Four final year engineering students speak to Sohini Chakravorty about their innovation – a walking chair, research and funding in colleges
When they were in the second year college, they thought of building a small dragon fly with inbuilt spying mechanisms, by the time they moved to final year of their mechanical engineering degree they were thinking along the lines of a Jetpack prototype or a foldable car which can slide into any parking space. But finally, they settled for a walking chair for their final year project. Four students G. Yashwant Shaury, Narayan Lal, Y. Vishwateja and G. Madhusudhan of Vidya Jyothi Institute of Technology took the tougher route and opted for a live project instead of a design project like most of their peers as a part of their final year curriculum.
“Our initial idea was to create a foldable car to reduce parking space. But acquisition of a motor was problem and it was not very cost effective,” explains Yashwant. While Vishwateja adds, “We started thinking how our project can make a difference in society and we thought of a convertible stretcher which can fold itself into a wheel chair but finally zeroed on a walking chair.”
What is so different about this walking chair and the bunch immediately quips in that the walking chair can function on uneven surfaces, climb up the stairs, and move smoothly on sand and mud and off road terrains which an ordinary wheel chair is not capable of doing. “In countries abroad there are separate ramps for the physically disabled to manoeuvre their wheel chair but there is no such facility in our country. The walking chair solves this problem. Also physically disabled children cannot play on sand and mud but this walking chair can help them play with other children,” claims Madhusudhan.
After two months of brainstorming, working out from a factory in Balanagar their prototype was ready. With absolutely no funding from the college, they sponsored the project out of their own pockets which came close to Rs.15, 000. “We ran into technical trouble too when the legs of the walking chair wouldn't move and just started digging road. We sought the help of our professors who helped us fix the technical problems,” explains Narayan.
“There is a huge scope for modification with the help outside sponsorship,” points out Yashwant who doesn't want their project to gather dust in the college laboratory. “With our prototype we are using an AC motor where it has to be plugged in a socket. With more money, we work on the limitations and build on the safety measures and build on a DC motor,” he adds.
“Right from a can opener to how aeroplanes work, it's a mechanical world everywhere,” says Madhusudhan who wants to keep working on the walking chair even after college is over. A project on the foldable car is also in the offing. While three of them are planning to pursue higher studies in the US, one of them will stay back and start working.
“Students abroad get huge funding from the universities. Here, even if the colleges fund the projects, they blame the students if the project fails. Students need encouragement and funds at the college level to pursue research and innovation,” points out Vishwateja.