- Rishabh Agrawal , SWD Nucleus




1) To begin with, we would like to know about your journey in BPHC.

It has been a very long journey with many ups and downs. In my first year, I used to enjoy a lot and hence neglected my grades. It was that time when it hit me that I should do something. That was the time when I realized that I had interest in Mechanical Engineering. I found out about BAJA. I gave the inductions but could not get inducted in the first year. I kept on trying after that. Later in 2-2, I started working on RC cars. That was the turning point in my academic life. After that I started learning more about automobiles, automotives and participating in many competitions and events. RC car was that major breakthrough for me. Simultaneously, my CGPA also improved. So that was the time when things fell back in place and after that I was just getting better and better. Up to my third year I worked informally for BAJA. In my third year I officially started working for BAJA. I was appointed the Vice Captain. Then after doing BAJA, I realized that I have a knack for research and development. That is the main reason why I decided to pursue thesis. My PS-1 was at Army Base and my thesis was in Operational Research at Mechanical department, BITS Hyderabad. My PS-1 also was an important point in my life. In my PS-1 too, I got to work a lot with engines and mechanics and as I was already developing interest in Mechanical Engineering, it definitely added more value.

2) What were the difficulties you faced in your journey and how did you overcome them?

There were many difficulties. The main difficulty which I faced was maintaining a decent CG with all the projects going alongside. Initially I was a 6 pointer and currently I am a 7 pointer. In my second year my CG was around 6, so at that time it was essential that I had a strong project base. Then I tried contacting my seniors and from there I got to know that there are many projects like RC cars going on. My seniors played an important role in helping me overcome my difficulties. If their guidance wouldn't have been there, I would not be where I am today. After joining BAJA; I started facing time management issues. I was not getting sufficient time for my own course projects. I realized this when once I scored a bad grade in one of my course projects. Then I started working on it and eventually got over it. You learn a lot from bad experiences. I have had a lot of bad experiences, majorly in academics in first and second year.

3) Now making a transition towards automotive field like BAJA and RC cars, how did you improve your skills in these fields?

Initially we were a team of four. Everyone had different interests. I used to drive the RC cars. So the whole responsibility somehow fell on me. Like I used to carry the RC Car and take part in different events. My teammates would not be able to attend the events due to some other commitments. Sometimes it felt like a burden, carrying the whole thing alone since we had invested a lot of money in it. But later as I developed interest, these things stopped bothering me. At that time I was working with a super senior. So his experiences and knowledge helped me a lot. That gave me a different perspective about automotives. During his placement he was asked to demonstrate the RC car. I was there standing in front of those interviewers and the look on their faces were amazing. They were surprised. These small happenings kept on inspiring me more and more every day. At first I only used to drive the car but later on when I started looking into the mechanisms and working I started learning a lot. I used to disassemble it and observe all the parts and then I used to understand the role of each and every part. Then I fabricated it. So during the period when my RC cars project was ending and I joined BAJA, I already had knowledge about the mechanisms and working of engines. This gave me a better technical edge over others. From there my true practical experience began. So once I got into BAJA, I learned a lot of new things and having some prior knowledge about things made it easier to learn for me. RC is small scale compared to BAJA. Like the components required in BAJA are IC Engines, Steering mechanisms, Fuel connections, suspension, exhaust systems, etc. But when you see a commercial car there are n number of different variations of that particular part. After my BAJA, I was left with vehicle dynamics and aerodynamics. Later I did a project which was based on aerodynamics. So in that way I have learnt most of the concepts. Now the only thing left is their application. The thing that matters the most to the interviewers is the experience you have gained and how well can you manage things when in crisis.

4) How did you develop or improve the technical knowledge during BAJA?

At first we had a reference car which was made by our seniors. Having worked on that car informally, I already knew the things which had gone wrong at their time. We decided to overcome the mistakes of the previous team. So accordingly, we decided what components we will be using and worked upon it. The practical knowledge imparted from seniors is passed on from generation to generation. We decided to rectify some earlier mistakes which specifically were suspension system, bulk design, etc. We came to certain decisions even before designing the car, like the kind of material to be used. So these kinds of discussions with our seniors made us know more about the previous cars. While designing we checked the driver's dimensions and then later on kept developing it. What kind of material was used earlier which created some problems, what material will we use and what possible problems can it cause. We had a budget constraint, so we tried to make the best even out of the low quality material we had. When you have a budget constraint, it makes you look for new options and that makes you learn more about the materials available and it helps you develop a wiser perspective.

5) Since you were the Vice Captain as well as the driver of the BAJA car, what was your mindset about leading the team?

Being the Vice Captain, I had a few ideas in mind. I decided to not use the car to its maximum level for small events and save it for the bigger events in future. So this was my mindset that I never pushed the vehicle to its extreme. We wanted to take part in Endurance, which is an annual car racing event. So keeping that in mind, we used the car with a lot of care in the previous events. Also I believe that when driving the car, have fun. Most of the people don't get a chance and it has a whole new feel to it. At one time I was actually drifting a car and had no idea about it. The mindset varies from driver to driver. Whenever you drive, you have to make a connection with the car. My seniors always used to say that a better engineer can always be a good driver but a good driver is always the best engineer. I remember during the endurance race, the left knuckle of the car was about to break. I never told this to anyone. When you put so many efforts into one thing, you get emotionally attached to it. The way our faces were after completing the race, the feel and the environment. Everything changes and you feel amazing. The impact of driving in that race was so huge that after coming back to campus, once on an outing I was driving like a crazy person.

6) What a person needs to have except knowledge, to get into the automotive and automobile field?

Knowledge can be learned during the projects or anytime later. But one thing which I specifically think is necessary is hard work and dedication. The main thing which I look for in juniors is dedication. I will always prefer people I have seen working. The current scenario today on campus is that we have three automotive teams. The Go-Kart and Mega-ATV mostly comprise of first and second yearites. People have gained a lot of experience. First yearites generally don't have a lot of knowledge but they have dedication. Also it is not necessary that all people working with these go ahead with this field. Eventually some people head for management, as they have learnt some managing skills and team work. Some people get to learn about engines so they develop a knack for thermal engines and thermodynamics. Some people who are from branches like chemical work on the fuels and combustions. A senior from Mechanical Engineering eventually developed interest in materials, so now he is pursuing his career in materials. After doing practical projects you are introduced to many options other than your field which I think is really good. In automotives you have to deal with thermal, designing, materials and manufacturing processes. So what you can do is first find which topic interests you more, take up a course in it. While doing the course you will realize if you really like that particular topic or not. Through these projects we have to decide our goal and aims. I tried everything and realized that I am more interested in product designing. So since I understood this in my second year, I chose my third year electives accordingly. It basically gives you a chance to develop your interests and curriculum accordingly. I would like to say this to the first yearites that, enjoy but try finding your interests and take up projects surrounding it. This way you will at least have one project to show on your Curriculum Vitae.

7) Given your outstanding score in GATE, we would like to know how did you prepare for it?

When I started off with BAJA, my main focus was towards research and development. To get into the research and development field, you need to have a Ph.D. So in any case I had to do M.Tech. Accordingly I assessed my options which were GATE and GRE. I was more interested in giving GATE. Through GATE, you can go to the mechanical hub of the world - Germany. After speaking to a faculty who himself graduated from Germany, I realized that it was important for me to get in the top 10 percentile. At the same time I was also preparing for IAS. So I had to prepare for both. I started off my GATE preparation in mid-december after my 4-1. In GATE, most of the syllabus is related to the courses you have studied in the last four years. If you have studied your courses practically well then it is just like revising everything right from the start. Also, as I had started my IAS preparation earlier, it helped me out. I had just completed my thesis, so I had a lot of time to study. Just revise all the formulae and as your course work is already done, there is not much of pressure to be put on GATE. Watch videos on YouTube which summarize your courses and you will find a lot of them. GATE usually asks more of conceptual questions which will have a direct answer. Also keep in touch with the faculty like Prof. Amit K Gupta, if you particularly are headed in this field. He himself has done a Ph.D. from NTU, Singapore. Germany is good if you want to go into designing. NTU, Singapore is good if you want to pursue a Ph.D. in operational procedures. If you apply in Germany, you need to have some work experience. While applying in Singapore your LOR (Letter of recommendation) and SOP (Statement of Purpose) are more important.

8) What do you feel about the current scenario of automobile/automotive workshops in our campus and also what improvement do you think it needs?

I think that the current situation of automobile/automotive workshops will improve in the coming years. Frankly speaking, our campus is not yet well settled. Like for example, we don't have a proper official committee for project allotment. The point is that all the tech clubs are not able to promote the technical culture together. For example, the Tech Week was really good but it was not promoted that well. When students of our own college don't turn up for such events like Tech Week, then we can't expect people from other colleges to turn up as well. The technical culture on campus will improve only when people start showing interest and the teachers also teach well. Keeping the enthusiasm up is very necessary. Last year we had the Fast Track workshop during ATMOS which was really successful. We had students from our as well as other colleges participating in it. However I noticed that students from our college were comparatively less. So what I would like to suggest is that such kind of workshops over tenure of one week, should be organized just for our campus students. Also in the workshop you were asked to disassemble the machine parts and then reassemble it. I want a person to stand there and explain each and every part to the students; I don’t want workshops to be devoid of knowledge. Any person can learn to break or make things but what is important is the mechanism behind it. To do all of this we need a proper workshop for a week. The benefits of this are that firstly, you won't have to conduct the same workshop every year and secondly, once you have properly taught the mechanism in one week, you can expect the knowledge to be passed on in the coming years. This is how you improve any sort of culture on campus. Also given the good senior-junior rapport in our campus, passing on the knowledge is a lot easier than teaching it every time again and again. This also provides you the space for conducting newer and varied workshops in the future.

9) Since you will be pursuing your career in core mechanics, what do you think is the scope of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering as a branch?

First of all, there will be many people who will say that Mechanical and Manufacturing are not good branches. Never let what others say affect you. If you are really into Mechanical, then you can definitely build a great career out of it. Mechanical and Manufacturing are core branches and one thing which I can assure is that core branches will never run out of work. Even in the future no matter how many innovations come into existence, a mechanical aspect will always be there. Everything in this world, right from making a small component to larger and advanced equipment, mechanical knowledge will always be needed. You have many options in mechanical like automobile, automotives, operation procedures, quality analysis, etc. As far as placements are concerned, ITs will bloom due to digitalization. There was a time when mechanical and civil were considered to be the top branches. It all depends on interest. If you have a strong interest, no one can stop you from having a good career in Mechanical. Because even at the end of a tiring day you will be happy because you actually have interest in it. As long as interest is concerned, job packages don't matter. Definitely a CS guy will get a better package than me but at the end of the day we all are happy and that's what matters the most.

So that was it for this interview with Mr. Saif Ali Satkhed. Thanks Saif bhaiyya for your time and support for this initiative. We hope this interview really inspires the readers.

So, that was the last interview of the semester under the Campus Whizkids initiative. We’ll be back next semester with more of such inspiring interviews. We hope to get the same kind of support from your side the next semester as well. Until then, keep reading and enjoy the vacations.