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Meet the young Manipuri man creating Marvel-inspired robots from e-waste and cardboard

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Ningombam Prem is from Heirok town in Thoubal district, 33 kilometres from Imphal. The 21-year-old is currently sweeping social media feeds with his homemade robots using cardboard and metal collected from electronic waste or scrap.

What got him to the limelight is a video on his YouTube channel, Kanglei Tech, wherein he demonstrates his mechanised version of Iron Man’s helmet and arm.

When he is not making robots in his small house, Prem helps his parents at their roadside food stall. “I cannot spend the entire day making robots. I have to help my mother fry puris and samosa at the food stall, it is my family’s source of income,” says Prem who has an elder and two younger sisters.

A die-hard fan of Robert Downey Jr., Prem’s love for robots started when he was 10, when he watched the science-fiction movie Robots (2005). He recollects, “After returning home, I put my mind to designing something as crazy as I had watched. I made a mini replica of one of the characters from Robots from scraps collected from a nearby cycle shop. I am a very creative person; once I see something, I don’t merely admire it, I start imagining how to design it.”

He continues, “I have lost count of the number of robots I have made till now. Since we don’t have space to store them all, I dismantle most of my robots and reuse the material to make new ones.”

‘A fan of mechanics’

Prem, however, just brings himself to do the same with Iron Man’s helmet and arm, who is also his favourite Marvel character. “I want to be like Iron Man; I want to create robots that make life easy for people who are suffering. I am a fan of mechanics not power, so I prefer Iron Man over Captain America anyday.”

A student of Fine Arts from Imphal Art College, Prem has so far made many versions of the Iron Man helmet, a mini can refrigerator robot, a replica of the Real Steel robot which he named Noisey Boy, among many others.

He averages two hours everyday building and working on his robots. He mostly makes robotic helmets and arms by using basic motors and batteries that he can afford with his pocket money. The robots have basic movement function. Yet, Prem does not sell or even gift any of his bots, even if his friends pester him. Reason: “I don’t want to sell because I don’t want the buyers to feel cheated with the poor quality material used (scrap metal). My creations keep me occupied and motivated to think about doing something good to help people.”

So, does this Iron Man fan have a Pepper Potts by his side? “I am single and want to focus on improving my designs,” says Prem laughing.

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