In its 14th year now, IIT-Bombay's celebration of science and technology is growing bigger by the year. Some pulsating enthusiasm and touches on the technological innovations that were showcased.
It was a record-break footfall this year. 85,000 people (mainly students) thronging the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) campus for three days from January 7-9 to experience the extravaganza called the Techfest — Asia's largest of its kind science and technology festival.
“This is the third year that I am attending Techfest. I attend it religiously mainly because of the exhibition where I get a glimpse of the latest technological innovations. It's fascinating to see a human-like robot, a race car designed by these students, a robot doing household work…,” Vinayak Sharma, a student of the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, would have gone on if I had not stopped him in.
The festival saw world-renowned exhibits on show like the Leonardo da Vinci's reconstructed exhibits, personal robot, dancing robot, humanoid; lectures by some of the most formidable names in the field of science today like the inventor of Bluetooth Jaap Haartsen, 1996 Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Sir Harold Kroto, chief structural engineer of Burj Khalifa (world's tallest building) William Baker.
The three-day fest was divided broadly into six different segments of events — competitions, lecture series, exhibitions, Ozone, workshops and technoholix.
“Ozone consists of events and competitions for the general crowd which comes here on that particular day,” said Rahul Pramod, a second year student at the IIT-B and an organising committee member.
Technoholix is the night segment of the fest. “Techfest is not just about geeky technology, it is also about fun. That is what Technoholix is about,” said Ronnie Philips, another organiser.
The most amazing part of the entire fest is that it is completely organised by the students of the IIT-B. Students handle the co-ordination, the business deals and all other aspects of the event which run into more than a crore of rupees. “Even the budget and the sponsorship are managed by us,” said a student.
“It is a huge thing. Students from all over India come here to participate. This year, more than 25,000 students have registered their participation in various competitions. Four major states which participate are Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra,” informed Neeraj Kookada, the media manager and a III year Civil Engineering student at IIT-B.
“We start preparing nine months in advance. There is a three-tier hierarchy of the managing body. There are the organisers, the co-ordinators and the managers. The 22 managers are the core team,” he said.
“There is a lot of competition for the position of a manager. He has to slog a lot, but he is also assured of a good placement later,” revealed Rahul Pramod, another student.
“It is such a big event that whatever we do in the nine months is reflected in these three days. We plan event-wise, depending on the number of teams that we can accommodate and the space that a particular event may require,” Neeraj said.
“It is a totally ‘wow' festival. There is so much of fun, so many events to participate in,” a group of students chilling out after participating in a workshop, said enthusiastically.
How would you like a robot which can do most of the household chores like cleaning up the tables, bringing you tea or coffee, folding the clothes? If you find it fascinating, you would definitely be interested in PR II or Personal Robot II, which not only does the chores, but also plays piano and pool. It was a crowd-pulling robot at the Techfest.It has pressure censors fitted in the hands so that it understands the amount of pressure that needs to be exerted to pick up something. It also has stereo cameras to get a 3-D perspective of things in front of it. What more, the robot can even recharge itself when it understands that its battery levels are running low.“We are here to inspire people to take up research in robotics. It is very interesting. People have ideas and with PR II, they have a platform to try these ideas,” Vijay Pradeep, the systems engineer of Willow Garage, a company which manufactures PR II, said.
This was the event that saw the crowd thronging the venue cheering their favourite teams. The event sent adrenaline levels gushing high. “This is the largest robotics event in India. We want to win this. It has been an aspiration to see out machine warring with the other machines,” Utpal Solanki, III year student of electronics and communication from G.H. Patel College of Engineering and Technology, Vallabhvidya Nagar, Gujarat, said enthusiastically. His team members Swapnil Solanki and Jay Rupapara talked about the way they have been observing this event since the past two years and working on an invincible design. The basic nature of the competition is that the students design their own warrior robots and try to defeat the enemy robots. There are elimination rounds and that is the way the winner is declared.
Apart from the PR II, there were other interesting robots on display like a dancing lego bot, machines designed on the ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci. Darwin, an Indian lego bot, can dance with degrees of freedom involving the motion of the head, eyes and the hand mudras. So Darwin can actually do kathakali or bhangra. In fact, Darwin won the *Best in Technical Skills' award at the World Robot Olympiad 2010, in Manila, Philippines. Also on display were the designs made on the ideas of Leonardo da Vinci by the Niccolai-Techno Art Research Group, France. It is said that da Vinci had constructed mechanical flying birds during his last years. Gabriele Niccolai and Luigi Rizzo of the French research group explained the machines and models that they built on his ideas.
The series, also described as ‘learn from the learned', saw lectures from world-renowned names like Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Sir Harold Kroto, inventor of pen drive K S Pua, Chief Technology Advocate and Google Founder Michael Jones, father of String Theory Holger Bech Nielsen, author of *Introduction to Electrodynamics' David Griffiths, and others.