The Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge (TIIC) India is a well-recognised design contest, and a great platform for engineering students to showcase their innovations. It recognises student projects that use TI’s products and solutions to solve real-world problems and create lasting social impact. Over the course of six years, more than 80,000 engineering students from across India have participated in this contest.

The sixth edition of TIIC concluded at the TI Bangalore campus on 12th June 2015, with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam as the chief guest. Let us take a look at the student projects that made it to the top ten of TIIC and how they were worth it.

The finalists of TIIC India Design Contest 2015 along with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and TI officials. Image courtesy: Texas Instruments India
The finalists of TIIC India Design Contest 2015 along with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and TI officials. Image courtesy: Texas Instruments India

Cheap, after-market pre-crash detection solution
The winning project of TIIC India Design Contest 2015 was a low-cost, frequency-modulated, continuous-wave (FMCW) radar-based system that assists low-visibility navigation in automobiles. The device works in the S-band of the microwave range, with 2.5GHz as the centre frequency. It uses digital signal processing (DSP) for detecting and determining the distance to the obstacle, and the intensity of the warning signal produced increases with the decrease in distance between the vehicle and the obstacle.

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Why innovative:

  • It is an after-market solution, which means one can install the system as an add-on to their existing vehicle.
  • The automotive cruise control frequency is 77GHz (W-band) in usual collision avoidance systems, but that was banned in India due to the defence sector occupying that band. The use of the S-band in this project instead of the W-band makes this device permissible in our country.
  • The team wanted to make the system affordable (₹5000-7000) as well as efficient. So, unlike the costly systems available nowadays, they opted for a lower-resolution processing, which still serves the purpose.

College: MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bengaluru

Secure, remotely-controlled irrigation
Considering the immense time and effort required by farmers to manually turn on and off irrigation pumps, this group of students came up with a device named as Xencom to control the pump using a basic cellular phone or a landline along with advanced password protection and audio feedback on status and updates of operations. It also has a battery backup to get through power cuts and a soil moisture monitor. The major parts of this system are a Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication module, an interactive voice response (IVR) system and a magnetic reed sensor array. This project came out as the first runner-up of the contest.

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Why innovative:

  • Enables the user to control the pump remotely using a landline or any mobile phone.
  • Includes password protection.
  • Uses phone calls and SMS services to keep the user updated or give warnings (including overflow of pump, power cuts, low soil moisture etc).
  • Has a timer facility to control the duration of pumping.

College: Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology, Kolkata

Monitoring plant health at a low cost
The second runner-up, named as FarmCorder, this device measures the basic parameters of the plant sand soil such as nitrogen level, fluorescence, moisture level, ambient light and temperature, using simple sensors. This data is collected and sent to the server via a GSM module. It is processed there and feedback is given to the farmer via text messages.

Why innovative:

  • Low cost components are used in this system, making it affordable.
  • Suggestions such as the amount of fertiliser to be used and the quantity of water to be sprayed are sent to the farmer through SMS.

College: Easwari Engineering College, Chennai

Train your robot without programming
AIHRO, the humanoid robot, can adapt to and perform several tasks including cleaning tables and washing plates. It can also respond to normal interactions, for example, it can tell you the current time when you ask for it.

Why innovative: Training of the robot does not require rewriting the programs. It can be trained using gestures (wear the specialised band on your hand and AIHRO mimics your actions) and smartphones (define the required movement using arrows). This makes it easy for even inexperienced people to use this robot.

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College: Adi Shankara Institute of Engineering Technology, Kalady

Cross-platform adaptive headlights
Adaptive lighting is not exclusive to high-end cars any more. This prototype senses the steering of the car and automatically angles the headlight towards the direction in which the car is turning. It can be installed on all types of vehicles.

Why innovative:

  • It is a cross-platform solution that can be used in low-end vehicle models as well.
  • The team created its own angle sensors at a low cost, instead of using the expensive angle sensors available in the market.

College: Medi-Caps Group of Institutions, Indore

Converting digital texts to Braille
This handheld device lets the visually-impaired to read ebooks and other digital texts in Braille language. It can currently read the documents in *.txt format either from an SD card that can be plugged into the slot on the device or from a smartphone, tablet or laptop via Bluetooth.

Why innovative: The basic components of this device are a rotating motor and a belt that has Braille characters inscribed on. As each character is detected, the motor rotates to the position of the equivalent Braille character, which is then displayed at a small window to be read by the user. This avoids the use of costly neodymium magnets and actuators found in usual Braille displays, and brings down the price of the device to as low as ₹1500.

College: Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur

Interactive, portable Snoezelen bubble tube therapy
The Snoezelen bubble tube is a well-known sensory therapy for development disabilities like autism. This team developed a portable and efficient device with simple circuitry for this purpose.

Why innovative:

  • Voice activation is available.
  • The device is portable.
  • A simple circuit with simple components makes the device’s cost as low as ₹1200.
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College: Shri Vishnu Engineering College for Women, Bhimavaram

Smart switch that calculates power
Traditional switches suffer from a lot of wear and tear, and may even cause sparks in the wiring. This touch-based, Bluetooth-controlled switch board not only avoids these problems but also provides the details of power consumption on your smartphone.

Why innovative:

  • Avoids sparks, wear and tear caused by traditional switches.
  • Just touch the switchboard to turn a device ON or OFF, or control it from your smartphone over Bluetooth.
  • Gives readings of individual devices on your smartphone, thereby helping to detect energy wastage.

College: Shivaji University, Kohlapur

Manage and monitor water supply
This Internet of Things (IoT) based project solves the issues in outdated water billing systems and even detects contaminated water. The system lets you monitor the usage in individual apartments in a complex.

Why innovative:

  • pH and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) sensors help detect contaminated water.
  • Issues notifications to the user when there is abnormal water usage.
  • It can monitor the water consumption of individual units in a complex.
  • Provides information such as hourly consumption, comparative usage etc.

College: MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bengaluru

Object identification for smart traffic control
This real-time traffic management system uses video analysis techniques to control the timing of the traffic signal. The images obtained from the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) camera in the system are analysed and processed in real-time to determine the congestion in that particular road and increase the green signal timing accordingly.

Why innovative:

  • It works as an add-on to the existing traffic lights system, and is powered by solar panels.
  • Image processing is done using simple C++ programming.
  • Uses headlight detection at night, and this works even if it is raining.

College: Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal

The author is a dancer, karaoke aficionado, and a technical correspondent at EFY.