Transcending Beyond The International Horizons: Ankit Panda
NIT Rourkela since times long has held the torch of knowledge burning bright. There have been astounding students who have toiled hard and helped further this cause. One such exemplary who brought laurels to this premier institute is Ankit Panda. Blazing past the disincentives Ankit Panda, a fourth-year dual degree student hailing from the department of Electronics and Communication engineering had completed one of the most coveted and prestigious internships at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology under the guidance of Professor Ray Guang Cheng from the Department of Electronics and Computer Science. Interning in Taiwan for a span of two months he reinforced his knowledge in one of the fastest-growing and most sought after field of IoT(Internet of Things) intertwined with cyber-physical systems. Team MM had the opportunity of catching up with him and apperceive his journey encompassing all that he had experienced during his internship days.
Morning (MM): Walk us through your childhood days and how did it shape up your present?
Ankit Panda (AP): I was born in Berhampur, a city in the southern part of Odisha. My initial days of schooling were in D.A.V Public School, Berhampur. My father, being a professor in the field of electronics, in spite of doing his M.Sc in Physics, inspired me to be ambitious enough to acquire a degree in the field of electronics engineering. I have been pursuing that dream since then. I was also intrigued by photography and hence had a knack for it too. After my matriculation, I moved to Bhubaneswar and pursued my +2 in Mother’s Public School with simultaneous coaching from FIITJEE.In the tenure of these two years, I got to know more about physics, semiconductors and allied areas which further strengthened my passion for electronics.
MM: What role did NIT Rourkela play in your success?
AP: I got into the dual degree curriculum of NIT Rourkela with Electronics and Communication engineering. In the long run of events pursuing a B.Tech degree followed by an M.Tech degree is more time consuming than pursuing a dual degree. Hence I opted for the latter. I had a greater interest in Computer Science and Engineering but in the end, I settled for ECE as both the courses have several things in common. From there on, NIT Rourkela has been great for me. I was more of an introvert in my first year. I was more concerned about my studies. The highlight of the first year for me was scoring a C grade in Basic Electrical Engineering in spite of getting 6 marks in my mid-semester examination. This encouraged me and kept me going. Most of my second year was occupied with Monday Morning. I had a sumptuous team and I made some great friends there. I had greater exposure, all thanks to MM. My third year began with the uncertainty of grabbing an internship offer in the near future. Sweety Shukla, a friend of mine has been a source of constant support for me and has helped me walk past the hurdles and wear down the pressure in important phases of my life. Basically in NIT Rourkela, one needs to strive hard on his own to learn something new. With not much efforts from the faculties beyond their concerned subjects it completely depends on an individual regarding how he/she shapes up his/her career. There are several good professors in my department too who are very understanding and it yields good results to do projects under their guidance.MM: What was the application procedure for bagging the internship at the National Institute of Taiwan?
AP: This internship is administered through a program named TEEP Asia. The application procedures start in November. The student willing to apply for the program has to surf through several professors from different universities and send a mail with his/her CV and other necessities and wait for the response from the concerned professor. Initially, I didn’t have a clue regarding this internship. It was Sweety who helped me with it. She asked me to apply for it considering my interest in IoT(Internet of Things). I had not got a reply from the professor for 5 to 6 days. By then I had given up but in the end, he did reply. He enlightened me about the project and that’s how my journey began. Sweety’s help was inevitable throughout the entire process. One of the problems which the students encounter is that we have our semester ending in May while the foreign universities have their semesters ending in July. So joining as an intern from July helps find accommodation within the campus premises only to which the Indian students are generally not entitled to owing to the mismatch of exam schedules. Hence one needs to look after his/her accommodation. There are however several Facebook groups to help facilitate the students in these matters.
MM: What was your field of research as an intern in Taiwan?
AP: Taking into the broader aspect of things it was mostly IoT(Internet of Things).It dealt with incorporating the real world digitally. My project was aimed at designing a simulator for a water dispenser. I collected the requisite information and data from an actual simulator and I built my simulator which had to be a digital model of the water dispenser. I wrote a program and the concerned people were applying Machine Learning algorithms to predict the future outputs. Summing up it can be said that it was something called Cyber-Physical Systems.
MM: How was your experience in a foreign land like Taiwan?
AP: Taiwan was a cultural shock. Most of the inhabitants don’t speak English and hence, the language barrier was a major problem. Besides that, I enjoyed working there because they had flexible working hours which enabled me to work according to my whim and comfort. We were given a week to complete our allotted job. Every Friday we used to have a meeting where our progress was monitored. All that mattered at the end was whether the work assigned to me was complete or not. With me joining in May there were not many interns, to begin with. Despite that most of those who were present were from either Indonesia or the Philippines. I had cool M.Tech guides to help me throughout. However, the communication gap created some intrusions in the learning endeavour. The professors had efficient methods of teaching. Their curriculum of expressing knowledge was way too good. They explain all the things in a way that one can get a stronghold of the subject with ease. Regarding the internet speed within the campus, it was something that I was in awe with.
MM: Foreign internships largely involve a hefty financial investment. How did you manage the finances or was it funded?
AP: Luckily, my internship was funded except for the travel expenses. For accommodation and other expenses, they offered a really good stipend amount. Speaking of cost-effectiveness, it is similar to that of India, but certain goods were really expensive. Travelling different places was a great experience and convenient because Taiwan was well connected with metros. Taipei, New Taipei, and Hsinchu are the three major cities, where most of its population is concentrated and travelling in metros was cheap.
MM: You worked as an intern in the CDA DVS section in the BMW operations team at Valeo, Chennai. Can you please share some information regarding that.
AP: I interned at Valeo, after completing my 2nd year, back then I didn’t have an idea about which field I will be intrigued to work in. In the CDA DVS section, I was working with the BMW team and we were working on smart driving assistance. I primarily worked on operating systems and embedded systems. Working in Chennai was great but again a cultural shock(laughs), the language barrier was a major issue. As it was a corporate project in two months I couldn’t contribute much but it was a good learning curve, it developed my skill sets in OS and advanced C++.
MM: You have completed projects on Air quality monitoring, Real-time attendance, Health monitoring system, and Water quality monitoring. What is that thing that inspired you to work in these areas?
AP: I completed the Air quality monitoring project in the ISDR lab in the ECE Dept. itself and the Water quality monitoring and Real-time attendance project in the product development lab, both of them are related to IoT. Most of the projects I have made are concerned with IoT with the optimal use of machine learning.
MM: How important do you think internships are from the prospects of getting the desired placement?
AP: Internships are like the building blocks, that showcase you the practical applicability of the things you learn in college. It helps you decide your preferred domain of work and realize your goals. And also in terms of placements, having a good internship experience always gives you an edge over the others.
MM: After completing your degree at NIT Rourkela, what are your future prospects?
AP: I plan to go for Ph.D., but I want that to be a sort of corporate Ph.D. where I will be working for a company and the company will be sponsoring my program and after completion of my degree I could work in the same company. I want to go for higher studies but with my own financial means.
MM: You have had a glimpse of the academics and research process in both Indian and Foreign universities. What is the major difference you find between the two?
AP: The foreign universities are not as optimized as we are in the Indian universities. They, on the other hand, have an abundance of resources. The approach undertaken by students is also different in both the contexts, here we find students trying to get a research paper published by any means irrespective of its relevance and importance. But there they are more focused on developing a research project which will be of importance to the society and the field of science.
MM: On a concluding note, what message would you like to convey to the juniors regarding the identification of the field of interest, choosing between various carrier options and keeping up with the academics?
The essential thing is to explore the various domains available to you. If one thing doesn’t pique an interest in you, then you can always go for another one. From my 2nd year itself I started doing projects, I even tried image processing, but that didn’t interest me much so I started trying IOT. It's important to have self-belief and aspiration to achieve something big. Exploring things will take time, but will be beneficial in the long run, don’t leave a thing at stake without completing it. If you have undertaken a task, give your all and complete it.
Team MM congratulates him on his accomplishments and wishes him all the best for everything that his future has in store for him.