IGVC 2016: more of bitter, less of sweet experience

Oh how did I end up at IGVC?

It was clear right from the beginning of the summer that it wasn’t me who was to represent IIT Kharagpur in IGVC 2016  from the electronics team. I had a A*STAR Singapore intern to deal with after a month long stay in Kharagpur, and one of my friends had already initiated the passport process for participating. I was happily working for the team, when it became evident that the professor in Singapore broke his ankle and hence wouldn’t be able to manage my intern position. A few weeks later, the guy on the passport trail lost the race against time, and the eventual responsibility came on my shoulders.

After that it was quite an uphill task securing a US Visa in a short time interval, and 2 days prior to when we really left KGP, our robot was working but we had lost all hope to get a Visa to participate. And then a few miracles did happen and somehow we were there on the 3rd of January (US Time).

Running the robot requires a BLDC controller and a Roboteq motor driver. The entire summer of the electronics team was spent revolving around the hellish motor controller that the BLDC motor uses. Fried hall sensors, fried controllers, it all had happened in the span of 10 days prior to IGVC. But somehow the robot was working on the 29th of May and we thought we would make an impact there. And then somehow, we did not take a spare controller with us when we could easily have done that (sad day).

The robot was running okay on day 2 and we were ready to qualify. The only thing left undesired was that it seemed it was unable to climb slopes and the basic challenge required that too. This problem had occurred previously as well, but somehow resolved itself. The qualification although would have been easily managed. And then hell broke loose, and the driver fried.

Nah, it didn’t wake up again. The entire day 3 was spent debugging the thing and hoping that rewiring stuff would magically help things. Didn’t.

Day 4 was the sweet part, atleast for me. Overnight we planned to change the entire architecture of the robot from the front driven to rear driven type, using a borrowed DC motor and drivers. Well in a span of 4 hours, I modified the entire circuitry to suit the DC thing, modified the codes, tried to tune the response as well. It was a humongous task but somehow everything managed to work on the first go itself. The motor ran, the E-stop, flashlight and Wireless E-stop were all working (the things that I had to change on the code and the board) but the motor couldn’t be coupled to the rear wheel as we imagined. We overestimated what a duct tape could do, and the motor slipped out of the handmade mount.

Well I did have fair share of fun on the trip to the US, trying every cuisine I could, going to the top of Rockefeller center in NYC, visiting the Henry Ford museum in Detroit and all that, but in the end the trip was a bitter experience for all of us, especially for me since it was in my domain that things collapsed. But there were a lot of things learned in the process. Now the three of us have to ensure that all that experience passes down to the now to be second years (In short, we have to remain active in the third year as well ). Only under able guidance would the group be able to salvage something out of IGVC 2017 provided we do participate.




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