Please tell us about yourself

Considered as a legend in the field of automobiles, the tall and lanky Nallana Mithun Babu, a final year student of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is not one of the most recognisable faces in the institute. He has worked relentlessly, both as a member and the captain of Team Roadrunner (The Formula Student Team of NIT Rourkela), sometimes even spending days at the Central Workshop. Team MM finally got a chance to interview this very amicable and down-to-earth personality, to know the reason behind his passion for automobiles and robotics.

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MM: Tell us about your life before NITR. Any childhood memories you cherish?

MITHUN: I hail from Andhra Pradesh and completed my schooling till class 8th at my native place after which I moved to Guntur where I was introduced to the hostel life. I used to be quite reserved and hardly interacted with anyone. It was in college that I made friends. I used to spend most of the time in the Chemistry lab or with my books and play football. I had a habit of breaking open household devices and knowing about how things work. My elder brothers were engineers and seeing my interest, they advised me to take up engineering as a career.

MM: How did NITR happen to you?  You were interested electronics; so why did you choose mechanical engineering?

MITHUN: I qualified IIT-JEE with a rank of 9000 and AIEEE with 7000. However, I didn’t get my preferred branch in the IITs and hence chose to pursue engineering in a NIT. My basic interest lies in robotics and automation. Hence, I decided to complete my graduation in mechanical engineering while also learning skills like programming after which I would shift to robotics. Hence, I only filled mechanical engineering as my choice and got NITR.

MM: Before being a part of Team Roadrunner, were you a part of any other club?

MITHUN: When I came in 1st year, I liked the way Cyborg used to conduct classes to teach students about the basics of robotics unlike others who only took the skilled ones. Honestly, I didn’t know the basics of coding before coming to NITR.  I did attend those and learned a lot. I was also a part of axiom but hardly did anything significant. I tried to learn badminton in my 1st year and sometimes used to play overnight learning new shots.

MM: When and why did you become a part of Team Roadrunner.  How has the experience changed you both personally and professionally?

MITHUN: During my second year, I came to know that there are teams like Team Roadrunner and Black Mamba Racing which actually design and fabricate automobiles and doing anything practically always attracts me. I tried for both and finally was inducted into Team Roadrunner in my 3rd semester.  And, this is the best thing that has happened to me at NITR. After second year, I spent most of my time at the workshop. Before joining, the idea was that it’s an uphill task to fabricate a car however later on, I realised that the most important task was to manage the team. On a personal front, I became less active on social networking sites and also learnt Hindi, thanks to my teammates.

MM: We came to know that you were offered an internship during FSAE-SUPRA 2013 by Volkswagen. What was the offer about?

MITHUN: A person from Volkswagen leading some external racing team liked my idea of a Real Time Data Acquisition Android App. Hence, he offered me an internship at a French university and asked me to work in the control systems. However, he mistook me to be in 4th year. On coming to know that I was in my second year, he asked me to contact later. Though I’ve developed my practical knowledge in automobile, I’ve interest in robotics and hence didn’t contact him.

MM: You have a knack of learning new things and have been an essential member of the technical team. Being a captain, how did your role change?

MITHUN: Before being the captain, I used to be the head of the electronics department. I used to make sure that there won’t be any problem in the electronics subsystem. However, later on the role changed significantly. Now the priority shifted from one subsystem to make a car with added performance. Few of my friends like Basir used to say that students from private universities like VIT and SRM make way better cars than us even though we have performed better than them in AIEEE. This struck my mind and so we started to plan things and do accordingly. We greatly worked on weight reduction and reduced it to 230 kg from 350 kg last year.

MM: What are your future plans?

MITHUN: I had a discussion with my parents and at present, am looking forward to do a job with less work load and use the money for my foreign education. In the upcoming two years, I intend to acquire knowledge in the field of robotics because I hardly know anything and simultaneously prepare for GRE. I’m interested in the start-up culture, the idea of assigning tasks to small groups and leading them to create something. However, I lack management skills as I’ve never been to any organisation. I’m interested to know how big companies like Google and Apple actually work and then use the experience to create something.

MM: What are your expectations from the upcoming teams of Roadrunner and especially the captains?

MITHUN: I know that the basic priority of the team would remain the same thing of fabricating a vehicle while focussing on weight reduction and better performance. The happiness to make or design a part on our own is something unparalleled. This is what I want every team member to experience. Also, the members should make sure that being in the team they learn a few things, improve upon them and pass on the same to the future members. They should not only focus on improving their CV rather their skills. I want the team to participate in global events and show what India and NITR is capable of.

MM: Any message to the readers?

MITHUN: Hard work and practice: these are the two things which would make you successful in life. Things don’t happen in a day. You must first start, work for few days and should take the responsibility for completing it as desired.