As published on December 16, 2010 at 9:52pm.
This is something that happened in my life, a few months back. Our college was hosting a techfest (Oh no! Another one of those tech notes… No!! I aint no tech guy, you’d know if ya knew me personally), as I was saying, the fest had a two-day workshop on Robots. All the participants were split into groups of three. I and Paathu were the last ones to join. Avi and Milon chettan had a tough time finding us a third person.
How we came into this program wasn’t actually our decision. Half of my class had joined saying “it’ll be useful for projects later”. Well what do you say, we too just ran with the crowd. This workshop had all the bhujji pals of mine. Monster Brain’s presence was indispensable. Then there was Earnest, Deeraj, Bipin and Delwin to complete the list. Ebin and Anwin were by that time fishing with the Goa beauties. Anjana and Archana the twins were in one group as always with Anuja. Hrithvik and Afsal had volunteered for other fest events. AnuPriya was participating in some waste management competition (and for our surprise, her team win in it). Paathu is an 80%er okay, that goes without saying. So I was pretty much the odd one out there, with all my countable supply’s. What good is a friend, if not to jump in with you? But I must confess, that the word Robot did rise in me, some of those old school emotions, feelings that I had never felt in my four and half semesters of engineering.
From the moment it began to the very last second, I literally was awestruck. (We did get a third person you know, Aliyan (a.k.a Neeraj from CS)). The workshop was nothing like those boring theory classes, nothing like those uninteresting sleepy daily B.Tech life. It was what I expected to be doing when I joined engineering. Each group was given a set of tools and Robot’s body part, which they were to assemble. Each had a circuit board which could be programmed using a computer. So, if ya wished to move the Robot, you just had to write the program onto the board. We could actually make it do anything we want. Just ask it to do so!
But, it was not an easy path for our group. Even before the workshop began, our laptop had crashed. Sachu’s and Paul’s laptop, out of sheer luck worked. So we just sat there, listening like idiots, while all the rest of the people were fast programming. Maybe even the tutor felt sympathetic. He split our two groups among the rest of the groups. But, by noon, he got us two PCs from the college labs. So from the moment the workshop began, we were lagging behind the rest due to technical snags. We had to do the entire morning session under minutes, just to know what the heck was going on. Well, lazy people always get the toughest works. Thank God Avi’s lap too didn’t work. Having someone with the same trouble is a relaxing thought.
The second day was war. Sumo wrestling between Robots! We had to instill in the Robots, our human desire to overthrow fellow beings. Just throw the other one out of the ring and wahlla. It was quiet interesting you know, to make something that has no personal grudge against anything, perform our dirty deeds. I’d say we were the least bothered group. We went around chatting, laughing, hanging by the canteen, catching up with the rest of the fest. Wandering around is one of Paathu’s and my favorite pastime. We went around having fun and enjoying the moment and were pretty surprised to see everyone cracking their skull on the computers. Ashmi and Chinnu were so hard into programming, that they barely left the arena. They were trying new modifications to their already finished program, and we hadn’t even started. Even our juniors had finished their hand in programming. Monster Brain had a PC and two Laptops open in front of him, and were doing things I had not the slightest clue of. Amy, Darshana and Dayana were programming like anything. Sharuk and Randeep were scratching heads for more doubts. Parvathy and the other members of the college robotics team were coming up with more and more programs. We both just sat at our desk weighing our chins on our palms.
And then there came our third group member, with all these whole set of ideas and we were in action. The basic idea was simple. We didn’t have the time to do hardcore programming to overpower our enemies, so what Neeraj came up was this, “just don’t let them overpower us”. So while the entire workshop was trying to throw their enemy out, we made sure that our enemy couldn’t touch us. For this, Neeraj came up with a brilliant idea. He collected all the longest screws he could find and made something that we called the elephants tusk.
Even before we had finished the basic programming, the horn was blown. The war had begun. For some luck, we were to be the last group in the 1st round. This gave us just the right time to make our robot run. Rule had it that, the robot initially can only move at half its full power, and once you hit an opponent head-on, then and only then you can use your Robots full power. We were all given a switch to be placed dead center in front of the robot. So when we hit head-on, this switch gets pressed and tells the Robot its action time. But we had a glitch. This switch wasn’t working for God knows why. What this meant was, our Robot was going to be roaming around at half its potential while its enemy was just going to push us out like a feather.
For the 1st round, Jinu’s team was our adversary. We had given up all hopes on our robot. Sending it in, at those conditions was like walking through the madding traffic of Cochin blindfolded. The destination was obvious. We did not want such a humiliating end. So we decided not even to participate. Poor Jinu. He was the saddest of them all. Not because our robot wasn’t working, but because he couldn’t show off his robot’s skills. After a lot of persuasion, we let in.
For the sake of Jinu’s robot, we entered the war. Our poor blind robot, fighting against a fully powerful one. I felt sorry for my robot. With fingers crossed, we watched both our robots being switched on. Seconds passed like minutes. And there it began. Our robot roaming around the ring trying to find its opponent! For some reason, jinu’s Robot hadn’t moved. It held its position. Seconds went by, and still it didn’t move. We had no clue what was going on, and before we knew its, we were declared the winners! Like winning a lottery when ya least expect to, this blew us away. Our robot, a handicapped one winning! We didn’t have the slightest hope of anything happening and out of pure luck we had won the first round. It had no part of our skills or anything that we had learnt the previous day. Just a minor set back of the opponent. Still what do ya say, we had won the 1st round. Other macho robots took the arena. One after the other each overpowered the weaker ones. Sachu’s group were the first to finish programming their robot and it was the funniest scenes watching their robot just walk out of the ring just like that.
Then came the 2nd round. Winning the 1st one had nothing but luck. And we had entered the second just for fun. There wasn’t even a hope of winning it. But we did. This time it wasn’t luck. This was where our elephant’s tusk came into action. What happened was, this long set of nails made sure that none of the opponents could touch our robot. So none of the robots could take its full potential to overpower us. The tusk gave us an extra edge. Its did all the pushing even with our basic programs and we kept on winning.
Level on level we kept on winning and before we knew it, we were in the finals. What more could have been surprising than to find Avi’s team with us in the finals. The two teams which had the worst start, were at the finals winning over all the other skillful and trained robots. And the finals began. The air was tense. Watching all these unexpected turn of events, all the bhujji’s and tutors were stunned. Even more stunned were us. Not even in the faintest dream had we planned on reaching where we were. And there we were. Our tusk made our robot stand out from the rest and it took us till the end.
Both the robots were placed in the ring, switched on and the finals began. For the first round, both the robots went out without even the slightest touch. The second round saw both robots hitting and clashing against each other. Hitting again and again, our robot pushed the opponent’s out. So, the first round was disqualified and we won the second. The match was to be decided in the third and last round. It began. Cheers were raised. Applause began. The Robots started on their epic battle. And within seconds came the first clash. Our tusk made sure that the other robot couldn’t come near us. Our robot pushed with the only power it had left. Pushing and pushing our robot edged the enemy out of the ring.
And we WON!. The laziest of all, the last of all, we finally came out of the crowd with the trophy. Had it not been for Jinu, we wouldn’t have entered the war, and had it not been for our pals, we wouldn’t have even joined the workshop.