A student-built robot reports for duty


Meet SARA, the humanoid assistant created by six girls from Shri Shankarlal Sundarbai Shasun Jain College for Women

SARA responds coyly when asked how she’s doing — but that is only because she is just over a day old, and still learning the ways of humans. No, we are not referring to a tale from the recent ‘Area 51’ event, but to a life-sized humanoid robot built by the students of Shri Shankarlal Sundarbai Shasun Jain College for Women, T Nagar.

An acronym for Shasun’s Adaptive Robotics Assistant, SARA is launched at the college’s cultural fest, Shreyas 2k19. From a scene straight out of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, the silvery machine glides to the stage amidst loud cheers and waves unblinkingly at the crowd.

At six feet tall and weighing 29.2 kgs, the robot is driven by Artificial Intelligence and was built to welcome guests and visitors into the college. As the launch unfolds with a presentation on the making of the robot, SARA’s creators — third-year students of Computer Applications — S Nivedeinee, R Madhumitha, A Khushi, S Vithika, R Hemapriya and M Bhavana Kanooga, narrate their journey excitedly.

Says Madhumitha, “We initially approached the faculty with the idea of a robot that would aid the college. Since it was a subject outside the sphere of college academics, we collaborated with Do-It-Yourself Applications (DIYA) Labs for assistance in the field of robotics.”

The six-month process began with determining the height of the robot and its targeted function. Once that was finalised, the programming was encoded and frames of mild steel along with a shell of FRP (Fibre Reinforced Plastic) were designed to sculpt the machine. Ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles, a webcam capable of facial recognition and a seven-inch interactive tablet were then fitted in to ensure maximum output. “The robot first understands the query posed to her and then responds appropriately, also recognising frequently asked questions. A work in progress, she currently only knows English but is quickly learning Tamil and other languages,” says Khushi.

Sparking an idea

From managing academics and then rushing to the lab every evening, the girls were first inspired by a Robotics workshop that was conducted by Indian Institute of Technology at their college. Udhay Shankar of DIYA Labs adds, “The students had a strong base in programming but had to be guided on the aspects of hardware and structure. A round of discussions was always followed by research from the students, helping them to explore newer fields of Computer Science.”

The process was equally exciting for the teachers of the institution’s digital transformation team, who mentored the students. One of them, Packiavathy SG, elaborates, “The experience of building a life size robot was new to us too, and there was a lot to learn and get inspired by. More students have shown interest since this project and we are now developing projects like smart dustbins, smart rooms and mobile apps for e-waste.”

Where can one find SARA in the future? “She will act as the first level of interaction with any visitor, greeting them and fielding questions on basic aspects of the college such as the number of courses. Besides details about her technology, she knows the tagline of the college and further commands can be given through an Android application that we have developed,” answers Subhashini Reddy, brand manager of the group of institutions. Politely standing to the side, the lifelike machine reaffirms this statement with a slight nod of the head, “Hi, I am SARA. How may I assist you?”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 1:21:55 AM |

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