Published: 11th July 2018
Smart India Hackathon 2018: How these runners-up from Chennai are making railway travel safer for us
Students of Aalim Muhammed Salegh College of Engineering want to do away with manual checks on railway tracks to reduce labour cost and better safety of the passengers
The main objective of the Smart India Hackathon was to get students to come up with tech solutions for everyday problems. One of those problems was the faults that develop in railway tracks. K Naushad Saheb of Aalim Muhammed Salegh College of Engineering and head of team Emblaze that comprises Mohammed Ebrahim, Muhammed Salman, Ameerudeen, Kousari Thabassum and RM Sumana — decided to find a solution to this problem. "The team went through all the problem statements, it took approximately a week to come to a conclusion about which problem statement to pick since all the problems were really important as well as fascinating to work with," he begins.
What is Smart Hackathon? Approximately 3000 problem statements were given which listed problems from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. These problems were generally the requirements that the government wanted or the society wanted technically/non-technically to make the lives of the citizens more comfortable and digitalised.
The Indian Railways is the fourth largest organisation in the entire world so the condition of the tracks is important for the smooth and safe travel of passengers. And the checking so far, has been done manually. The students wanted to change that. "We decided to make a vehicle which can do the primary level of inspection all by itself without much manual intervention. As it was the first hardware hackathon, our idea seemed promising," he says.
How does it work: The product is divided into two parts — software and hardware. The hardware is exactly as long as the distance between the tracks i.e. 163 cm. The software part contains ultrasonic sensors that detect the fault or the crack, GPS module to locate the point in the track where the fault occurred and a camera that sends the pictures to the maintenance department
It was indeed a brilliant idea as it was one of the 800 pitches that were selected from around 3000 ideas. The team started work on the idea as soon as the instructions were given. "We designed the project and did the other technical elements all by ourselves. It took more than a month for us to finish the model. The struggles during the prototyping were really high as we were having exams along with Ramadan at the same time. We split the work among ourselves and finished the model. The college was really supportive when it comes to facilities, The labs were kept open even till 10 pm for us to work, with lab assistants staying late to help," Naushad recalls.
Even after the challenges, the team submitted the prototype’s video on April 30. Quickly, the team made it to the finale. "We were quite confident that we would make it into the finale because our project had already started getting positive response everywhere. Only 102 finalists were shortlisted from 800 submissions and we were among that number," the proud student said. The team had to compete with 8 more teams at the finale in Coimbatore. They spent five days in the camp while the evaluation team would come and check the progress regularly.
At the end of the fifth day, the results were announced and the team was overjoyed to be the first runner-up in the first-ever Hardware edition of Hackathon. "We got calls from everywhere wishing us, and encouraging us. The secretary of our college welcomed us to Chennai with a grand felicitation for all our families and the staff who supported us. We are really happy to have been had such a great journey of 7 months. We now, don’t just feel like engineers, we feel like entrepreneurs," he says smiling.