College of Engineering Trivandrum (CET) has received a patent for a multi-purpose wall-climbing robot that uses a duct fan mechanism for inspecting cracks in concrete structures. The robot was created by a group of students of the 2014 batch of CET’s Electronics and Communication Department as part of their final year engineering project .
“One of the social causes bothering us in 2013-14, was the stability of the Mullaperiyar Dam. There was no low-cost mechanism available to inspect the surface of dam for cracks developed or other damages. This bothered us and we came up with the idea to create something that could be used to climb the walls of the dam and capture images on a regular basis. These images could be processed and used to keep a check on the dam and also for proper reporting of its stability,” says Praveen Sekhar, one of the students of the team that developed the prototype.
He adds: “Also I am interested in robotics and was secretly hoping I could incorporate something related to the field in our project.”
The robot that can move on the floor as well as on the wall like a regular four-wheeled vehicle is mainly intended to inspect and repair the inaccessible parts of large concrete structures. According to Praveen, who is currently a project manager at Siemens, the robot can “turn the inspection work of huge concrete structures faster and accurately instead of the tedious way of workers reaching there to inspect. Also, the movement of the robot and the working payload can be monitored by someone sitting at a distance of one km with a personal computer. It can even be recorded to be analyzed later,” says Praveen, who adds that his team mates Lia Joseph, Rajasree PR, Rena Basheer and Shebin Shefy helped in building the prototype.
Reshmi S Bhooshan, Assistant Professor Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at CET was their guide during the project.
“The idea the group had put forward was interesting. No one had ventured much into robotics as a project then, so it was unusual. However, to create a prototype, the students needed funds for the hardware. We approached Center for Engineering Research and Development (CERD)and were fortunate to receive a small funding for the project,” says Reshmi, who is currently serving as assistant professor Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at Government Engineering College, Barton Hill Thiruvananthapuram.
The prototype was a success and even won first prize in Techfest, a state-level contest for innovative engineering products in 2014.
It was Reshmi, says Praveen, who encouraged him to patent the prototype. “However, Reshmi maam, Lia and I were stumped as to whose name we should register it under. Usually, patents are registered under names of people who conceptualized the idea. Not only is the process faster, it is cheaper too. After lots of discussion and contemplation, we decided to patent it under the college’s and CERD’s name. It is a long winding process, but worth it,” says Praveen, adding that they are hoping to explore product commercialization possibilities. A working prototype is available at the Electronics and Communication Department of CET.
Meanwhile, the 2018-20 MTech Robotics and Automation students have come up with a Covid care robot called CovBot Version 1.0 that is equipped with an autonomous navigation system to help out the health workers. The robotics project carried out by a team of five: Sanjuna Mariam Mathews, Ajmal M, Harikrishnan K, Rojin Philip Reji and Arun Sankar M, was supervised by Sreeja S, assistant professor, Electrical and Electronics Engineering at CET. The project was funded by Lighthouse, an alumni association of the 1987-91 batch of CET.
According to Sanjuna, the robot can perform tasks such as automatic sanitiser dispensing mechanism, remote patient assistance, delivering food and medication to patients, announce Covid-related messages and more. The robot has been handed over on October 15 to the Government Medical College Thiruvananthapuram authorities after a trial run. Says Sanjuna: “Right now, the authorities have programmed the robot to announce Covid-related messages and direct patients and their new OP ward. The hospital staff has rechristened our robot Mili.”