How Robotics Competition Led to Startups and Pioneering Companies |  Mumbai News

How Robotics Competition Led to Startups and Pioneering Companies | Mumbai News

Mumbai: Last month, Bengaluru-based Suraj Wodeyar launched a patented robot that checks and cleans sludge in PVC pipes in apartment complexes and small businesses. In a couple of months, Wodeyar will release an advanced version of the robot that expands to fit sewer pipes with larger openings. His three-year-old startup Drona Automation has partnered with facility management company JLL India for the first device, and he has already received R20 thousand work orders for the second invention, under the Atal Mission of the Center for Urban Renewal and Transformation (AMRUT).

Wodeyar’s journey to create Drona Automation began in 2017, when he saw a Facebook post about the death of a manual scavenger in Bengaluru while cleaning sewage pipes. This coincided with the announcement by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Bombay of the annual e-Yantra competition to build robots that can solve societal problems.

“Our goal is to eliminate human interference with cleaning. We have the technology that takes us into space but there is no solution or a small machine that can go 10 feet,” recalls Wodeyar, who was pursuing mechanical engineering at the privately funded Reva University in Bengaluru at the time. Underground and manholes cleaned.

With no coding knowledge, which is necessary to build a robot, Wodeyar applied for the e-Yantra competition. His team of three emerged as regional finalists. At IIT-Bombay, the team was exposed to unique technologies and innovative ideas, “lacking in the Faculty of Engineering”. Wodeyar’s team took home the Best Presentation Award.

Soon after he graduated, Drona Automation was incorporated. “Had it not been for the e-Yantra competition, I might have joined my family’s manufacturing company,” he said.

e-Yantra success story

In 2012, to bridge the gap between employability and higher education curricula, Kavi Arya, Professor of Computer Science, IIT-Bombay, designed e-Yantra – a project-based learning approach to education, funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and hosted at IIT- Bombay.

Explaining the function of the e-Yantra, Arya referred to the 2020 NASSCOM survey, which stated that India produces 15 engineers annually, of which 2.5 lakh (16%) work in the basic engineering industry. However, as of this year, NITI Aayog indicated that 48% of engineering graduates are unemployed.

According to Arya, the success of e-Yantra is evidenced by the (hard) engineering start-ups created by its graduates – from delivering mobile ground-based robots to overseas markets to innovating drone-based aerial surveillance systems.

“Students get access to the best engineering postgraduate programs in India and abroad with the e-Yantra experience. Internships and coveted jobs in top companies also follow,” Arya said. 2000. We explored the art of remotely training students in practical engineering skills in a scalable way with inspiring results.”

wide range

Since its inception, the Robotics Awareness Program has trained more than two engineering students in robotics in strong technical skills such as embedded systems, control systems design, robotics, robot operating system, drone control, machine learning, image processing, and design. Three-dimensional, GIS. (GIS) and remote sensing.

The project has also reached over 3,200 institutes across India and internationally (Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh).

Over the years, though in small numbers, the e-Yantra Challenge has provided participants with a platform to launch their startups with incubation support from IIT-Bombay Incubator – SINE.

startups

In addition to Drona Automation, the program has sponsored startups such as Nex Robotics, Nibrus Technologies, Katomaran Technologies, and Rymo Technologies Private Limited.

Abhishek Acharya vividly remembers a two-month summer internship at the IIT-Bombay Embedded Real-Time System Lab in 2016, after the three-member team won a challenge to use a robot to pick up and dispose of hazardous waste.

“e-Yantra helped us understand concepts in embedded systems, mechanical, computer science and electronic systems,” said Acharya, a graduate of the National Institute of Technology, Meghalaya. “The experience shaped us and gave us confidence to build a future career in robotics.”

Today, Bengaluru-based Nibrus Technologies Private Limited, which commenced operations in March 2019, is offering a range of reconnaissance drones in which infrastructure projects are proposed. In 2020, Nibrus was funded by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and incubated by IIM-Kozhikode.

“Since drones are also part robotics, we have built one for surveying and mapping. We have also developed what is potentially the first photography software in India that converts drone images into 3D maps providing a higher level of accuracy, thus helping Supporters of infrastructure projects,” said the 26-year-old. It is called Surveyaan.

The center works to advance drone technology in the infrastructure sector. For example, both the National Highways Authority of India and the Indian Bureau of Mines have released drone surveys. “The entire surveying and mapping industry is going through a transformation since the previous generation tools became obsolete. This is where our drones and software come in.

While the majority of startups mostly cater to the local market, ground robots from Katomaran Technologies have made great strides in the Singapore market. The company operating from 2BHK in 2018, today has 100 employees. As an engineering student pursuing Robotics and Automated Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore and Muthu Vanjaliappan and his team were runners-up in the e-Yantra competition to build a fruit-picking robot. Today, Katomaran robots are being hired for a range of services—from automatic number plate detection and unattended object detection, to hauling luggage to a five-star hotel room (instead of bell boys) to masking and social distancing detection during the Covid pandemic.

“Although our college was among the few that offered courses in Embedded System, Robotics and IoT (Internet of Things) as the main focus, we felt that the training provided was poor after our participation in the e-Yantra and summer training,” said Vanjaliappan. “Today, we are technically sound because of our participation in the e-Yantra, the competition that sowed the initial seeds.”

Beyond technology

The unique pedagogy of the e-Yantra project also trains students in soft skills such as collaboration, time management, creative thinking, communication and leadership.

Keyur Rakhojia said he learned entrepreneurship from Arya and Sudhanshu Rai, faculty members at Copenhagen Business School, who imparted the true meaning of engineering — to look for real-world problems plaguing Indian society and find solutions.

Rakhojia with his team from DDU, Nadi (Gujarat) in 2015 won first place to build an autonomous pizza-delivery robot – “the beginning of its emerging journey”.

However, his first three companies that offered robotic solutions failed. “But I learned how to develop a business during the summer internship. There are many problems to solve, and India is an opportunistic market,” said Rajokhia. “Access to energy and clean energy is the real problem now.”

The 25-year-old registered his first company in 2017 and now runs five companies in the field of solar energy and electric vehicles. He holds an Indian patent for developing a structural design that will harvest more energy from solar projects.

“Being at IIT-Bombay for training was a different experience. We had high-speed internet access, the labs were open 24/7 for us, and even the canteen food was good. In my college, we couldn’t even find the basic ingredients,” said Rakhoghia. “.

Chirag Shah, 27, echoes Rajokhi’s sentiments. As a final year student in electronics and communications at the KJ Somaiya College of Engineering, Shah and his team won a summer internship at IIT-Bombay in 2018 for their work on the autonomous water monitoring rover to monitor various parameters such as temperature and turbidity. and the pH of lake water.

“It is difficult to get feedback from teachers and peers in college. During the internship, it was listening to industry leaders, sessions about startups and meeting a few entrepreneurs with a college classmate who started working on an automated physiotherapy solution. 2020, they incorporated Rymo Technologies Private Limited – India’s first virtual rehabilitation robot, and obtained an Indian patent for the product.The robot, dubbed Mobi-L, helps patients recover from stroke, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures and recover after surgery.”e -Yantra has opened our eyes to something different. “Professor Arya’s focus is on creating entrepreneurs — to be employers rather than employable,” Shah said.

Noting that it is difficult to raise money from angel investors or venture capital firms for a hardware technology company in India, Wodeyar said, “In the startup world, at some point you lose interest or find it very difficult to believe in yourself. One is trying to raise money, make the product It works as well as getting clients. Everything is a one man job. Arya and the other mentors pushed me, provided incentives, and invited me for talks where I shared my experience. It gave me reassurance that I’m doing the right thing, and making a difference in the community.”


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