Automotive Interiors have always been associated with functional and aesthetic value. But looking at it in another way, automotive interiors also form a protective barrier for passengers against potential accidents and road hazards !

Rohit Chavan, our next pathbreaker, CAE Analyst at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, performs crash and impact simulation on automotive interiors, such as head impact simulation, to ensure the safety of the passengers in a car in the worst case scenario.

Rohit talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his first brush with CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) simulation through the experience of building an actual formula-one prototype car for a national engineering event, SUPRA SAE INDIA organized by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).

For students, if you want to pursue a career related to automobiles, learn by doing instead of just reading, because real projects offer you a window into your dream career !

Rohit, tell us about your background?

I grew up in a middle class family in Pune, Maharashtra. My father owns an Embroidery shop and my mother is a homemaker. I also have an elder brother who is a commerce graduate and works in ADP. 

Ever since I was a kid, I loved playing with cars. The most interesting part in a toy for me was to disassemble it and explore how it worked. Maybe this was the point where I had developed an interest in mechanical stuff. I remember modifying our toy cars with my elder brother which was fun. I was an average student in school, scoring 60-70%. But due to my interest I chose to do engineering in mechanical

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I completed Bachelor’s of Engineering in Mechanical from D.Y. Patil College of Engineering, Akurdi, Pune. I then did my Masters of Technology in Mechanical Design from Walchand college of Engineering, Sangli.

What prompted you to choose such an offbeat, unconventional and rare career?

While I was in the second year of Engineering, I came across a national engineering event known as SUPRA SAE INDIA organized by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). It was a competition between college teams from all over India which required each team to build an actual formula-one prototype car and compete on a race track. Well, since it was the first time our college was participating in the event, i I joined the team and worked day and night to build a vehicle. Since it was our first time and our team had no prior experience, we failed miserably. The car was not up to the mark to qualify for the race. After the failure, as expected, all the team members decided to quit, but 5 of us (Me+ 4 others) among the 25 team members decided to give it another shot next year. We worked even harder to build a team the following year and made the car which we had imagined. In 2015, we participated and achieved an AIR rank of 9th. It was a moment of pride for me. In this whole process I developed a lot of self-confidence that was needed to achieve what we desire. 

Image of our car and me(driver) from the event. 

While working on this vehicle, I got to learn a lot of new things which I think probably cannot be learnt by just studying the subjects. This is where I worked on CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) simulation, the profile I am currently working on. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

After completion of my B.E, I decided to pursue a career in the Automotive domain, and CAE was my field of interest. But before finding a job, I felt the need to improve my technical skills. So I decided to pursue a Masters Degree. I prepared for the GATE entrance test which is required for M.Tech. I got admission to Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli, Maharashtra for M.Tech in Mechanical Design. This is the place where I got to polish my technical skills.

As a part of my Masters Thesis I searched for an industrial internship. Due to my previous work and some contacts I had, I got a chance to work as a Research Intern at Composite Research Center, DRDO R&DE(E), Pune. I worked under a senior DRDO scientist. I got to learn a lot about research methodologies and obtained in-depth knowledge about my domain. I worked on structural simulation for strength of composite structures.

I feel that going for post graduation is always beneficial if you are willing to improve on your technical knowledge.  

How did you get your first break? 

After my post graduation, I wasn’t lucky enough to get a campus placement. One of the reasons was my 12th class marks (58%) which was one of the criteria (60% and above) to appear for campus placement. I think students should focus on their marks as well, along with gaining the knowledge, which is of course, the first priority.

After a long job search I got a call from Ctrine Engineering Pvt Ltd after they viewed my profile on Linkedin. Building contacts is the key if you are trying to search for a job off campus.

Ctrine, as a company, offers design services from concept ideation to product development which also include CAE simulation services like crash, static and durability. I joined as a PGET (Post Graduate Engineering Trainee) at Ctrine. I worked on multiple electric vehicle development projects. It included design and development of Bus chassis with structural CAE simulations. During my journey from PGET to Sr. Engineer at Ctrine, I acquired a lot of skills, especifically in field of CAE in multiple domains such as Static, Non-Linear Quasi-static, Explicit and Implicit Dynamic analysis, and Topology optimization. Next, I was deputed to Yanfeng Automotive Interiors from Ctrine as there was a requirement for an onsite engineer.

I believe one should always keep grooming their knowledge. Learning should be a never ending process.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: 

GATE Examination: A lot of preparation and dedication is required to clear this examination. 

Challenge 2: 

Placement: In the current scenario, the mechanical job market is very saturated. Unless you stand out from the regular crowd, it becomes very difficult to get a job.

Where do you work now? Tell us about your role

I work as a CAE Analyst at Yanfeng Automotive Interior. My role is to perform crash and impact simulation on automotive interiors, such as head impact simulation on the instrument panel of cars. We check for the safety of the passengers in a car in the worst case scenario. It is a computer oriented simulation to check the design before actual testing. It includes modelling the car in a computer software with the exact material and other data to replicate realistic behaviour.

This job requires excellent theoretical knowledge of engineering topics such as Finite Element Method(FEM), Strength of Materials, Mechanics.etc 

I enjoy creating an actual phenomenon such as a vehicle crash in a computer simulation and improving design for better safety of passengers.

How does your work benefit the society? 

In today’s fast growing and tech centric world, the automobile industry is moving even faster. But, higher the speed is, higher are the safety concerns of the passengers. We ensure the safety of the passenger if the vehicle is involved in a crash. 

I remember when someone asked me what the function of the brakes was. The answer was, it allows the driver to drive at high speed. Same goes with the safe design of the vehicle

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I believe every work I do is memorable. But the closest to my heart is the vehicle we had prepared for the SUPRA competition during my undergraduation.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

My advice to students is, while focusing on academics, try to be involved in as many actual projects or events as you can, such as Robotics, SUPRA, BAJA, etc. It will teach you the actual challenges you will face while you work in the industry. It also shoots up your confidence.

Future Plans?

Since I am a motorsport enthusiast, I am willing to work for actual Formula 1 team.