Giving leads to aspirational scholars

Dr. Monika Setia, Regional Officer, Fulbright India, United States-India Educational Foundation, visited SRM University, Andhra Pradesh for a talk on the fellowships offered by the foundation. This binational body is renowned for attracting the best minds and providing them the adequate infrastructure to bring out exemplary research results. The fellowships are equally funded by the foundation and the government of India under the flagship of Fulbright-Nehru fellowships for Indian citizens. Every year among hundreds of applicants, few scholars with exceptional acumen are sent to the United States to pursue research in collaboration with the US-based universities and institutes.

Dr. Monika speaks of the 4 primary activities of Fulbright, which is to administer, promote dialogue between participants, offer advice to aspirants, and establish links between the US and India. She emphasizes, “Looking beyond academic excellence, Fulbright fosters cultural exchange between the two nations. The culturally adaptable interdisciplinary researchers driven to contribute to the society, community, and nationality are curated by the selection panelists of Fulbright”.

The attendees of the session were given a heads up regarding several fellowship programs dedicated to master’s students, doctoral students, and post-doctoral scholars. The process of application, eligibility criteria, project timelines were thoroughly explained to the faculty and Ph.D. scholars of SRM AP, adhering to which will escalate their chance of being selected for the prestigious fellowship. The fellowship will give foreign exposure to the scholars, enable them to work with excellent infrastructure in the US, and use their research inferences to improve the society as a whole, across national boundaries.

Faculty members of SRM AP-Dr. Venkata Nori and Dr. Jayaprakash Panchagnula (Department of Mechanical Engineering) and Dr. Anirban Ghosh (Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering) invited the celebrated researcher Dr. Sumon Sinha to visit our campus and conduct a three-day workshop on “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Design for Low Altitude Weather Data Acquisition”. Dr. Sinha did his B.Tech (Hons.) in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur and his MS and Ph. D. from the University of Miami with specialization in Fluid Dynamics. After being associated as faculty in eminent institutes in the US including University of Mississippi, he delved into his business venture, Sinhatech in 2007 to provide innovative solutions to unresolved technical issues in Canada, USA, Japan, etc. Through his intuitive understanding of the subject, he developed and patented the Composite Flexible Surface Deturbulator to obtain higher controllability of drones in a high crosswind.

Dr. Sinha aims to offer solutions to certain fundamental problems in India through his expertise in aerodynamics. With his motivation to serve the country he has his roots attached to; he aims to build a team that would assist him to accomplish his dream project of using drones to gather weather reports on the sea surface at low altitude as well as general weather forecast data. “The sensors attached to the drone augmented with the deturbulator can gather critical data for accurate prediction of cyclones in the sea which the presently used Doppler Radar can only approximate”, says Dr. Sinha providing solutions to issues related to storm prediction. He further adds, “In India, weather stations use immensely expensive and non-reusable helium balloons embedded with sensors to capture data for general weather reports”. He intends to offer a cost-effective solution to these problems with reusable and less expensive drones.

On 3rd January, our faculty shortlisted a team of 15 enthusiastic students who worked on this assignment alongside Dr. Sinha. When asked what intrigued them regarding the workshop, N. Venkata Kishore Kumar Reddy (2nd year, ECE) says, “My father is in the Indian army which made me aspire to build a drone someday that can work as a spy for the army”.

 

The workshop began with a lecture by Dr. Sinha where the students got a glimpse of the engineering concepts behind building a drone which can go up to 120 feet to gather atmospheric data.

 

 

 

Later, he demonstrated the flight of the drone where the students got hands-on experience in controlling the device.

   

“I learned a lot about UAV from Dr. Sumon Sinha who is excellent in explaining the concept, he is also brilliant in flying RC objects. This knowledge will help us identify the various applications of the fixed wing plane-UAV in the future”, expresses M Raviteja (2nd year, ME).

The students were then divided into three groups and were assigned the task of building a drone each.

   

“The interactive sessions improved my knowledge on drones, air vehicles, and the basic aerodynamic science that works behind the flying objects” speaks Krishna Teja Vinnakota (1st year-CSE).  On the last day of the workshop, the teams managed to develop three drones, one of which was embedded with the sensors that accurately captured data on temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, altitude, latitude, longitude, and dynamic pressure. “After having experience with the basic technicalities of building the drones, it is on us to improve its functionality and make it more usable” conforms Kishore who has already made an Agri Drone which can throw seeds coated with fertilizers in farming lands from a height of 4.5 meters above the ground. Inspired and educated from the workshop, our students plan to build a quadcopter in their next venture.

20th September 2019: Dr. Samir V. Kamat, Director General, DRDO, New Delhi, delivered a University Distinguished Lecture on “Advanced Materials for future Defense Systems: A DRDO Perspective” for students, faculty members and research scholars. He began with a brief overview on the functioning of various DRDO labs around our country, activities and achievements in aeronautics, missile system, hypersonic, weapons, armour, naval and life support systems. He also spoke of current and future challenges inviting bright young minds at the university to take part in shaping the future.

As to advanced materials that DRDO looking for, Dr. Kamat spoke of high strength and self-healing composites, higher temperature and corrosion resistance materials for aeronautical & naval structures and light weight armour materials.

According to Dr. Kamat, advances in materials are fundamental enablers for defence system capabilities and to meet the needs of the sector. He pointed to new areas of focus such as computational materials & materials genome and additive manufacturing which he described as a future game changer in the field of materials.

Presentations were also delivered by faculty members, Dr. Sabyasachi Mukhopdaya, Dr. G. S. Vinod Kumar, Prof. Ranjit Thapa, who had presented their group works on Materials Science and Engineering, Computational materials and Centre for Materials Genome. Dr. Samir Kamat encouraged SRM-AP to move forward to establish in collaboration with DRDO a Centre for Additive Manufacturing and Centre for Materials Genome.

Dr. Samir V. Kamat received his B.Tech (Honours) in Metallurgical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 1985 and Ph.D from Ohio State University in 1988. He is currently the Director General, Naval Systems and Materials, Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). He has also served as a Scientist and Director at Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, Hyderabad where he worked on the development of various advanced materials for defence applications. He has published more than 185 papers in peer reviewed International Journals and has received several DRDO and National Level Awards. He is a Fellow of Indian Academy of Engineering (INAE) and Institution of Engineers, India (IEI)

Speaking on the subject of women’s empowerment and gender biases in all walks of life, Member of Parliament, Meenakshi Lekhi made it a point to explain how the notion applies not only to those who have succeeded in specialised careers like space research.

“Empowerment cannot be viewed from the narrow angle of haves and have nots. Women in power can also suffer from patriarchy. Empowerment means not having to depend on others, it is not linked to how one dresses or what one does for a living. It is about mental equality, knowing where you belong, how you express yourself, being self-assured, not letting external factors impede one’s growth and freedom.”

On the subject of government programs that empower women directly (as individuals and responsible for their families), Ms. Lekhi drew the distinction between programs like ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) and current programs like Ujjwala Yojana, Jan Dhan Yojna, Mudra Ayojana, and Awas Yojana where subsidies and financial assistance goes directly in the hands of women. “These programs demonstrate our trust in the capabilities of women to take care of themselves and their families. It is about helping the most vulnerable, providing help where it has not reached before.”

Ms. Lekhi is a Supreme Court of India lawyer. In July 2016, she was appointed as chairperson of the Committee on Privileges of the Lok Sabha in Parliament. She was awarded the “Best Debut Women Parliamentarian” award by Lokmat in 2017. She has led the debate on a wide variety of matters such as bails, trials, appeals, criminal writs, the Prevention of Corruption Act/Customs Act/FERA prosecutions, domestic violence and Family Law dispute. Lekhi has been a part of the Drafting Committees for Bills like “Women’s Reservation Bill” and “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill”. She also played an active role in the drafting of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 which provided for amending the existing laws related to sexual violence. She has been in the National Commission for Women’s (NCW) special Committee, and Chairperson of Special Task Force on Women Empowerment Association.