Mumbai, March 21, 2018: e-Yantra is a Robotics outreach project that emerged out of the Embedded Systems course at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay. This year’s e-Yantra Symposium achieves a six-year track record of running a massive (MHRD-funded) National Robotics outreach program. On display are the finals of two of its major student-facing initiatives: the e-Yantra Robotics Competition (eYRC-2017) and e-Yantra Ideas Competition (eYIC-2018).
One of MHRD’s flagship projects, e-Yantra has established 280 e-Yantra labs throughout the country over the past three years. It has now been given a three-year extension with a challenge to increase the number to 1,000 labs. e-Yantra Robotics Competition (eYRC) presents a real-world problem in the form of a game with a rulebook and scoring criteria. What makes this competition unique is that selected candidates are given all the material to compete along with guidance, supervision and an all-expense paid visit to IIT Bombay for the finals to be held on March 22-23, 2018.
Every year, e-Yantra strives to increase the number of teams selected for participation in the competition. The organizers have introduced three ‘tracks’ with one or more themes in each track. All three tracks are conducted in parallel and differ slightly in the format, subject matter and platforms used. This year, e-Yantra introduces seven exciting themes in agriculture. Automation of various processes in a farm – from sowing a seedling to harvesting the crops and transporting the produce to the market – are abstracted into themes.
This year’s competition features five finalist teams for each of the seven themes. Whereas every year there are some themes for first-time participants, there are also more difficult themes for students who have participated before. For instance, the “Spotter Snake” theme in which over a period of three months, the teams have to design and build a robotic snake using 3-D printed parts designed and simulated using open-source software. e-Yantra arranges to have the teams 3D print the final versions of the snake which is then made to catch “rodents” in an arena designed by e-Yantra. Similarly this year there is a drone-based theme where a drone acts as a warden to catch an animal that has strayed into a field by landing a small palm-sized drone on the animal modeled by another robot.
e-Yantra Ideas Competition (eYIC) is different in that it seeks to identify and nurture potential entrepreneurs in the e-Yantra Labs that the project has set up throughout the country. Students are invited to submit a proposal to solve a local problem using their e-Yantra lab and after an intense process of selection and vetting, are permitted to build the proposed system using their e-Yantra labs. Following a pre-selection in regional finals this year in Coimbatore, Ernakulum, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Noida, the 18 finalists will present their implemented ideas in IIT Bombay on March 23-24, 2018.
For the past 6 years, e-Yantra’s National Robotics Competition has been growing exponentially from 4,500 registrations in 2012 to 23,500 registrations (5,932 teams) last year despite falling engineering college seats (30% YoY). This competition teaches hardcore engineering skills through a scalable competition paradigm. Most importantly, it needs no expense on the part of selected participants – e-Yantra provides the kit, training and guidance and even a travel allowance and boarding/ lodging at IIT Bombay for the duration of the finals at IIT Bombay.
Whereas the competition engages annually with students, e-Yantra has extended its contact with students and teachers by setting up robotics lab in colleges throughout the country. A college invests Rs. 2 lakh in basic equipment and nominates four teachers who are trained by e-Yantra over a period of 6 months. Training involves a two-day face-to-face workshop followed by a online Task Based Training (TBT).
Now that this IIT-based project has reached critical mass, it seeks to make a major difference to the ‘Make in India’ initiatives in the country by directing the activities in e-Yantra labs towards local industry. The e-Yantra Symposium is an attempt to reach out to industry, where the team will present a ‘report card’ of the project and their model for academia-industry engagement. This will be followed by a panel discussion on how this potent model may best be used for academia-industry engagement.
Following the panel discussion, there will be talks in an inspirational vein for the finalists and teachers being hosted at IIT Bombay. The speakers include Prof. Dinesh Singh (ex-VC, Delhi University), PV Subramanyam (financial consultant) and Rashmi Bansal (author).
Visitors also have a chance to browse the finalists of the e-Yantra Ideas Competition exhibits where students from regional e-Yantra labs have turned problems into opportunities to solve local problems using the resources of the e-Yantra lab in their college. Prof. Kavi Arya (Principal Investigator, e-Yantra) believes this to be an important beginning to the startup model being proposed.
Almost 40+ IIT Bombay faculty across departments have volunteered to help evaluate the finalists of the two competitions. Says Dr. Krishna Lala, Sr. Project manager of e-Yantra, “This just shows that technology is a passion all around for IIT teachers”. Dr. Saraswathi Krithivasan, Sr. Project Manager suggests, “The students who have worked hard to reach the finals have the envied privilege of being grilled in depth about their work by IIT faculty”.
The goal is the much-coveted prize of a six-week paid summer internship with the e-Yantra team where they get the opportunity to work 24×7 on ambitious technical projects under the guidance of e-Yantra mentors and exposure to a host of training in soft skills, theatre workshops, meditation sessions, lectures on history and so on.
This year, Prof. Arya plans to travel around the country helping connect these labs to industry. e-Yantra has a working platform and he has tasked himself to get the word out to industry to engage with its labs. “We owe it to the young talent who have been failed by our education system but have so much to contribute to society. e-Yantra wishes to inspire the new generation to think of itself differently: not just as knowledge consumers but also as knowledge creators,” he said. e-Yantra is definitely showing the way.
A detailed schedule is at: