Published: 30th August 2020
How these four TN students developed a sanitisation robot to disinfect containment zones remotely
CooRo has been built using spare parts from junkyards to prevent sanitisation workers from entering containment zones unnecessarily
The frontline workers are perhaps the most susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Among them are the sanitation workers who, besides all the work they're already tasked with, have even been tasked with spraying sanitiser in containment zones to prevent further spread. They risk their lives every day to ensure that more of us don't get the disease. To prevent them from being this vulnerable, four 19-year-olds from Tiruvallur have developed a sanitisation robot. Named CooRo (as in Coronavirus Robot), the black box on wheels can be remotely controlled from up to 1.5 kilometres away, essentially relieving sanitation workers from entering containment zones to sanitise it.
Speaking about how it works, one of the developers, Santhosh Kumar S, says, "The robot has a built-in camera and the feed is transmitted to the user directly. In my first year of college, I had developed a drone and decided to reuse its camera for this robot. I was also able to reuse the transmitter in the drone." CooRo uses two transmitters — one to control the robot and the other transmitter and receiver to allow the user to see where the robot is headed from a remote location.
CooRo is completely made in India, says Santhosh, "We were firm about not using Chinese products to create this robot. But we couldn't help it when it came to the transmitter for the remote control. As an alternative, we also developed an app to control it but the range is only up to 20 feet." In their desire to avoid using Chinese products, the boys decided to source spare auto parts from junkyards and developed the entire robot with those. "When we initially pitched the idea, no one took it seriously. Another reason for going to the junkyard was the lack of funds," says Santhosh, who is a student of Mechanical Engineering at Vijaya Vittala Institute of Technology, Bengaluru. The boys sourced the parts and tyres from the junkyard.
Along with Santosh, the robot was developed by Gokul E, a Computer Science student at Vel Tech Multi Tech Dr Rangarajan Dr Sakunthala Engineering College, and Naveen R, who studies Electronics and Communication Engineering at S A Engineering College. "While Gokul was responsible for the coding, Naveen was responsible for building the transmitter for the robot," says Santhosh, who designed the engine and body of the robot. The boys also got support from their friend Sunil Kumar K, a student of English Literature at Madras Christian College. "He is also our sole investor, he gave us Rs 5,000 to develop the robot. He also handled the accounts and helped with content development," he adds.
The robot was recently demonstrated in front of Tiruvallur Town Police. The boys consider an inspector with the police, Ravi Kumar, as their source of motivation. "We were demotivated initially when we couldn't find any investors for the robot. But when we approached him, he ensured that we didn't give up and even set up the meeting with the Superintendent of Police," Santhosh says. However, this is not the first robot of its kind to be developed. "A similar model has been developed in Indonesia for sanitising their trains. We were inspired to build CooRo after seeing that," Santhosh says.