A Passionate Prodigy : Abhijeet Behera

A Passionate Prodigy : Abhijeet Behera

Debasis Choudhury | Jun 19, 2017

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Abhijeet Behera, a student pursuing his B.Tech in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in our institute had recently been to SAE Congress which was held in Detroit, in the USA. In this candid chat with MM, Abhijeet speaks about the passion which has kept him going and also describes  his journey as he announced himself at the world stage by being the only undergraduate to be present in the conference. Some excerpts from the conversation:

MM: Where did you receive your schooling and how was your childhood?

AB: I did my schooling from four different schools. I was in DAV Paradeep until Class 8 and for 9th and 10th I shifted to DAV, Cuttack. For higher secondary studies I shifted to Bhubaneswar and opted for part of schooling DAV, Chandrasekharpur in 11th and DAV, Unit 8 for class 12. Until then, I had no goal set and used to think of a career in chess as it was my hobby. My father however always wanted me to pursue engineering and I went with my father’s words as he was more experienced regarding the which stream would be best suited for me.

MM: How has been your experience at NIT Rourkela?

AB: I was very happy with the decision of pursuing engineering. The first time I stepped into NIT, I was taken aback by its infrastructure. Also, I had got a seat in Mechanical Engineering in NIT Rourkela, which I had heard a lot about that it is one of the best places to pursue this particular stream in the whole country. I was very hopeful of doing something fruitful the day I landed here. I directly joined into Team FSAE without even joining the SAE club! I got to learn a lot from the word go from my super seniors as they had loads of experience in this field. I kept learning the basics of automobile building and in that process also made a very good rapport with my seniors. Instead of opting for internships in my first or second year, I decided to learn more about vehicle building from my ever reliable seniors which have come in very handy for me.

MM: What was the topic of your paper? What were it’s technicalities?

AB: The title reads as ‘ Experimental and Simulation studies on the instability of a two wheeler vehicle’. The paper was essentially about the instability caused in a two wheeler vehicle in particular due to various factors. My paper dealt with the performance optimization based on 14-15 variables which increase the stability of the vehicle. Previously, in such direction work had been done in the field of electronics but I focussed in the mechanical arena which made my paper unique.

My mentors were Prof. S. Murugan, and Prof. Suraj Kumar Behera, both from the department of Mechanical engineering. I had written the paper with the help of Prof. S. Murugan and Prof. Behera was the one who helped me in my presentation. Prof. Behera always motivated me to use the technical knowledge I got at FSAE in writing a paper which would benefit me and would set an example for my juniors to follow.

MM: How were you selected to represent the whole Indian student fraternity at SAE Congress?

AB: Every year, SAE invites paper submission for World Congress. First, one needs to submit the abstract, which they scrutinize and gauge for its innovativeness. If the abstract was to be selected for both, presentation and publication, it had to go through a more stringent procedure as compared to when one had to only present the paper. Fortunately enough, my abstract got selected and they asked me for the total manuscript. I did the experiments using the laboratories equipment in NIT itself and collaborated with the theoretical principles. I wrote a complete manuscript and sent it for evaluation. My manuscript was verified by 4 evaluators, out of which three gave 59,58 and 57 out of 60. One of the evaluators awarded 45 and asked me to improve upon my writing English. I did the needful corrections and sent the thesis back, which got selected owing to the fact that majority of the evaluators had selected it. I was invited to attend the conference. The general participation fee was around 35,000 INR but I didn’t have to pay a single penny as I was a member of SAE.

MM: How was your journey to SAE Congress which was held in Detroit in the United States of America this year?

AB: My journey spanned for 9 days including the days of travel. The conference was held from 4th April to 6th April. There were 8000 participants from all over the world. There are around 500 rooms in which individually presentations were being held. One needs to check the schedule for the presentations in the field they are interested in and go to that particular room. I had my presentation on 6th April, which was attended by many dignitaries such as the CEO of BMW, CEO of Ford and various professors. I had started giving my presentation at 10 AM when only 12-13 members were present, while after 10 minutes or so, there were around 55 members in the room which gave a big boost to my confidence. I presented my paper for 25 minutes, there was a slot of 15 minutes for Q & A, and finally, for another five minutes, I gleefully listened to what the crowd had to say. This was a violation of the rule, as only a total of 30 minutes is allotted, while mine spanned for 40 minutes.

The onlookers asked me a lot of questions to test my clarity in the concept. I think they thought that I was just bluffing, but as I had done the experiments I answered them fearlessly. The crowd seemed to be content with the answers I gave and I got a souvenir from Ford and DENSO, a leading automotive company which was also the title sponsor for the SAE world congress. My present profile picture on Facebook has been clicked by the BMW manager, who told me that he was doing so to remember me. The General Motors manager, also told me that they would like me to have in their company after graduation.  

I have been nominated for the Student Mayor award which is given to the youngest student presenter as I am the youngest to present the best paper at SAE World Congress’s history at the age of 20. If I am selected I will be awarded  an amount of $ 750 alongside a fully sponsored trip to the next SAE world congress.

MM: Who looked after the accommodation and food during your travel?

AB:NITRAA helped me out a lot in this regard. Dushyant Mishra ,Venkata Peri and Leo Paulose were the ones who initiated the support process for my trip.Hare Patnaik, Bhusan Satpathy , Jeevan Reddy ,Sandeep Dasverma and Bhaskar Murthy ,all being alumni of our institute ,took care of my accommodation and arranged my stay at different places. I was also invited to attend party and was also given present from their side ! I was very thankful to them for their help. Prof. Behera’s batch’s friend, Shivalik Prasad, who is also an alumni of our institute was the reason I was able to afford this trip. The alumni association provided me with a monetary assistance of 70,000 INR. He told me that:

We want to support you not only financially, but also morally. We are looking for students like you who can represent the institute by doing some extra ordinary work. We will support them at any cost and we want to start with you.

The NITRAA group paid for the rest of the expenses and this is how I didn’t suffer from any financial problem, which I thought would be a major roadblock in my voyage for this conference.

MM: How did you interact with all the distinguished personalities present at this prestigious conference?

AB: I had never attended a conference previously in my life. It was the alumni present over there who told how to go about it, how to present oneself, whom to consult. When I landed there, the alumni network was very kind in making arrangements for me and making sure I had somebody to fall back to every place I went. I met professors from MIT, Harvard, University of Michigan and the University of Stuttgart. I got internship offer from the professors at MIT and the University of Stuttgart. In addition, I was given the offer of directly enrolling in the M.S. course at a reduced price. I also visited the prestigious universities which were an experience of a lifetime. A professor from Germany had asked me to directly enroll without giving any examination and also offered me an internship. However, because of our institute rules which don’t allow individuals for an internship more than 3 months, I couldn’t go as it was of 6 months.

MM: How crucial was the knowledge you garnered by being a part of Team Roadrunner in publishing the paper?

AB: I had 5 mentors in from our team. Debendra Pradhan, N. Mithun Babu, Basirr Khan, Surajit Barad and Manabendra Rout. I came into the team because of these persons and they made me learn everything from scratch as I knew nothing when I entered the club. Now, owing to the guidance I have good expertise in around 12 software. These persons were the pillars who gave me a lot of technical knowledge and also helped me out a lot.   

MM: Are you planning to pen down some more papers?

AB: At the moment I am writing two papers. I am writing one and the other one is under review. The first one is related to steering and the other one is my final year project, and I am focussing on anodizing. The research at FSAE is going at full pace as well and I am getting to learn a lot.

MM: What do you think of the present laboratory facilities at NITR?

AB: To be honest, while comparing the research facilities at the universities in the US and the ones at India, I would say the former is at least three times ahead of the latter in terms of having state-of-the-art facilities. For example, in the case of an IC engine lab, in our country we have differentials, gasifiers, alongside outdated IC engines while over there, only sophisticated IC engines are found. Also, the number of research facilities are less. In Oakland University, which has a better global ranking than our insitute, and when I visited the worksite of their FSAE team, they had a room as big as our welding shop with all the required equipment for making a vehicle, while we aren’t provided with such resources. They had different rooms for various clubs. Also, sophisticated equipment can only be handled by a select few, anytime and without any prior permission.

MM: How can a research enthusiast start from scratch?

AB: The innovative idea which one gets by observing simple things, i.e. the phenomenon of different processes, can also be researched upon. When one advances strides in this direction, they will find out loads of research paper in that area. One must always look out for the drawbacks and the future aspects in each paper. I followed this procedure and explored the facts which led to a solid base for my paper. Any budding research enthusiast can follow the same.

MM: What are your future plans?

AB: I do have many offers for higher courses from different universities alongside job opportunities. I have decided I will opt for an M.S. degree in the field of Automotive Engineering from a good university in Germany, France, and two three more countries. I want to come back and open an automotive school in India to increase its scope. I am in constant touch with the alumni in this regard and am seeking their help in going forward. I have learned that alumni are the most experienced persons who want to connect with us and help us try to innovate by not being recursive in approach.

MM: What is your message to the readers?

AB: I will just tell them what the alumni had told me,

There are three type of persons. The first category of persons have infinite amount of abilities but don’t have enough money to support their ideas. The second category of people are intelligent but aren’t that prompt towards doing anything innovative because of other obligations. The last ones are those who are doing research but aren’t having any support from the institute. We are calling upon all these category of students to do something substantial, in any part of the world, we could help them financially, morally or logistically.

I personally believe everyone needs to be research oriented so that our country can move forward. Alumni relations are really important, as maintaining a good rapport with them will definitely help in getting some really good advice alongside the support.

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