January 24, 2012
School of Engineering, Amritapuri
“Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work,” once remarked our former President and well-known scientist Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, when speaking to the youth of the nation.
Providing ample testimony to this statement are Amrita students. For instance, Aditya K., final-year student of B.Tech. (Mechanical Engineering) of the Amritapuri Campus, worked hard to achieve his dream, and successfully conducted research in an entirely new area.
During May-August 2011, while still an Amrita student, Aditya was at the Korean Institute of Science for a paid summer internship on biorobotics. Together with his professors, he closely studied a plant and its responses to different light signals so that the same principles could be used in the design of bio-inspired robots.
A paper co-authored by the undergraduate student and his professors Dr. Youngkwun Lee from Korea and Dr. Ganesh Udupa from Amrita was recently published in the International Journal of Robotics.
The research work was also presented to international scholars at IEEE ROBIO Conference in Phuket, Thailand.
Aditya described his path-breaking research work briefly.
“We studied the plant colloquially known as pepe (scientific name – descoingsii x haworthioides). Our study was the first of its kind in the world. Even now, we are the only ones in India working in the area of biorobotics.”
“Much like human beings and animals, plants also have electrical signals passing through them, but there are no nerves. Electrical phenomena in plants is quite complex. Plant tissues are complicated and highly structured, consisting of both conductive and insulative elements.”
“We worked with our plant to obtain the action potential signals and understand the plant’s responses to stimulation from different light modes. Action potential is the signal caused by depolarization of the plasma membrane. It is responsible for signaling between plant cells; and communication from the plants can be achieved through modulation of various parameters of the electrical signal in the plant tissue.”
“Learning from the plant, we use modulated signals for providing information to the microcontroller’s algorithm for the working of our bio-machine ie robot.”
Not only did Aditya successfully complete this pioneering work, later he also teamed up with classmates and friends Sai Dinesh and Vishnu Aravind to participate in the Schneider Electric Innovation Challenge 2011.
The students presented a model of a low-cost artificial hand actuated by innovative air muscles; the model was placed in the top 5 from among nearly 500 entries coming from engineering colleges all over India. The team worked under the guidance of Dr. Ganesh Udupa and Dr. M. Gopalan, HOD, Medical Illustrations, Amrita School of Medicine.
All three students received offers for a paid internship at Schneider Electric in Bangalore and will now be working on their final year projects at this global company specializing in energy management.