Asia shelters the most technologically advanced countries like Japan, South Korea, China, and so on. They have produced tech pioneers for decades. However, in the context of Nepal, there is still doubt about the future of advanced technologies like robotics. This is unfortunate because we do not lack in innovative and creative minds but rather in our vision and perspective.
In 2010, the Robotics Association of Nepal was established with the express mission to create a platform for eager young minds to explore innovative ideas and learn how to apply the science of mechanics, electronics, robotics, and coding to solve everyday problems. For about a decade, it has been successful at igniting a passion for robotics enthusiasts and changing the public perspective on robotics in Nepal. Here is what Manoj Lekhak, the Secretary of RAN has to say:
1. What was the idea behind the founding of RAN?
In 2009, our founding members having different backgrounds such as mechanical engineering, electronics, and communication felt the necessity of a central hub for exploring, learning, promoting, and sharing robotics-related knowledge and representing Nepal globally. After planning for six months, our team formulated the constitution of the Robotic Association of Nepal and registered it as a not-for-profit non-governmental organization in 2010. Our vision is to create platforms, partnerships, and possibilities to let Nepalese organizations and businesses to explore and implement the possibility of robotics.
2. RAN initiated Yantra as a National Robotics competition which is now an Art, Tech, and Science festival. Could you talk about that briefly?
After the establishment of RAN, we started providing robotics-related workshops to schools and colleges. But providing just knowledge was not enough so Yantra, the national robotic competition, was introduced as a way for robotics enthusiasts to showcase their skills.
We launched our Yantra 1.0 and Yantra 2.0 with the theme “Mission in Nepal”, intended to involve students of all levels, and test their innovation and creativity for basic level robotics. In Yantra 3.0, we came up with the idea of linking Robotics with art and thereby creating a new type of Art, Tech, and Science festival. In Yantra 5.0, we successfully organized an international competition with the theme “Agro-Innovation”. It was successful as we had a lot of participants from foreign lands like India and Bangladesh.
In Yantra 7.0, we planned on how we can take Robotic products to the local level. So, we initiated the “RoboBusiness Cup”. We changed Yantra from art, tech, and science to Science, Tech, and Entrepreneurship festival. We finished the Yantra 8.0 event recently where we collaborated with the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and successfully organized a South Asian level competition.
3. The membership form of RAN 2020-21 just ended, what opportunities and benefits can they get from the organization?
As our vision is to support the government in formulating policies related to robotics, our members get the chance to be involved in policy and development activities. Throughout the year we organize free workshops for members to sharpen up their knowledge and skills. Our members can be involved as an organizer in various annual events such as Yantra and Miss Tech. We also provide the opportunity of networking in various fields and help with the start-up of businesses in every possible way.
4. Introducing robotics in Nepal probably wasn’t easy. Would you like to share some of the challenges or setbacks that you faced?
Every organization faces challenges and setbacks but our focus should be on solving them. Is there any future of robotics in Nepal? This kind of question was always in our minds. Our main challenge was to change people’s attitudes towards the scope of AI and Robotics in daily life.
As we were growing, our focus was on the sustainability of our organization. But, the sudden death of our first president, Ujjawal sir, came as a huge shock to us. During those hard times, Suraj Baidhya sir supported us by giving us a space in FNCCI. When we shifted to Kamaladi, Mangesh Lal Shrestha sir also helped us provide a space free of cost. I still remember him saying, “You guys should do great innovation and you can do it!” Even though we had lots of challenges, those kinds of help from various people motivated us to keep on going.
5. Is RAN working on any project that could change the face of robotics in Nepal?
We have goal of creating Robotic Industries by 2030. Recently, we have been working on two upcoming community-based projects: Early Warning System for the floods in Kanchanpur and Dhading Automatic Water Pumping System. We are also incubating four projects of the Robo Business Cup contest winners i.e. Harkey, Next-gen helmet, Sahayatri, and Momo packing and counting machine.
We are also working on the project ‘Precision Agri-Drone Krisakopter v1.0’ with the grant provided by the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) under the ‘Science for Society: Innovation for Prosperity program. During this pandemic, we successfully distributed 18 booths for COVID testing and sister robots in various hospitals, which is a major success for us.
6. What would be your final words to our readers?
As a developing country, we have lots of problems waiting to be solved. The time has come for us to make a choice: Do we turn the problems into opportunities to prosper our country or let foreign countries grab them for their own benefits?