Mad about robots!

Mita Tarafdar  is a Senior Principal Scientist at The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and founder of the Digital Literacy Mission in Jamshedpur. She shares a remarkable story with STW of Dipak Dhibar. A college-goer by day and fish vendor’s help by night, he is a scientist at all times. The soft spoken boy with a shy smile and bright eyes is full of surprises.

DD 2The 18-year-old inventor from Chandil Station Basti in Seraikela-Kharsawan, 40km from Jamshedpur, is a self-confessed hater of rote learning. He scored a mere 45 per cent in matriculation in 2009, and dropped out for a year. Due to poverty — father Kirti earns around Rs 2,000 a month — he could not afford to take up science in 12th standard or learn mechanics. But he went on dreaming of more technical know-how. The best part? He doesn’t have a lab at his disposal. What he has are ice cream sticks, used batteries, discarded auto spare sparts, ply boards, DVD spares, syringes and plastic pipes. He also has a friend with a cable TV connection. And it was while watching Discovery channel that he learnt how to make a robot.

Dipak is currently associated with “Digital Literacy Mission (DLM)” and receiving a scholarship of Rs. 500 every month. He receives free tuition in Maths, Science and English subjects and teaches young DLM students. Digital Literacy Mission (DLM) aims to progressively remove digital divide in India by spreading general as well as computer literacy using Information & Communication Technology. DLM is a social entrepreneurship programme serving underprivileged children. The DLM information network connects people who would like to contribute in terms of money, resources and time to children in need of supplementary education. Under DLM, a nationwide community based learning network is being created for offering free home tuition to needy students.

DD 3Now, Dipak is happy to give a demonstration of his “moving toys” and has done so before budding techies, managers and industrialists. In 2012 he did so in front of the RD Tata Technical Education Centre in Golmuri, impressing not just students but also K.V. Nair, principal of RD Tata Technical Education Centre (RDTEC), a unit of Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF).  They have committed to guiding and helping to prepare him for an entrance exam to a three-year diploma course in mechatronics at the cradle next year.

Mita Tarafder was impressed with the boy’s inventive brain and Nair agreed with her. “Dipak has very high potential to succeed in mechatronics. We will be happy to have him with us next year. I have advised NML scientist and DLM founder Mita Tarafder to hone the boy’s skills so that he succeeds in the entrance examination. We will be happy to guide his preparation. He can apply next June-July,”  he said. On the money part, Nair has advised Tarafder to approach Tata Steel authorities for a fee concession once he clears the entrance. “For a general (ward of a person who doesn’t work in Tata Steel) candidate, the annual fee for a three-year course in mechatronics is around Rs 66,000. Tata Steel has to be approached for concession. But Dipak has the acumen to do well,” the principal added.

DLM is already tutoring Dipak for free in maths, English and science. Otherwise, the boy studies intermediate arts at SB College, Chandil. DLM tutor Pankhuri Sinha is also giving him Rs 500 per month. NML chief scientist Amitava Mitra and head (engineering division) Kanchan Paul were also awestruck by Dipak. They have asked Dipak to use NML labs and promised to chip in with guidance for his new inventions.“He is picking up subjects nicely. We hope he succeeds in the entrance. We will hold talks with Tata Steel officials concerned for concession in fees,” Tarafder said.

Dipak’s Inventions

DD 1He has used 100 ice cream sticks, a self-made remote control, wheels and DVD spares to make a robot that can pick up articles weighing between 50gm and 100gm. The cost of making the robot is less than Rs 300 because all its parts are waste materials.

For the hydraulic forklift, he used ply boards, ice cream sticks, syringes and plastic pipes used to administer saline. He fills syringes with water, presses them like pistons to create pressure in the pipes that gets the device moving. “It is simple logic. Water has great power,” he says of his device that again lifts small items. “I hardly spent Rs 250 on it.” A battery-powered crab is “just a moving toy”, which is made at a cost of Rs 50. Once again, ice cream sticks and batteries came to his help.

Like a true inventor, he says: “It took me only 10 days to make the toy, six months for the forklift operator and nearly 18 months for the robot.”

Dipak’s inventions fascinate his neighbours, but his parents used to worry about his future. With his low marks and his family almost broke the combination was not favourable. DLM and all other well-wishers are making this young genius reach for more and prove that intelligence lives outside stereotypes and economic barriers are no longer high hurdles to jump over.

Do you like Mita and Dipak’s story? Would you like to help? Leave a comment here!

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About Shruti Bharath

Social entrepreneur and developmental writer, passionate about creating workable solutions in the areas of improving employability of youth and women through skill enhancement/training and generation of productive and sustainable employment opportunities.

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