An initiative by a teacher to make robotics affordable and accessible

Growing up in a cramped but loving home in Odisha’s tribal hamlet Aunli, Sakyasingha Mahapatra was inspired by how his father Suresh honed a deep passion for science. 

The headmaster of a secondary school in the village, Suresh would push his son to participate in different science exhibitions happening in and around their area. On other occasions, he would let his son accompany him on any projects he was working on. 

“I was his ‘handy boy’. I would run around with cables and tools and assist him. That is how my interest in science grew more and more with time,” Sakyasingha tells The Better India. 

As a teenager, the young boy also found over a decade worth of newspaper clippings from the science section of a local newspaper, which Suresh had been collecting since 1981. “On top of those papers, he would write questions or his analyses of the topics covered,” Sakyasingha recalls

Years later, this collection of newspapers became a source for the first-ever Odia language science encyclopaedia — Vigyan Gyankosh in January 2006. Sakyasingha says that his father chose the language so the book could reach the remotest parts of the state. 

Sakyasingha’s father’s passion to take science to the innermost tribal villages of Odisha served as the inspiration for his venture Sakrobotix Lab, which he launched in October 2012, he says. 

A platform that provides courses in robotics for a minimal fee, Sakrobotix has so far set up 100 such labs in schools and colleges in cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bhubaneswar. In October this year, it bagged the Mitchell Prize for G20 YEA Entrepreneurs.

The 37-year-old, who wants to make India the “robotics capital of the world”, says that while the inspiration came early, finding his path was riddled with challenges. 

In 2012, he decided to launch an online portal to provide courses in robotics, so anyone with an internet connection can easily learn. He also collaborated with colleges and schools across the country like ODM Global School, Demonstrate Multipurpose School in Bhubaneswar, and St Xavier high school in Cuttack. We teach robotics at just Rs 1,500-2,000 per year,” he says. 

“To take something to the rural areas, I very well know that it needs to be affordable. The kits that we make are priced mostly at Rs 5,000 as compared to the Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000 kits. Coming from a financially weaker background, I understand that dreams can be crushed because of lack of money,” he adds. 

Sakrobotix has courses running at 10 government ITIs and 10 government polytechnics of Odisha. 

“My vision is simple — give people from every corner, every village a chance to learn robotics. I know that one day I won’t be here, just like my father. But like his book lives on, I also want to live through my work,” Sakyasingha says. 

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