At a time when new-generation electronic and electrical devices last hardly a few years, an autonomous robot developed by technology enthusiast and researcher V.S. Sabu of Thiruvananthapuram in 1986-87 is still performing and inspiring young minds.
Sabu designed and developed the robot to perform puja to an Ayyappa idol in his research lab in the same way a priest performs in a temple. Even 35 years of its successful induction, the robot performs daily puja with the same accuracy and precision.
“After Pre-Degree, I was introduced to the world of microprocessors during my stint at Kryonix, a private company in Thiruvananthapuram. Then only the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was using 8-bit microprocessors. Seeing my interest, I was introduced to Sudhakar Rao of ISRO, who taught me the basics of Z-80 assembly language. Later, a microprocessor kit was imported from Taiwan and I sourced the rest of the equipment from the local market,” says Sabu.
“The first 5-axis robot programmed to perform puja can move backward and forward, rotating the arms clockwise and anti-clockwise to facilitate various types of movement to conduct puja. The movements are controlled by five independent motors with closed-loop displacement feedback control to ensure accuracy. A Z-80 microprocessor with 4kb ROM is used to control the robot.”
Department of defense and space
Later, his enthusiasm equipped him to design and develop devices for the Departments of Defence and Space. A sign check fixture and a low-speed friction tester were developed jointly with ISRO scientists in 2005 and 2009 respectively.
“My father was a first-grade mechanic with the Kerala State Electricity Board and my brother was an electronic engineering graduate from the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram. There was a workshop at my house that was always live, which inspired me from my childhood. It was my instinct and aptitude that led me to the world of research and development, and not any formal academic degrees,” says Mr. Sabu.
The Tesla coil, Jacobs ladder, and dancing plasma fires he reinvented for study purposes in his research lab are an inspiration for engineering graduates. He regularly conducts workshops and attends expos at colleges with a view to educating students.