The top three teams of a robotics war event at a technical fest in a Sector V institute will be flying to Japan to upgrade their skills and compete against the best in the world.
Edge, organised by Geekonix, the official science and technology club of Techno Main Salt Lake, made a comeback to the physical mode with a statement. It became the first technical college fest of the city to conduct a wireless 15kg robotics war event, that too with a fully covered safety enclosure.
Up for grabs, along with a prize pool of Rs 80,000 to be divided between the winner and the runner-up, were tickets to Tokyo for the top three teams, courtesy Webel Fujisoft Vara Centre of Excellence in New Town.
Many in the fray
The attractive prizes ensured that RoboWar drew a large number of participants. “This year, there were 10 teams, which matched the number that took part in the event hosted by IIT Bombay, which is known to be the country’s biggest in the circuit. In fact, some more teams had come with wired robots which we did not allow to participate,” said Priyam Mandal, a fourth year mechanical engineering student from Lake Town, who was the chief co-ordinator of the event.
The participant list did not have a home team. “To make up for the two years lost to the pandemic, our robotics team took part in every event since January 2022, securing the top or the runner-up spot everywhere. But we decided not to take part to avoid any possible controversy. Rather, we contributed part of the prize money we earned to this event. We even got judges from outside,” Priyam added.
If some of the best teams registered from across the country and one came even from across the border, it was also because a fully covered safety arena had been created. “Other local events have only the sides of the arena covered with polysheet. But when the 15kg bots clash, a heavy part can come loose and fly out across the side walls and hit the onlookers or players. And since our arena was fully covered, the bots had to be wireless,” Priyam explained.
In case one is astounded at the weight of the robots, there are higher weight categories — with 30 or 60kg bots — in which national level Robot Wars take place. “In fact, there are TV shows made on face-offs at the international level with 115kg bots. But here we are more used to seeing 5kg bots which do not have weapons. They do Sumo-style fights, simply toppling or pushing each other. That’s why this event with weaponised bots was special,” said Jonty Singh, one of the participants.
The three-day fest, from May 20 to 22, ran into logistical nightmares. “The storm on May 21 blew away our robotics track as well as the shed overhead. Everything had to be rebuilt the day after and we could start the events only after 6pm on May 22. Robot Wars was held through the night and ended at 5am. None of the students went home, even those who stay close by. We received help from the teachers too, especially our head of the IT department Subomita Mukherjee,” said Swayam Das, a fourth year student and a Falguni Abasan resident, who was one of the organisers of the fest.
Due to the shortage of time, the 10 teams were divided into two groups to face a team from the other group.
“We had fielded two bots. In 15kg events, your bot has to survive in the arena for three minutes. Sometimes matches can end even in seconds. One of our bots suffered so much damage that we withdrew it. Since we lost our first match against the team from Nepal, we were placed in the losers’ bracket,” recalled Jonty Singh, captain of Team StromzBot.
By then, there were several other withdrawals due to damaged bots. Even a winning team gave the losers a walkover. “Robots are expensive. Our star bot Trishul, for instance, took Rs 1.5lakh to build. So it is wise to withdraw from the fray at the right time to minimise damage,” said Jonty. Points in Robot Wars are given on the basis of aggression, control and damage inflicted, with the last fetching maximum points.
That meant Jonty’s team got to lock horns with and defeat Blackbird Robotix. The win sent them directly to the finals, once again against The Godfather from Nepal.
The Nepal team had run into a top billed team from Indore, called Xenon, which came fresh from the victory stand in the marquee IIT Bombay event. “Xenon won against The Godfather but got disqualified, allowing the losing team to march ahead,” recalled Priyam.
Trishul and Godfather, the two finalist bots before the face-off
Fight to finish
The final was a hard-fought one, lasting the full three minutes. Both teams had senior players in charge. Trishul’s weapon was a double teeth drum, a cylindrical barrel with motorised vertical blades that rotated at 12,000 rounds per minute speed. The Godfather had a vertical spinner. The victory margin was narrow — a few points — in favour of the team from Nepal. No wonder the 15kg champion actually did a victory jig in the arena.
“We come often to India to compete as robotics competitions back home are not of high standard. This is our first victory on our sixth trip. The Tokyo ticket was a huge bonus,” said Rajkumar Chaurasiya, the captain of The Godfather. For the Japan trip, they are developing a new bot called Martis, he said.
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