Vipul Mani, an alumnus of UPES, is currently pursuing Master of Space Engineering Program (Class of 2020-22) from TU Berlin, Germany. Here, he speaks about the opportunities available for students in the field of aerospace engineering and how students can tide over the current crisis by staying motivated
As a student of aerospace engineering, what fascinates you the most about this sector and what are your aspirations?
The vastness of space and the innate nature of human beings to explore, are two things that always drove me towards space from a very small age. There’s a lot to be known about the distant planets and star systems and I aspire to contribute significantly towards two main sectors – (a) setting up human colonies on moon, Mars and beyond (b) search for life beyond our planet. After finishing my studies I see myself as a Space Systems Engineer in one of the global space agencies.
You were leading Team Astral at UPES when it won the prestigious CANSAT competition in 2017. What did you learn about the domain and about yourself as a Team Lead?
The CanSat competition, organised by NASA Goddard and AAS, gives students a satisfaction of being involved with the end-to-end life cycle of a complex engineering project, from conceptual design, through integration and test, actual operation of the system and concluding with a post-mission summary and debrief, which is exactly what happens in a real life aerospace project. The competition is the ideal platform for students to test their engineering skills at an international level.
The competition taught me many great life lessons. Besides managing a multi-disciplinary team of 27 students, I also had to take care of my academics at UPES which enhanced my stress and time management capabilities. My problem-solving capabilities grew exponentially and after interaction with judges from NASA-JPL, I got to know about their way of approaching a real-life engineering problem.
The current COVID-19 crisis can be stressful for the students. How do you keep yourself motivated?
Whenever a rock comes impedes the flow of a river, the river doesn’t complain and start flowing backwards. The river bends right or left of the rock and sometimes even flows over the rock. This COVID-19 situation is that same rock in the river of our lives.
I start my day with exercise and meditation and I have been doing it for the past three years. It has helped me keep my thought process clear. We can utilize this time to step out of our comfort zones and learn the skills we have always wanted to, be it guitar or coding or painting. Listening to audiobooks is also a good way to enrich the mind and is highly recommended. Podcasts on YouTube, too, are great source of information. We should cherish these times that we have with our families because once this situation is resolved, we might never get this bonding time again.
After completing your graduation from UPES you are now pursuing your Masters in Germany. What advice do you have for students who want to follow a similar path?
For students who want to pursue Masters in Engineering, my greatest advice would be to go through the Engineering Mathematics course all over again. Gain sufficiency in one of the coding languages and also have at least an intermediate level in CAD and Simulation. For rest of the branches, figure out the basic key subject from the UG curriculum and revise that course again. Students can also utilize this time to look for bodies that can possibly finance their studies, thus lowering the financial burden on their parents.
But first and foremost, one should think about, where they want to be at the end of this decade and work their way backwards. One doesn’t always need a Master’s degree to achieve their goal. It all depends on their objectives, personally and professionally.
From Patna to Germany, you have come a long way. What keeps you going?
When I was growing up, I used to read biographies of APJ Abdul Kalam, Steve Jobs, Nicola Tesla, Newton, da Vinci and I still continue to read biographies and self-help books.
I have always worked backwards – I see the best possible end result and then plan my way towards it. Anything below the absolute best, I discard. I guess one can only achieve as much as one believes in, and I tend to put no limitations on what I can do. A lot of it comes from daily practice of meditation.
I consider myself lucky to have such supportive parents and mentors in the form of teachers at UPES. They continue to support me in all my endeavours.