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Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
Divya Balakrishnan is a student of KIC InnoEnergy’s MSc ENTECH programme since September 2013. She tells us about the wind of change that the Winter School of the master programme brought into her life by getting her in touch with Alexander Suma and the Dutch wind energy start-up IBIS Power.
I come from a bustling and historical city in India – Hyderabad, where women in the mechanical engineering field are a rarity. I did my Mechanical Engineering at Osmania University. My city was instrumental in shaping my life and ideas: I have seen times with no water and ten hour power cuts daily, during most summers in my childhood, the only respite during scorching 40 degree Celsius plus days being a whiff of warm breeze. The heat not only burnt externally but also boiled me from within – enough to want to do something for places suffering from a shortage of one of the most basic necessities of life: energy. And so I became what I am: the energy enthusiast Divya Balakrishnan. This led me to take part in different energy-oriented efforts – one of which was a decentralised project wherein a wind turbine was handcrafted with wood for a farmer at a remote village in India – to run an irrigation pump.
What was your career path after graduation?
Having worked for over five years in the oil hydraulic industry, I decided to redirect my career into the energy sector by starting out with the basics. Since September 2013 I’ve been a student of KIC InnoEnergy’s MSc ENTECH programme. The KIC experience has been one of a kind. Sometimes it feels like a two-year vacation and then there are times when you have to work really hard and it gets you to realise that the course really isn’t a cake walk.
Please tell us about your at KIC?
I’m a student of the MSc ENTECH program of KIC Innoenergy – September 2013 intake. The KIC experience has been one of a kind. Sometimes it feels like a 2 year vacation and then there are times when you have to work really hard and it gets you to see that the course really isn’t a cake walk.
The winter school at Bernau – in the Schwartzwald (Germany) gave me a handful of opportunities. Apart from the many career and personality building activities at an absolutely breath-taking location, I had a chance to interact with Dr. Alexander Suma – the founder of IBIS Power BV, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Alexander gave us an insight into how he founded IBIS Power and I was quite impressed with the talk. I decided to contact him and volunteer to work with IBIS through the break between the first and second semesters of the Masters program. To my pleasant surprise, Alexander welcomed me to work with them.
IBIS Power being a wind energy start-up, has a young and energetic team, comprising mainly of student interns. However, I sensed the easy-going attitude was well balanced with a responsibility to kick-start the pilot. My work revolved around supporting a colleague in the design of the “Vertical axis wind turbine” (VAWT) for the Integrated Roof Wind Energy System (IRWES). Since VAWTs are not very commonly used, we researched many papers and communicated with a few universities regarding the technical specifications and constraints to be integrated. I had access to a lot of information which eventually proved very helpful during my second semester course of Offshore wind energy (at IST, Lisboa). On returning to Lisboa, we kept up the Skype conversations and in a few weeks, concluded the best suited option for the pilot at Heijmanns (also in The Netherlands). The pilot is scheduled to be tested in November 2014 and we are looking forward to the breakthrough of this cutting-edge technology.
I was also given the opportunity to represent IBIS Power at the Integrated Systems Europe exhibition held in Amsterdam on the 6th Feb 2014. This was my first experience at an industrial exhibition in Europe – which was very enriching. Then of course, I got to enjoy the remaining day in lovely Amsterdam with such good company from my IBIS colleagues.
So how would I sum up this experience?
- It gave me an opportunity to experience a work atmosphere in a new continent, with interaction with people from different cultural backgrounds.
- I visited so many places in the Netherlands (over the weekends) – Rotterdam, Maastricht, Haringvliet, Amsterdam with its brilliant museums!
- Most importantly, I was part of a team that is creating this cutting-edge renewable energy based technology. And for this I am highly obliged.
My heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Claudia Depenthal (KIC Innoenergy) for enabling this through the summer school. Of course, Dr. Alexander Suma and the IBIS team were so encouraging and welcoming that today I feel a part of the team. I appreciate their support from the bottom of my heart. This will be one experience I’ll treasure for a long time ahead.