Selection of Club Members
After we learned of this opportunity, we had to move quickly to determine how much interest there was in participating in robotics. We met with schools officials at 2 of our partner schools where there is a strong Science program and from those meetings we were able to start organizing a “tryout” for the Robotics Team.
The enthusiasm from the students for this idea was much more than we had expected…or hoped
We were so happy that we had 68 students from the two schools who showed an interest. We brought in a third party team to evaluate the students through a process of aptitude tests and interviews, and from the 68 we were able to select a team of 6. It was great for us to see that 2 of the final 6 were girls.
The evaluation process also included some hands-on examples to ensure that the interested students had the basics we felt they needed.
Team RukuBot Documentary
Once we were able to select a team, we wanted to introduce the team members to the world. We took some video clips, which were expertly produced by FIRST Global.
Start-Up of Robotics Club
After such a nice video there was a lot of pressure to actually get the Robotics Club started. There was a lot of work to do, but we had a very excited team ready to help. We are also lucky that the new Shikharapur School had a Science Lab that we could use for this club. We setup an area for our activities and we also had to clear up some area where our “Arena” would be built.
Team RukuBot relaxing after all of the hard work in setting up the Arena
The Foundation also provided us with various electronic materials that we would need to be able to work with and test the robot, including different sensors, actuators, and other tools that has the team excited to get to work. Because we are also trying to connect with support teams in the US, we also setup the room to have Internet access and setup the room with a web cam and speakers. Due to the lack of quality internet access in the area, distance learning has been a big challenge for us.
With the available resources, the team members could create different scientific devices and can learn different programming languages, which are needed to control the robot. This project is utilizing all of the components of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
One of the special things we had to do for the setup for the competition was to construct a practice Arena based on the guidelines provided by FIRST Global at our local school, Shikharapur Community School. This was one of the first big challenges we had because we needed to make it as similar to the one that will be used in the actual competition. All of the team members worked hard to complete it, and we are very happy with the results.
Arrival of the Robotics Kit
After all of the preparation, the day the Robotics Kit arrived from the US was very exciting for all of us. This was not as easy as it sounds because of all of the Customs procedures we had to go through and all of the expenses involved, but thanks to the support of our foundation, we were able to get our Kit from Customs and have it delivered to the school.
Mentoring of Team RukuBot
It has been a great honor for me to be involved in this project, and what I have enjoyed the most is the chance to inspire in these kids the love for science and technology, but also a chance to develop leadership and innovation. My role is to not only help increase understanding of Engineering concepts and technologies, but also to impress the importance of cooperation between team members and to focus on the most pressing issues of our community.
We want to show the youth of our community that if they learn how to communicate, cooperate, and work together using the tools of science and engineering, we can help to find solutions to the world’s big challenges like clean water. Any technology that does not address critical issues like that is not very valuable for us.
Finally, we also have the motivation to make our team competitive in the FIRST Global Challenge because we are not only representing ourselves, but also our families and our country.
Overall Progress & Results
From interviewing interested students to building something that works, we have seen a lot of progress. A summary of some of our progress to date:
- Students have a basic understanding of Engineering and Robotics
- Students are able to build a micro-controller driven systems
- Students are knowledgeable on different mechanical, electrical and electronics components like gear, sprocket, chain, bracket, pulley, wheel, motor, sensors, microcontrollers etc.
- Team is able to handle different scientific tools, equipment etc like hammer, hacksaw, digital multimeter, power sources etc.
- Team has been able to build a walking robot in rough surfaces
- Students have a basic understanding of programming languages
- The main progress is that we have been able to use the Science Lab to building things while teaching students the basics of STEM
Challenges & Lessons Learned
The progress has not been easy, and we want to highlight some of the challenges and lessons learned:
- Lack of a good internet services for Distance Learning – We have tried several times to hold “distance learning” classes, and the lack of a good Internet service in this area has made that very difficult. We are really focusing on finding a better Internet service because it is not only important for this project, but for any distance learning programs that Rukmini Foundation tries to do.
- Similar to Internet access, we are also dependent on the National Grid Power. We have had several outages, which makes it difficult to do our work and to communicate with our teams in the US. We do not have a good solution for this yet, but we will keep thinking of ways to get around this challenge as well.