Sixty-six engineering schools, from IITs to rural engineering schools across the nation, are vying for the title at the National Robocon 2012, an inter-university contest that began at the Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji sports complex in Mhalunge, Balewadi, on Thursday.
This year's rule of the game, which changes every year, is based on the theme of Hong Kong's cultural festival, 'Peng On Dai Ghat', which requires the teams to build one automatic and two manual robots to cross bridges and islands, climb the Bun Tower, pluck the buns and achieve 'Peng On Dai Gat' before their opponents.
Sunil Karad, chief convenor of Robocon 2012, said, "The event started in 2002 with three teams. This year, there are over 60 schools and over 1,000 engineers participating in the competition. Robocon has created an enthusiasm among students in robotics technology and is likely to grow because every engineering school has set up a robotics lab on their campus."
The enthusiasm was evident among engineering students from Adarsh Institute of Technology in Vita, Sangli. Krushant Lohar, a student from Adarsh Institute, said, "We are a rural engineering institute, hence guidance and money are limited. But, we built machines worth Rs 1.2 lakh because of our interest in robotics technology. The college couldn't afford the money, so we needed to find sponsors".
Yogesh Bhalerao, chief coordinator of Robocon 2012, said the competition provides engineering students a platform to test their latest, state-of-art innovation in the international circuit. "A robot in the competition is not humanoid, but a multi-disciplinary machine which requires diverse skills of civil, mechanic and electronic engineering."
Organised by Doordarshan-Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT), Pune, the winner of National Robocon 2012, which will go on till March 3, will get to represent India in the International Robocon, which is to be held at Hong Kong on August 19.
Milind Pande, convenor of National Robocon 2012, said, "There has been a growing interest in India in robotics technology, but we are light years behind countries such as China and Japan. Even Pakistan and Nepal's engineering colleges have fared better than us at the international level".
Karad attributed Indian schools' poor show on the international stage to paucity of funds and weak technical knowhow.
Anshul Dhurandhar and Sudhir Yadav, students of IIT, Roorkee, said, "The three robots cost Rs 1.5 lakh and we raised the money through our alumni and sponsors. Robocon gives us a stage to showcase our talent and enhance our interest".