Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Many young innovators in Manipur are waiting to be discovered and given wings

Manipur Needs a Policy to Tap and Promote Ingenious Minds and Rich Innovative Skills of Youths From State

Though small in size and population Manipur is Manipuris excel in many fields. Manipuris have earned their place in India and the world not only in the field of arts and culture, and sports but also in academic and scientific fields, service sector with its richness in human resources.

There is no denying the fact that these were not without efforts and struggles. In the 1980s and 1990s there was really a concerted efforts of the people of this small State of Manipur to let India and the world know the sporting and athletic talents of the young Manipuris. As a result of the sports movement, the young Manipuris with the talents, the fighting spirit and the competitiveness bring laurels to Manipur bagging gold medals for India in Asian Games, Olympic and many international sporting events.

The recent trend of talents of the young Manipuris is the development of robotic devices and electric vehicles from scraps by the school and college going ingenious lads using their creative minds and innovative skills. They also struggle a lot without any financial resource to support their scientific projects.

Ningombam Prem in his Iron Man suit made from scraps

The news of development of robot, electric vehicles, Iron Man suit and robotic devices from scraps by the school and college going boys of Manipur draws media coverage beyond Manipur.

One of such creations and development which can draw the attention of Anand Mahindra who is famous for spotting talent from across the world and he tweeted about Ningombam Prem’s Iron Man suit using scraps.

Mahindra was shocked and in awe of the Prem’s creation. He tweeted, “I am awestruck and inspired by Prem’s ambition & skills that have flowered despite — not because of— his circumstances. Many of us from privileged backgrounds never appreciated enough the resources we were given. But Prem uses scrap material & basic tools to shape his creations.”

Inspired by sci-fi movies and robotics, Ningombam Prem from Heirok Part-II in Thoubal district, 35 kilometres from Imphal a third year student of fine arts at Imphal Art College, in May 2020 has created robots and replica of Iron Man, Hollywood movie super hero costumes using electronic wastes and cardboards.

Although he has no formal training in the field, Prem made robots with ideas he gained by watching television shows. And, when he first owned a smart phone in class 10, he learned different techniques of robotics by browsing the internet and developed robots which are mechanically controlled using the waste he collected from roads and non-functional electronic devices.

Fortunately, Ningombam Prem has been given the opportunity to study engineering skills and education at Mahindra University in Hyderabad from November 2021 as promised by Industrialist Anand Mahindra.

Surprisingly, the most recent innovative creation by a student from Manipur is electric motor bike from scraps. In a first of its kind in Manipur, 18-year-old second semester Computer engineering student at Manipur Institute of Technology (MIT) Albert Sarangthem from Thambalkhong in Imphal East has successfully assembled an electric motor bike using scraps except for the battery and few parts of the vehicle.

Albert has tagged his electric motor bike as Samadon EV-I with a polo emblem and it took him about 11 months and a sum of Rs. 81,000 for the whole process of assembling the vehicle to make it come on road, which eventually happened on May 14, 2022.

Albert and his electric motorcycle, Samadon EV-I

Samadon also known as Samaton is a mythical winged divine horse in Meitei mythology. Samadon is one of the most recognised creatures in Meitei folklore. Legend says that Samadon is the ancestor of the present day Manipuri pony.

Born to a head constable Sarangthem Ibocha and Sarangthem Ongbi Terakeshori, Albert is the second of the two siblings, an above average student and started dreaming of assembling an electric vehicle when he was in Class X considering the fuel expenses his father spent in picking and dropping him to tuition centres.

His electric motor bike Samadon EV-I now goes viral in social media and liked by many youngsters.

Another innovative creation of delivery robot by Ningthoujam Bikash Meitei a 16-year-old boy from Thoubal district, Manipur, has made positive use of the COVID-19 lockdown period. His delivery robot is remote controlled and capable of carrying goods weighing about four kilograms.

Bikash, a class nine student from Heirok Bazar, with no professional training built the delivery robot. He finished creating the robot in June, 2020.

Bikash is said to have been working on another robot which will be capable of lifting and holding things. His aim is to let the two robots coordinate together, where one will be lifting the things and the other will be carrying it.

Although Bikash has many plans and dreams, he has to struggle with financial constraints in buying necessary materials for making robots and other designs since his father Ningthoujam Prem Meitei, who is the lone bread earner of the family, is a daily wage earner in a brick field.

Another creation is humanoid robot in 2019 by a 21-year-old youth in Manipur which can communicate and is capable of identifying electronic items and picking up objects.

Young innovator Irom Roshan, a resident of Sagolband Moirang Hanuba Leirak in Imphal West district, said that the robot can respond to voice commands and can be controlled through mobile phones.

He was at least fortunate that his work came to the notice of Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren and was applauded by extending a financial aid of Rs 1 lakh to him so that he could continue his research.

“Not only in sports and culture Manipur has enough talent in science and technology too. Shri Irom Roshan Meitei, (21yrs) 1st yr student of ITI has successfully made a ROBOT which can communicate,” Biren twitted.

While fuel prices have skyrocketed across the country, the seamless manner in which a lad propelled himself along busy roads, lanes, and highways in Manipur by standing on the plank of his “Personal Electric Vehicle” (PEV) as if riding an electric skateboard with comparatively larger wheels caught the attention of many commuters and become viral in social media.

Nandalal and his Personal Electric Vehicle, PEV.

The lad is none other than Thiyam Nandalal who  created a robot, JON17, which went on to garner him many accolades across science exhibitions held in Manipur in 2017 when was studying Class 12 at Johnstone Higher Secondary School in Imphal. He created his robot JON17 by using discarded scrap materials like emergency lamps, electronic toys, DVD drives, syringes, speaker frame and even IV-fluid tubes.

This time, amidst the hike in fuel prices and rise in transport fares, Nandalal has created his “Personal Electric Vehicle” in April 2022.

Hailing from Nambol Balaramkhul Maning Leikai in Bishnupur district in Manipur, Nandalal commutes at least 30 kilometres round trip in a day on his PEV.

Nandalal told media that he developed the particular conveyance as he had to walk around three kilometres daily from his house to reach the highway to catch passenger vehicles for travel and his shoes started wearing out too soon from walking such long distances.

Interestingly, Nandalal is self-taught through the internet and research fuelled by his growing curiosity and interests in the world of innovations. He even confided that he was offered free admission by a reputed electronics engineering college in Manipur. However, he said that he is not willing to receive formal education in the said field so far.

Nandalal did his admission at Manipur College. But being born to parents who are farmers, financial challenges and untold miseries continue to confront his dream of becoming an innovator and establishing his own venture. Nevertheless, he said his dream carries more weight. He didn’t even renew his admission for successive semesters as he used up the money given by his parents in procuring resources for his projects.

Nandalal’s PEV is powered by a 48-volt battery and the speed and brake are controlled with a remote. While the vehicle can cover at least 25-30-40 km depending on the weight of the rider and road conditions and it can travel at a speed of 28 km per hour.

The process to obtain the manufacturing and marketing certificate of his vehicle from the authorities concerned is underway. It is also said that the PEV will further be improved to make it rider-friendly. Nandalal has many projects in the pipeline including a unique way of passenger vehicle service.

Despite being self-taught, Nandalal is also self-financed. Report said he is yet to receive any form of financial assistance from the government for several months though he is a beneficiary of ‘Startup Manipur’. He expressed disappointment over the alleged indifferent attitude meted out by officials concerned in the planning department when he sought financial assistance.

Notably, the people of South-East Asia, East and Far East Asia and Mongoloid people to which Manipurese belong are said to be very good in their skills. They can easily learn new things by doing.

Now, instead of impulsive response to innovative and creative developments by the young minds of Manipur for their creations, Manipur Government should have a proper policy to tap and promote the ingenious minds, talents, creative and innovative skills of young Manipuris.

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