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10th May 2002 - Page 4


The 'Build Robots Create Science' (BRiCS) group from IIT Kanpur organized a workshop on Robotics for 20 of our students last weekend on the May. The group consisting of first, second and third-year engineering students at IIT were as enthusiastic as the 20 of us were. 
The workshop kicked off with a bang on Saturday as all of us landed up in the computer lab at 9 sharp to be greeted very warmly by a group of young, brilliant minds from BRiCS. As the day commenced we got a task of building motorboats our self, in groups of 3. But they were not to be just motorboats. They were to be real, moving motorboats, which were to be made completely of the provided JUNK! We would actually use them in the pond. This seemed a formidable task to some, impossible to the rest. But while these boats were being designed, we saw that some groups had come up with extremely creative ideas, while the rest were using their imagination with the junk to try and make something practical and powerful.
The next day we moved on to something totally different but more practical and difficult. We were to use LEGO Mindstorm kits to build anything that came to our head. The toughest part was that we did not have any

Part of the lego built scanner/copier built 
by the class XI students.

manuals or instructions but only the pieces to build anything we wanted to. We would build it like a normal LEGO construction except with motors and a microcomputer known as the RCX, through which we would connect the device to the computer and program it to do as we pleased. One group decided to make a vegetable chopper, we decided to make a device on wheels we named 'Pathfinder' which would sense its way around things. The class 12 students Aatish, Abhishek, Siddharth and Pankaj decided to make a scanner-cum-copier - something which the rest of us could only dream of making with LEGO. We got to work and by the end of the day had some really good inventions.
Monday, the final day began with not as much enthusiasm as before- lots of us had got impatient. By noon we were to finish our previous projects and display them to the school. We finished them but the display didn't go off too well. Some students didn't explain their inventions properly; others (like our group) had problems in contrasting the programming  

of the sensors in the dark computer lab and the bright sunny courtyard. After lunch they made us undertake a new project, which got our excitement back as we now had limited time for it. We were to make a theme park - each group would make different rides and compile it in the end to make one large theme park. We got onto work and got many different kinds of rides.
So overall most of us really enjoyed the experience and would love to do something like this again, maybe more advanced and challenging next time, for 2 reasons; firstly that it was a topic that interested all of us and secondly that it was a workshop of not just boring lectures, but mainly hands-on learning. However, to our dismay, the workshop did not come to a gratifying end. While packing up, we learned that one RCX (probably the most important part in the kits) had been stolen. It is a shame that our school, which has clearly spent such a large sum of money in providing us with these new opportunities to learn, can now not even trust its own students. This disgraceful act should come as a blow to all of us.

Ashwin Garg

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