Back in the day, Rajiv and I used to build robots for competitions. Well that's what we would tell ourselves, and more importantly, our parents - so that we could get our hands on some of their hard earned money to flush down the drain as part of the process. The truth is, we built the robots more for the following two reasons:

  1. because we enjoyed creating robots, unlike most people around us who at the time were only thinking of creating babies, and
  2. to prove to the world and ourselves that we were truly engineers, because we weren’t doing a very good job at that at college.
That's right. We sucked at our respective B.E.'s - probably because we refused to conform. We refused to be run-of-the-mill. We weren't interested in mugging up answers to stupid question banks to crack the papers - we were more interested in actually applying some of the things we learnt. It’s another matter that very little of what we learnt at college was actually useful in our endeavor.


Rajiv and Me, Partners in crime since Standard VIII.

So I took 5 years to finish a 4 year course, but I had fun along the way. And the robots I built with Rajiv did well at the earlier mentioned competitions. Unfortunately, we did finally finish our respective B.E.'s. I say “unfortunately” because, although Engineering turned out to be an unimaginable nightmare that has given me my grays, it was also the only time that building robots seemed possible. Once we were done with the shit, Rajiv and I went our separate ways. I did my MBA - don't ask me why - and he, clearly the smarter of the two, did his M.S. in Robotics.

End result - I don't build robots anymore. Instead I work in the IT Services industry - perhaps the worst place to be for a non-conformist, creative sort of person.

But of late I have been thinking of taking up the robot building again in my (very limited) free time. I will not have Rajiv here with me though; to share the pain of fingers burnt soldering circuits and brazing steel pieces together. Nevertheless I feel like subjecting myself to all those cuts, burns and bruises, days and nights of no sleep or food, and annoyed girlfriends.

Because at the end of it all, it all becomes worth it when you see your creation move...

... even if it doesn't after you subject it to some rather cruel tests...

Overlord MkII tackles the test track

If Rajiv's eye-catching socks didn't compel you to take a second look, that "thud" sure must have prompted you to rewind the video just to hear it again a few dozen times. C’mon, admit it…

I still remember how we really didn't want to do that to Overlord Mark II. But hey, that's what it had been designed for. Sure it failed, just like we failed exam after exam at Engineering. But it was still satisfying to know we build something that was like a mini tank - something that would've destroyed the competition at any robot combat event, had we ever entered one of them. And something that would've won us first prize at the IIT Bombay competition it was built for, had we just got more money and time to spend on perfecting it.


Overlord Mark II. R.I.P.
So how did we ever get around to building robots in the first place? What were the terrible things that happened to us while we built the robots? How did we reach a point where our robots seem to be willingly committing suicide, from the looks of the video posted above?

The story has all the ingredients of a bestselling thriller - there’s blood, sweat, tears, lots of money, a race against time, young men with power tools, and… No, no sex. Sorry. You’ll just have go without that one. Think of the little robots…

I had started writing about our robot escapades when I was in the thick of it all - around 2004. Then with Final year Engineering, MBA, and work - it all died. Now I plan to resurrect and complete the story...

… and maybe, just maybe, if time permits, return to building more robots so that the story continues...