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers annually. The ASME SDC is a great platform where ASME student members participate and present their solutions to a range of design problems which may include day to day household tasks to ground breaking space explorations. The competition is generally held in two phases: Asia Pacific Regionals and World finals, but this year, the competition was organised as a single-stage global competition. Over 25 teams participated from across the world. 

The competition includes a problem statement based on robotics, and the teams have to design a robot to complete some tasks as instructed by the problem statement. This year, the problem statement was as follows:

The teams had to design a device that could transport weights while traversing through an arena constructed by teams. The device had to be propelled entirely by a single AAA rechargeable battery rated at 800 mA-hrs. The battery had to be fully charged before each round and then recharged during the round in the charging zones which were a part of the constructed arena. The devices had to be capable of recharging the AAA battery via solar or wind energy sources. The solar energy had to be simulated by a 500W Utilitech Portable Halogen Work Light with Floor Stand (or comparable alternative sources) as the source of solar energy for each Charging Zone at the competition. At the same time, the wind energy had to be simulated by a Lasko model 3300 20″ Wind Machine Fan with 3-speed settings (or comparable alternative sources)  as the source of wind energy for each Charging Zone at the competition.

The dimensions of the arena were 5×5 m. Four subregions of 1×1 m had to be specified within the arena. The four subregions included: Weight Loading Area, Weight Unloading Area, Two charging zones. In the rest of the region, arrows were defining the trajectory for the bot’s transverse.

As for loads, teams had to procure uniform 0.5 Kg steel pellets, which were manually put on the device by a team member during the competition in the loading region. 

During the competition, the device had to carry loads from the loading region to the unloading region while following the trajectory defined by the arrows in the arena. So in a given time limit, this task had to be repeated to score maximum points. Points were contingent on the number of arrows the device could pass over perfectly and the load that the device was carrying. The time limit in the preliminary round was 5 min and in the knockouts it was increased to 15 minutes.

In an offline setting, teams have to go to the competition venue and perform these tasks, but this time the competition took place in an online mode where the teams had to make the arena themselves and send the videos of their prototype performing the required task. The groups initially had to send a compliance video depicting the arena, weights, power source, and other essentials. After this, there was a preliminary round, in which teams had to perform maximum pre-defined maneuvers over the arena. UMIC IIT Bombay, having scored the highest number of points, was seeded first after the preliminary rounds. After the preliminary round, 16 teams were left and faced each other in knockouts. In knockouts, teams had to perform the same tasks within a 15 minutes time limit. Our team outperformed most teams in the knockouts and ended up among the top 4 finalists of the prestigious competition.  

Preparation and Challenges

The problem statement was released at the end of November, and soon after our end-sems, the formation of the team took place. UMIC usually prefers a freshmen-centric team for this competition every year. Hence, the recruitment of the freshmen was done in December. The freshmen were guided by the team seniors who had already started ideating on the problem statement after its release. In January, they were joined by the freshmen, and the work began in full force.

Building a robot and an arena for the competition isn’t something that can be done at an individual’s home. Thus, the institute gave permission to the senior members of the team to come to the institute and work together. Unfortunately, the freshmen weren’t allowed to visit the institute and couldn’t work hands-on on the bot. But this did not stop first-year students from contributing to the team. This year’s problem statement required more ideation on the electronics part rather than the traditional mechanical one. The freshmen contributed by doing lots of research related to electronics and working on the CAD models for manufacturing. Even the bot designed by the team was finally named MONKE by the freshmen.

Even though the institute allowed the team members to return to the institute in January, the team faced resource constraints this year due to the COVID safety norms. The students weren’t allowed to leave the campus. So, the communication for fabrication of the parts had to be done online, which was somewhat tricky. The students had to use services like Dunzo and WeFast for the transportation of the materials.

In addition to the logistical difficulties, there were also some challenges on the technical side. One of the significant constraints was that only one AAA battery was required. Recharging the battery from the solar source was also a considerable challenge. Also, the team had to minimize the weight of the bot to make the battery last longer and save the time required to charge it.

The team overcame the technical and logistical challenges to secure 4th place in the competition. 

We congratulate the team for putting in all the efforts and adding another achievement to their name.