Research projects from all the premier institutions were on display at the technical fest

The internet, for a person interested in reading, presents a wealth of material. For the visually challenged, this abundance is often difficult to tap into, mainly because converting large portions of text into Braille is not only expensive but also time-consuming.

A team of final-year engineering students from IIT-Delhi is trying to change that in an interesting, affordable way. An electro-mechanical device developed by these students enables people with visual impairment to read digital text through tactile interface. “Braille display readers available in the market cost over Rs. 4 lakh. We have used an alternative technology in our project which brings down the cost to Rs. 400,” said Pulkit Sapra, a student.

The project, Affordable Refreshable Braille Display, won the first prize at the Pan IIT Research Expo organised by IIT-Madras, as part of its ongoing technical fest Shaastra 2014. “The pdf is copied into the device and line after line is displayed in Braille for the reader. Since the cost of character display is high, we have only been able to present one line at a time,” said Ankit Kumar, a member of the team.

This year, for the first time, IIT-Madras displayed research projects from all IITs as part of its fest. Among them was also a medical simulator for laparoscopic procedures, developed by Ph. D students of IIT-Madras that looks at using technology for training medical students

“The government has banned the use of animals in bio-labs, and even if cadavers are available, it is difficult for students to get an idea of how much pressure to apply. Statistics have shown that many surgical errors occur because of excessive pressure,” said H. S. Raghuprasad, a research scholar, who has developed the project along with his colleague Abhijit Biswas and M. Manivannan, a professor at IIT-Madras.

The four-day technical fest that ends on Tuesday also hosted an exhibition of everyday projects developed by its students. A model of the Taj Mahal developed by civil engineering students using the Computerised Numerically Controlled Machine, with 110 self-supported pieces fitting into slots was a highlight.

Another hit among school students who visited the fest was a huge ‘walking mechanism,’ made with pipes, designed by Anand T.S., a postgraduate student at IIT- Madras. “The creation is more efficient on sand than wheels because the legs don’t need to touch every inch of the ground like wheels,” said Anand. It is an idea inspired by Dutch artist Theo Jansen who is known to create structures that move on their own.

“Sadly, not many know what the massive structure actually is, but they are fascinated that it moves once you nudge it. Some have asked me if it is a vehicle to go to Mars or a machine to plough the field,” he added.