Robotics has not truly caught up in Indian campus. You may debate that things are changing fast but still, this is a fact that robots are not a common day college campus thing in most Engineering colleges in India. In this blog, we try to provide the reasons for this crisis.
Too much focus on exam and theory
Probably all of you would agree that marks still rules the roost. For sure marks are important and how can one possibly do practicals without theories? But the problem is there are only theories. The sessional lab assignments are too old school or aim at just covering the mandated syllabus. The applied practicals are missing. Example - Conducting a capstone project where students are graded as per project assignment would set up the right track for innovation, application and interests in practicals.
'If But Maybe Wow' Syndrome (IBMW)
By the time students are in the first year some students contemplate a lot and loose the foundations of Engineering mathematics and Physics which play a key to robotics knowledge. There is no way that an intermediate AI-based robot could be made without Mathematics and Physics. Thinking about past like 'if I would have scored better' or thinking 'But I am not actually interested in Engineering' or 'Maybe I will write the entrance once more to get admitted Y college' and finally ' Yes, I made it to Engineering. Just chill now'. All these aspects of IBMW take focus away from M1, M2 and P1, P2 papers and by the time someone tries to get a grip back in the second year the damage is already done.
Clear idea about 'what is a robot'?
Robots are often confused with another category of robots called as humanoid or androids as in the above picture. This generalization is not correct. This is like making a mountain out of the mole.You don't have to make a humanoid. You may start with a basic remote controlled car. Have a look at 6 simple robots to start from MieRobot.com - Thumb rule, if you are able to automate, if you are able to take a decision using a machine you are almost making a robot. So start small but please do make a start.
DIY culture almost absent
This one is major. We all know that we do SUPW (socially useful productive work) in school as a subject. Maybe you had another name for this subject. Some of us get the habit of getting these done via other channels like parents doing it for us or even at times buying these school projects. This impacts our ability to create, fix and mend things. Robotics needs an enormous amount of Do it yourself skills from soldering, to assembly. So focus on getting a DIY culture in your life and campus.
India does face a huge challenge in terms of the quality of teachers. Reasons are abundant for this crisis but this has impacted student development in multiple applied fields like robotics. Engineering colleges should focus on keeping a healthy ratio of teachers who come from Industry and research background so that a connect in kept between academics and Industry.
This one is a bouncer. Engineers are naturally good at mathematics but robotics needs thinking in 3 to n dimensions and application of the mathematics learnt. Solving a maths problem on paper is one thing and getting that converted into a computer algorithm is another thing. This gap needs to be bridged. They are supposed to co-exist. Example - You can solve Matrix problems and do a transpose but can you write a Python program or use GNU Octave to apply a matrix? How about a Euler's angle implemented in an algorithm? But in case you are able to do these - then congrats you are now set up in Ariel robotics and can make a robot like Jatayu.
Have a look at our another blog which talks about how much of mathematics is actually needed for robotics here.
No presence of Robotics club
Are you a member of a robotics club? Probably you would say No and we are not surprised. The majority of Engineering colleges in India lack an in house robotics club and even if one exists there is very low activity. Robotics club should be set up as projects and then moved into an Operational model using standard operating principles. Have a look at four stages of running a robotics club here if you need help.
Indian students need to bust some myths around robotics. the top two are - Robotics is only for the top 5% and robotics needs loads of money. Both the teacher and student community need to realise that Robotics as an applied field should be made welcome to anybody. We would go one step further and comment that even non-engineering graduates should be encouraged in the robotics club. We see no reason why an MBA student can not play the role of a Product manager or why a student of fashion design may not participate in a wearable project? That leaves the second myth - money? Well, there is a cost spike based on features and capabilities you wish to scale up upon. Basic robotics can start with hacking a 500 rupee RC car using a micro-controller. It's actually a project which costs below 1000 rupees.
Conclusion - Although, we are a robotics site we are aware that these problems presented are not applicable for all colleges in India. We also understand that all technologists should not be a robot person. However, we encourage our readers to make a start in robotics as early as possible and start with something simple. Let me know your view by comment to this blog or a tweet to @mierobot