IIT Bombay recently competed at ROBOCON, the coveted robotics competition last week. Robocon is conducted every year by a different nation. Every year, the host nation announces a theme. Engineering students create machines based on the theme rules and compete with each other. Every country chooses one representative team based on local competitions. This year’s nationals was held at Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune from 3rd to 5th March to decide who amongst the 58 participating teams will represent India at Bangkok. IIT Bombay have been participating in Robocon since 2004, winning the competition in 2005 and securing second place in 2007. Last year our institute was represented by two teams, both having a good run and reaching the semi finals.
This year too, the institute sent two teams in the competition and both team had an excellent start and easily made it to the super league (Top 18). IIT Bombay (Team B) had to face IIT Madras in the first super league match. This best of 3 format match saw an inspirational performance from IIT Bombay when after losing the first round 50-70, team B came back to score 162 points in next two rounds and winning the match in style. Their total score of 374 remained the highest score in the competition, the next best being 272 scored by Nirma University. This result confirmed the quarter final berth for team B. Team B’s next match against PES Modern college was an easy bout, IITB winning all the three rounds easily though one of their autonomous bots performed under par. IIT Bombay (team A) also won both their super league matches and qualified for the quarter finals.
When the quarter final line up was drawn it was clear that the winner was going to be between IIT Bombay (Team A), IIT Bombay (Team B), MIT Pune and Nirma University, Ahmedabad. The bad news for IIT Bombay was that both their teams were to face each other in the quarters, with the winner to face MIT in the semi final. This also meant that the road to the finals for Nirma University was simpler than they had hoped.
The night before the finals was a nervous one with all teams practising hard and rectifying all the problems with their bots. The matches were now to be single round knockout so there was no margin for error. IITB team B was having a hard time fixing their autonomous bot which had malfunctioned earlier. To their pleasant surprise, IIT Delhi who had been eliminated earlier in the day came to their rescue and offered them their sensors, the use of which led to increased precision of the bots.
With few hours remaining in the competition Nirma University approached IIT Bombay team B for a friendly match. The Bots were lined up and all the teams gathered in the practice arena to see the two most consistent teams battle it out. Here Nirma University lost 162-172 and their disappointment was evident.
The morning of 5th March was much awaited, one which was preceded by 2 days of extensive competition and 6 months of brainstorming, dedication and hard work.
The quarter final between the two IIT Bombay teams was going to be a great contest as both team had been amongst the best performers. But unluckily team A’s autonomous bot had a technical error and couldn’t complete the task, whereas team B scored 172 points which was highest score in the competition, the final scores being 172-30. Team B now had to face MIT Pune (last year’s winners) in the semi finals. MIT had scored 162 points in the quarters and the match was to be an interesting one. But MIT had a flimsy mechanical bot which had failed them once earlier and failed again in the semis which meant that they were unable to score a point and the final scores was 172-0.
The final two teams were what everyone has expected to be. IIT Bombay was coming from a strong performance in the quarters and semis whereas Nirma University had to sweat it out against the weaker teams, managing scores of only 90 and 120 in quarters and semis respectively. IIT Bombay was the clear favourite statistically and was also enjoying the crowd support.
Before the final match started, IITB raised a point with the judges that NU was using its manual bot to flag off its autonomous bot, when the rules clearly stated that any communication, direct or indirect, between the bots will lead to disqualification. This objection was overruled by the organisers.
Just when everything seemed to be going right for IITB, an unexpected problem arose. The contest arena was divided into two parts, red and blue which are mirror images. IITB had played its quarterfinal and semifinal matches on the blue arena and was to play on the red for the final. This was a disadvantage as the team only had 20 minutes to change the settings accordingly. During test runs on the practice arena, the autonomous bot did not perform as expected as its offset in line following could not be corrected. When the team entered the arena, everyone was hoping for a lucky escape.
The indoor complex was jam packed and the noise was deafening. The next three minutes were to decide which team will represent India at Bangkok. IITB team B was looking keenly at their autonomous bot, everyone praying and keeping their fingers crossed. But as expected, the autonomous bot did not complete the task. IIT Bombay lost 70-162 to NU, a defeat that will live long in every team member’s memory.
In hindsight, there are so many things which would have led to IIT Bombay’s victory like semifinal against NIrma or final in blue arena instead of red. But in the end all that matters is the result. And unfortunately Robocon is a winner takes all competition, runners up team left with no prize money and more importantly no glory. But this performance is an excellent effort from both the teams considering the limited budget and support they have compared to the practically unlimited budget of Nirma University and MIT. IIT Bombay ended up winning the prizes of first runner up, best autonomous bot and best innovative design. IITB was the most consistent performer during the competition and has many positives to take from the competition. Coming so close and then losing will propel the team to work even harder next time and create winning designs!
-Vipul Gajbiye (Member, IITB, ROBOCON 2011)
-Abhinav Agarwal (Team Leader, IITB, ROBOCON 2011)