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TBI Blogs: 3 Girls from a Chennai Shelter Home Built a Working Robot from Scratch with Minimal Formal Training

Nivetha, a young schoolgirl with no exposure to posh education, has built a robot supported by volunteers and her friends.

Nivetha, from Chennai Shelter Home, is one bright girl who smartly utilised an opportunity presented to her through Bhumi’s Robotics programme. The programme involves practical robotics training for students of Class VII to X, in which the children are divided into teams and asked to suggest an idea to build a simple robot.

Nivetha, along with her team of two other girls, came up with an idea of ‘Vanakam Robot’, a simple automated robot for greeting people (‘Vanakam’ in Tamil means ‘welcome’). The team successfully built a working model and displayed it in Bhumi’s Ignite Fest, where her team also received colossal opportunities for further avenues. Before discovering the procession of success and happiness that Nivetha and her team got pulled into, let us swiftly wade through her life and experience in Bhumi Ignite’s Robotics programme, Yantra.

Every academic year, in the very first class, games are played to lighten the mood and build more rapport between Bhumi volunteers and the children. The volunteers then ease the subject into the lightened atmosphere. The structured curriculum, developed by an expert panel of Bhumi and Belgium-based NGO Dwengo, has an equal mixture of theory and practicals.

Nivetha had adequate knowledge in academic subjects, and quickly picked up the concepts of electronics from the Robotics sessions. Her interest level throughout the academic term was impressive. She always tried to answer questions. After coming up with the concept of building a robot that welcomes people, her team worked on it for several weeks and came up with a perfect model using a micro-controller, an ultrasonic sensor, a servomotor, and a digital display.

The team covered the skeleton of the robot with colourful attire made from waste cardboard. Nivetha understood the technology, made a practical application of the knowledge, and smartly put some art into it.

One can only admire such ingenuity – simple yet beautiful.

Hello-Robot
The Hello-Robot team

At Bhumi’s Robo-Fest, held at Kumaramani Meena Muthaiah College of Arts and Science, Chennai, various teams demonstrated​ their robots and competed with teams from other schools. Nivetha knew not only technology and art, but also some marketing. She placed the ‘Vanakam Robot’ at the entrance to greet visitors, catching the attention of everyone entering the show. Their robot got significant media coverage too. Many special guests and celebrities, like actor Mime Gopi and RJs Senthil and Vijay from Radio Mirchi, visited the exhibition.

The guests’ recognition and admiration left Nivetha jumping with joy.

Bhumi-Ignite_Fest
The team with their artistic robot that greets people.

Bhumi volunteers encouraged and assisted the team in exhibiting the robot at an expo conducted in MIT, Chennai. Nivetha’s interest, efforts, and skills impressed many dignitaries at the expo. She and her team participated in MIT’s Carte Blanche’s Industrial Robot expo, receiving training from various reputed organisations.

Nivetha now looks forward to the future eagerly, and is keen to learn more. Her bond with the volunteers was evident when she requested them to come every day to teach her more concepts. Bhumi thanks the volunteers for their willful strenuous effort to nurture prodigies like Nivetha. Bhumi also thanks Oracle for providing the grant for this entire programme.

Looking beyond the spotlight here, one can understand how a youth workforce and volunteering can help realise education for all.

To sign up as a volunteer, or to donate to a cause, visit Bhumi’s website.

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Written by Bhumi

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Bhumi is one of India’s largest non-profit volunteer organisations, enabling thousands across India to volunteer for education and civic issues.