28/11/2016 5:49 PM IST | Updated 29/11/2016 9:26 AM IST

These Indian Teenagers Won An International Prize For Making A Robot To Solve India's Waste Problem

Welcome to the future.

Sonam Joshi

Robots are now used for everything from complicated surgeries to helping customers with banking and even making a pizza. Now, they could even help us take out and recycle trash more efficiently.

A team of teenage students from Gurgaon has won the second position at the 13th World Robot Olympiad for designing a robot that can collect recyclable waste from homes. This was the first time that India hosted the World Robot Olympiad, an international competition for students between the ages of 9 and 25, which was held over the weekend in Greater Noida.

This year's competition focused the use of robots for reducing, managing and recycling waste under the theme of 'Rap the Scrap'. Over 463 teams from 51 countries participated in the 13th edition of the World Robot Olympiad, representing countries such as China, Russia, Syria, Iran, Ghana and Taiwan.

AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal

The three award-winning student engineers from India are between the ages of 14 and 15. Jainil Ajmera, Prakhar Mittal and Abhimanyu Deb Singh began working on the project six months ago and named their team, High Voltage. All three are members of the Gurgaon-based Robo Genius Academy and were mentored by their teacher Varun Mayanger. The High Voltage team won the second prize in the Junior High category by completing their task in the fastest time and with the highest score.

Their robot identifies and segregates different kinds of waste and transfers it into the garbage bin, making recycling much easier. "Instead of going in for a complicated design, we opted for simple and compact design," Mayanger said. We also concentrated on accuracy and consistency rather than speed."

Their robot had to solve a pre-defined challenge, which involved sensing and picking up colourful blocks, denoting different kinds of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, and then dropping them in a bin with the matching colour. The participating robots needed to sense the colour and the location of the bins, which kept on changing.

High Voltage's robot was designed using Lego Mindstorms, a robotics tool set for making LEGO robots."Aside from the technical aspects, the challenges require you to think of solving the problem," Ajmera said. "You don't have to stop to working on the idea after this, because it might just change the world."

Sonam Joshi

The three spent numerous late nights testing as many as 10 models before the competition, on their strategy and brainstorming on their strategy. "We will try to build a working prototype, and make a functioning robot which can actually help with waste management," Mittal added.

The other Indian teams also came up with innovative robotic solutions for reducing and recycling waste. Swaccha Techno Kats, a team from Mumbai's Nehru Science Centre worked on replacing humans with robots for the disposal of infectious bio-medical waste from hospitals. Another Mumbai-based team called Plecostomus made a robot to clean trash, especially floating micro-plastics, from water bodies such as lakes, rivers and seas. Finally, the team behind Project Paper Mate made a robot resembling Wall-E to pick up Tetra Paks from their school for recycling.