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Formula Bharat is an engineering design competition in which students from colleges and universities all over the country, compete with a life-size Formula-style vehicle in areas of engineering design, overall cost, marketability and dynamic performance. The series replicates the global student Formula series hosted in around 11 countries per year.
The purpose of this competition is to encourage students to gain hands-on practical experience, while applying engineering theories studied in the classroom. In addition, students learn the art of management and teamwork, which are essential skills required in the ‘real-world’. These student teams are required to build a new vehicle from scratch year-after-year and seek sponsorship and donations by their own means to fund the project.
Many thanks for agreeing to speak to do this interview. To start things off, could you first tell me a little bit about your current job role and what you are responsible for?
Hi I’m Mahek, I am the Vehicle Engineering Lead at Ather Energy. Ather Energy is a connected vehicle start up that is currently working on bringing its first product, the s340 to market.
I handle the structure, dynamics, integration, component validation and component testing at Ather. It’s like Formula Student all over again but this time going all the way to production!
Could you describe your background, qualification and how you got involved in Formula Student?
I was born in a family of doctors, however I chose to pursue engineering straight after 10th standard. I did random things like web development, coding competitions and building bots that never worked, until I discovered Formula SAE in my second year. I was a member of the team that built the first Formula SAE vehicle as IIT Bombay racing in 2008. I went on to be involved in 1 more Formula Student and 2 Baja competitions as a participant, while I completed Dual Degree program.
Formula Student has since been a part of my life since. I volunteered at Formula Student UK in 2010, volunteered to scrub tyres at a race team at Brands Hatch every weekend for 3 months the same year. Back in India I was involved with many teams personally to help set a Formula Student program up at their Universities and at the same time through my then employer, Altair Engineering, did multiple training programs for Formula Student and Baja competitions all over India.
I quickly realized that a much better way to pass on the knowledge and thrill of Formula Student to budding engineers in India is not though classroom training but through an actual competition. Since then I have been committed to bring the Formula Student Experience to India, this year it is manifested as Formula Bharat. It’s going to be great!
Applying for jobs after graduation can be a frustrating activity; what was your experience post-graduation?
It was annoying and anxiety inducing that the first 3 days at the IIT Bombay placements did not have a single tech company from a Mechanical / Automotive industry. I got placed into the first company that came on day 4. However, at that time opportunity came knocking at the door, a judge I met at Formula Student UK a year ago, got in touch with me in with respect to an opportunity to work on a Vehicle Dynamics software development. I grasped this opportunity with both hands.
The Formula Student energy was rekindled when I met the founders of Ather Energy, [again though the Formula Student circles]. When Ather moved the Bangalore, I finally had a chance to actually build my own vehicle.
Why do you think a competition as offbeat and unconventional like Formula Bharat is important in India?
Because Formula Student competitions are a great place to breed engineering talent. In the past teams have had to spend of the order of 70-80% of their budget to ship the car and team to a competition abroad. This not only limits the budget allocated to actually develop the car and the tech but also limits the number of teams in India that can actually find the funds to compete. Formula Bharat brings that quality of judges, scrutineers and volunteers in India to make the competition happen in India. The Indian industry and the Educational system is poised to benefit from a world class competition like Formula Bharat.
What scrutineering tips would you give to teams in the run up to the event?
1. Read the rule book. Once you are done reading it, read it again.
2. Don’t spend time finishing or prepping the car at the competition site, come with a complete and ready car.
3. Responding and working on the SES and the picture submission comments are a great way to spend less time at technical inspection, and more time on track.
4. The technical inspection will not wait for you, if you show up late, you will be at the back of a really long queue.
Are you still in touch with any of your team mates?
Yes, of course. We have a WhatsApp group, where we don’t send each other forwards 🙂