All technical teams have multiple rounds for recruitment. A combined orientation session is held during the first few weeks on campus which outlines the purpose of each technical team and briefly describes their exact recruitment process. Each team usually conducts a pen and paper test at first, based on specific topics pertaining to their subsystems or merely testing their mental aptitude. Students are often provided research papers or links to study from a few weeks before the test. After the written round, the shortlisted candidates often need to perform a practical task which tests the application of the knowledge gained. A few teams also conduct a technical interview for the aspirant. The final list of shortlisted candidates are then recruited on probation.
Team Anant is BITS Pilani’s first expedition into the realm of space technology. The team aims to develop an indigenous nanosatellite in collaboration with ISRO. Team Anant has been popular with the BITS Alumni Association, and has numerous submissions to the International Astronomical Conference. The payload of this 30cm×10cm×10cm nanosatellite consists of a hyperspectral camera, which will be used to obtain and process information about water bodies and various agricultural variables. Due to the large power and storage demands of the camera, it has never been placed on a small-scale satellite in the past. However, the team is determined to prove the camera’s feasibility. Since its inception in January 2013, Team Anant has made definitive progress towards its goal and ISRO is currently reviewing their submission. The team, at present, is actively involved in the construction of a ground station as well as setting up antennas for communication at BITS. Since 2016, the team has been working in the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) phase, which will culminate in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ISRO and the Institute. The PDR has been submitted and is awaiting review by ISRO. After the PDR phase, the team will begin the Critical Design Review phase.
Team Anant recently completed work on their mainframe configuration and are working on their software and hardware earnestly. The team consists of six subsystems: On Board Computer (OBC), Electrical Power (EPS), Attitude Determination and Control, Structural (ADCS) and Thermal, Telemetry and Ground Station, and Payload.
Team AcYut takes on itself the task of designing an autonomous humanoid robot capable of playing football. Credited with developing the first indigenously designed autonomous humanoid of India, they have come a long way since their initial rough approximations. Their bot now closely resembles a humanoid and participates in the Robot Soccer World Cup (RoboCup). Over the past year, the team has made significant progress. They had their malfunctioning motors repaired and have been tuning the parameters for their current walk engine. They have also developed push recovery and stabilization on their simulation software, and are looking forward to testing them on the bot. They are also in the process of implementing an alternate walk engine. Meanwhile, they have been exploring another league in the RoboCup—the 3D Simulation League. For this, are using state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to train high-level behaviours (such as evaluating the best possible pass) and low-level behaviours (like kick, walk, and dribble). Their plans for the future include implementing the push recovery stabilization on their bot and working to secure sponsorship to build a second bot, which is expected to speed up the development process significantly.
Inspired Karters : Baja
Founded in 2008, the Baja team annually designs, fabricates, and tests an All-Terrain Vehicle in Pilani. They take part in the BAJA SAE India competition every year which consists of many events, broadly categorized as static and dynamic. In March 2019, the team participated in this year’s edition held at IIT Ropar. The team is planning to take part in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, as it believes this event is in line with their original vision. The challenge involves designing, building and racing collapsible vehicles over simulated Lunar/Martian surfaces. Team members are studying the relevant matter and they plan to soon shift to this event. After having conquered rough terrestrial environments, the team now plans to go beyond and conquer harsh extra terrestrial environments.
Inspired Karters: Formula Student
Ever since its inception in 2012, the BITSian team participating in the Formula Student (FS) competition has been designing, manufacturing, and competing every year. The team, which has consistently ranked highly, has recently decided to stop making internal combustion (IC) vehicles in favor of electric vehicles. Inspired Karters participated in the national level competition held in Coimbatore this January, their last IC vehicle competition, and placed 15 out of a total of around 70 teams. The team also finished in second place at the Formula Bharat Electric Vehicle Concept Challenge in October last year. Inspired Karters plans to begin manufacturing their electric vehicle next semester, after completing final modifications to their design.
Team BITS — Shell Eco-Marathon
Team BITS participates in the Shell Eco-Marathon—a worldwide energy efficiency competition sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell. The team was formed in 2012 and initially participated in the Prototype Gasoline category. For the past few years, however, the team has switched to participating in the Ethanol Urban Concept. This category involves cars that are supposed to traverse ten laps of a circuit within a stipulated amount of time, using as little fuel as possible. Last year in March, the team presented their vehicle at Singapore, where they cleared the technical inspection. The car ran two laps, but could not complete the track due to an engine failure. Team BITS built the first Indian car to run on 100% Ethanol. They have since improved their design. The team is currently working on building another, lighter chassis using a carbon-fibre monocoque with better aerodynamics, an expected 30% weight reduction, and 18% drag coefficient reduction. This chassis is currently in the fabrication stage. They also plan to implement novel technologies such as ethanol direct injection, thermal barrier coating, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and carbon-fiber wheel rims. They will be participating in the newly set up Indian Shell Eco-Marathon Challenger event in October, 2019. Since January 2018, a sister team to Team BITS, called BITS Charge, has been working on a battery electric vehicle. Even though their design was ready by October, they were unable to participate in the 2018 Indian Shell Eco event because of insufficient funding. Currently, the team is working on improving the power train and developing the controller. The battery electric vehicle will also compete in the Indian event in October this year. Last semester, a few members of the team began work on an autonomous driving project. They aim to participate next year in Shell’s self driving car competition called Autonomous Urban Concept Challenge.
Pixxel, an inter-campus team founded in early 2018, is the latest addition to the list of technical teams on campus. Based out of Bangalore, Pixxel intends to build 30 nanosatellites and utilize the high cadence imagery gathered from these satellites to gain insights into various fields such as agriculture, mining, and defence, by employing cutting edge AI tools. The proof of concept satellite is slated to launch in the middle of next year, with several aspects of the first satellite already in the final stage of development. Supported by AutoDesk and the Government of Rajasthan, Team Pixxel also aspires to win the IBM AI XPrize, a competition that rewards the most impactful AI solution with 5 million dollars.
Team Robocon, originally formed with the goal of participating in the Robocon competition (an all India event held in Pune), has shifted its goals in the past year. They participated in a competition in IIT-Bombay this year, and worked on multiple projects of their own. This change in the team’s direction was brought about by the senior leadership, which decided to give their juniors a new venture to work towards and experiment upon. They participated in two mobile robot competitions last year, one being task-based and the other quad-copter based. Apart from this, the team also presented two projects in APOGEE 2019 and participated in a few events at the same. Their other projects include the designing of a quadruped and an autonomous quad-copter. In the near future they plan on finishing their quadruped and quad-copter projects, thereby making contributions to these new and upcoming fields.
“Sally Robotics” is a team of robotics enthusiasts at the BITS Pilani CRIS lab with a singular vision of developing an autonomous car for intelligent navigation on the challenging Indian roads. This team is guided by Prof B K Rout. Most of the autonomous vehicle groups are focussed on achieving level-5 autonomous capability in structured urban scenarios. While these will definitely work in western countries and to some extent in modern Indian cities, they definitely won’t work on the majority of Indian roads, which are notoriously chaotic. As robotics researchers, the team wishes to take the challenge head-on and aim to develop an AI model based on the spatial cognitive abilities of the Indian driver. Also, they aim to understand the behaviour of vehicles, pedestrians, unknown objects, etc by understanding the response to certain real-time stimuli and prior experience, which can indeed make vehicles demonstrate autonomous capabilities on highly unstructured Indian roads. Since its inception last year, their primary focus has been on concept selection by getting themselves familiar with the sensors and computation software. Their work was revolving around obstacle avoidance, lane detection and navigating tight-turns. Based on the same they were developing deep learning models and algorithms. They have achieved great results in pose estimation of humans for understanding the motion of people. They were implementing their algorithms on small scale prototypes and on the customized simulation software that they have developed. They have recently been provided access to a ‘Maruti Suzuki Alto K10’. The team is now working on getting the vehicle interface up and running along with the real-time implementation of the algorithms inside our campus. They are also planning to publish some of their findings in premier international conferences like ICLR, IROS and ICRA.