Robotics was considered a foreign subject in Indonesia a decade ago.
Now the discipline has found home in the nation, supported by a growing number scientists and designers.
One of Indonesia’s most respected robotics experts, the aeronautical engineer Endri Rachman, has built several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), popularly known as flying drones, that can be used for either civil or military purposes.
Unlike aeromodelling planes that still rely on ground controllers, his invention includes a smart box he baptized as an “endripilot” that enabled the plane to respond to changes in atmospheric conditions and maneuver on its own.
Endri exhibited his creations, including the hand-launched UAV Bumerang, during the recent Makers@america Fair at Pacific Place shopping mall, which was held to make it known to public the capabilities of local robot makers.
“I am currently in the middle of designing a flying drone with certain specifications that can be used as surveillance tool across the archipelago,” Endri said.
A household robot built by Rian Wardana and his friends from the science club at SMA 70 state high school in South Jakarta received a lot of attention in the exhibition.
The students dubbed their creation “Gardematon”. It’s a simple-looking box with intelligent devices inside that can read soil moisture in potted plants and automatically add water if the meter read that there was a certain degree of moisture.
“As teenagers, we spend many hours locked in our room so we need to have a plant inside to keep our room fresh,” said Rian, whose invention had won first prizes at several international robotics events. “The robot can take over the responsibility to tend the plant when we are not around or too busy to do so.”
The science club also brought in the “Quadcopter” that can fly through the air with a camera to provide short-range aerial view.
Other communities in the exhibition were Komunitas Robot Kebayoran with their Robot Visualizer; Budi Luhur University, whose students came with toy robots; Trisakti University, with their delightfully named Rube Goldberg Flag-Raising Machine; and STMIK Raharja, with a surveillance robot.
While imagination is not lacking, members of the robotics communities say that government recognition and support is.
Adiatmo Rahardi, a cofounder of Make.Do.Nia, which organized the fair in cooperation with the US Embassy, said that they had to work hard to convince private companies to use robots that the communities had invented instead of buying the machines overseas.
“We are holding the event to get across the message that we shouldn’t buy what we can make ourselves at home,” Adiatmo said. “At the same time, we want to encourage creativity and to introduce to public what we can do.”
Endri said that many robotic designers already working in the nation were sufficient foundation to develop Indonesia’s aeronautical industry — if only people reached out to them.
“As engineers, we work by order. If there’s none, then nothing is done. I think there is a question of trust, where the government doesn’t believe that we can make a plane that can actually fly.”
Endri has posted all his works at his weblog and Facebook page, while Rian gave details of his inventions at blog.skir70.com and skir70.com/cipaduino.
Cipaduino is the name Rian gave to the “arduino” motherboard he developed.
“Today is the open source era where we can get every piece of knowledge we need from the Internet and share it online,” Rian said.
Endri said that intellectual property theft would never become an issue. “It’s a good thing if others are inspired by what I have posted online and try it out. But if that person doesn’t have the skill and knowledge I do have, the information will not mean a thing.”
It was the same spirit of imagination and a do-it-yourself attitude that prompted another participant at the maker’s fair, Dewi Kucu, to leave her day job and plunge deeper into 3-D paper-cutting art.
An architect by education and craft maker at heart, Dewi started a side business, Cutteristic, three years ago.
She shared her skill with House of Mercy (HOME) volunteers, who, in turn, provide training for the jobless so that they can earn a living from artwork that they create.
Dewi said she was inspired by the Chinese paper cutting, usually crafted by the elderly, using red oil paper for home decoration.
She gave her own touch by using only white paper to emphasize intricate details.
Also an exhibitor at the fair, Dewi has the dream of making the artwork Indonesian intellectual property.
She once spent 30 hours to make a picture of a horse on 1.3 square-meter-large plain white wall. The horse was made from a detailed batik kawung motif that symbolizes the people’s values and way of life.
“The artwork is an alternative in approaching Indonesian cultures that is not through textile product that already common. I make batik with my cutter.”
Source: Yakarta Post
– Photos by JP/Jerry Adiguna