I started out with a cynical view of engineering. I believed that I would be spending four years trying to learn things which I’ll never use in life. I didn’t understand then, and now, why I had to study a common first year syllabus with respect to all branches and I thought the entire system was leading towards rote bookish learning. Moreover, I wasn’t sure whether I was in the right branch (electronics) at that point of time. All this was before our college tech fest – the technology festival – of our college came along.
Tech Fest: A Celebration Of Technology
A year had passed and I was still not convinced if engineering was my thing. Yes, the concepts were interesting and yes, life was fun and good in general. But, I wasn’t doing anything that really used the technical, logical and creative side of me at the same time. Everything changed when I , along with my friends, decided to take part in the technical competitions held during our college’s tech fest, Engineer 2015.
Loaded with enthusiasm and energy, we decided to take part in all the robotics events that were a part of the electronics events of the tech fest. We assessed our supplies, collected and purchased components, planned schemes and schematics, brain stormed over night canteen food, stayed up late trying to calibrate sensors and in general, experienced the true pull of what engineering meant to us, the beautiful phenomenon of Csíkszentmihályi flow.
We had planned to take part in three events; the image processing bot event, the wall follower bot and the line follower bot events. Although we had made more progress than we had expected, only our image processing bot worked successfully at the time of the contest. We had loads of fun testing our logic, making sure that the sensors work, checking if there were any corner cases, testing different inputs etc.
There were times when the entire bot stopped functioning or moved erratically. These were frustrating times where we would have felt like giving up or pluck out all the wires. Patient debugging and reassuring ourselves that the end would be worth all the effort kept us moving on. And the end was indeed rewarding and overwhelming.
Transferring even a part of the brilliant array of human skills to a machine made us feel amazing. The tech fest was indeed a life changing experience for me because it changed my view about engineering and made me realize that I was indeed on the right track for what I wanted to do in my life and that all beautiful opportunities in the world were available to me.
The final day, on the day of the event, was an adrenaline filled day. We woke up early, checked everything and went to the venue of the event. The problem statement was extremely interesting. As a Harry Potter fan, nothing could have been more exciting. The arena was a giant chessboard and our bot was the knight piece of the chessboard. Given a starting point and an ending point, our bot had to make its way exactly like how a knight piece would move, in an L shape.
It took us over two weeks to completely work out all steps in the algorithm for this bot, from image processing to path planning, graphing algorithms, wireless communication to the bot, realignment and calibration and testing of the entire setup. All in all, it was a brilliant experience for all of us, as we hadn’t done anything this significant in technical and creative domains before.
Also, doing the project was the moment when we integrated things we had learnt in class and things which we had discovered and explored while doing the project. It was an overall rounded and holistic approach towards educating ourselves!
To every engineering aspirant, the message I’d like to give is, the journey might be hard and might not be how you would like it to be. But there will be that silver lining moment where you will find what interests you in the beautiful world of technology. And if you wait for it and search for it, the reward will be immense and extremely satisfying.