Sans any celebratory noises or media attention, India has just brought home a prestigious international sporting award. A team of five school students from Delhi recently participated in the First Lego League – the biggest annual Robotics challenge held worldwide – and emerged winner of the coveted FLL Project Research award. They fought off stiff competition from much older teams of 32 countries and lifted the cup at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
First Lego League is a unique robotics competition which encourages younger students to build LEGO-based robots to meet real-world engineering challenges. Every year, they announce a theme and interested students construct a robot based on that. There are regional contests, then national competitions through which a country representative emerges and then the international face-off which sees the participation of 20,000 children globally!
The winning Indian team – ‘NeXT’ of a private institute called RoboClub struck gold. Their instructor Sunaina Sood informs Metrolife, “Our team was amongst the youngest – Shivaan Sood, Prutha Patil, Advay Mansingka, Umang Kaur and Yoosha Urfi – all under 12, as compared to the average 15-16 years of our rival teams. But our students proved their mettle with sincerity and hard work.”
After the declaration of the theme late last year ‘Senior solutions,’ team NeXT immediately got on the job of looking for robotic solutions to the problems of senior citizens. They visited old-age homes, spoke to the elderly in their neighbourhood and the biggest problem that emerged was of ‘sudden falls.’ A soft-spoken Advay Mansingka of Sri Ram school says, “My grandfather also suffered a fall last year. He told me that if a device could have informed someone of his fall in time, further damage could have been reduced.”
So team NeXT came up with the idea of WATCH M! – a watch fitted with an impact sensor, GSM and GPS. The moment someone wearing the watch suffers a fall, the impact on the sensor sends an SOS message to a predefined mobile number and the GPS helps in locating him. This helps the senior get immediate attention and medication.
There were four rounds-cum-award categories in the three-day long competition: A robot game involving designing a robot to perform ‘senior-assisting jobs,’ a demonstration of the design, core values and research. It was the last aspect of NeXT’s work which impressed the judges. Sunaina says, “We knew we would win. No one had put in their heart and soul like we had. We were sure of taking it.”
10-year-old Shivaan Sood says, “I am very happy to have won a prize for my country. It was fun working on the project, competing with students like myself from so many countries and getting to interact with them. FLL has announced the next topic ‘Nature’s fury’ and we have started work on that too. I hope we win the next edition as well.”