Do you aspire to apply the knowledge you gain in class to real-world projects? Joining an engineering project team could be the perfect opportunity to enhance your technical skills! Let’s hear from Kaustav about his experiences in the AeroNUS ✈️ team!
❓ Please give a short introduction and share a fun fact about yourself!
✏️ Hi, I'm Kaustav Mukherjee, a year 3 mechanical engineering student. I'm also taking the iDP as my second major, and am currently a part of NOC Silicon Valley batch 43. Fun Fact: My favourite food is mala xiang guo :)
❓ What inspired you to join AeroNUS?
✏️ I've been interested in aeronautics for a long time and entered NUS with the aeronautics specialization. When I saw that there was an Aero team that was recruiting, I decided to join, as I didn't have any large plans for my year 2 and felt like it would be a good experience.
❓ What was your main role in the team?
✏️ Initially, I began by working on the wings for our very first training plane. I was good at Solidworks already and I wanted to explore more about aerodynamics, so I felt like that would be a good way to learn more. Eventually, I stepped up to work on the tail, do the parametric sizing and optimization for the competition plane, and even design the fuselage, so I ended up kind of becoming the chief engineer. It was a lot of work trying to lead the time while having to learn everything myself (I was still year 2 at the time), but it gave me the opportunity to really experience designing and manufacturing an entire system in a team setting.
❓ Share about your experiences in AeroNUS! What was your most memorable moment while working on the project?
✏️ The main thing I seem to remember is the monumental effort put in by the entire team throughout the year. The payload team made 7 prototypes for their system in 2 months, moving from foam to wood to carbon fiber infused PLA for the final system. The landing gear kept having to be tuned and fixed after every flight test because we couldn't get it right initially, and the landing gear team pulled through all the way to the end. I think the highlight would have to be our US trip, where we fixed the entire plane overnight after a crash. We always wanted to design it to be easier to repair, especially after our first prototype was a pain to build in the first place, and it felt gratifying to have achieved that goal by the end.
❓ How did you feel when the team won the 14th place in the AAIA Design, Build, Fly (DBF) Competition last year? Was it a tough journey for the team?
✏️ We actually won 14th place only for the report score. The scoring is done in 2 parts: the report, and the flight. When we found out we got 14th for the report, we were extremely surprised as we basically did everything from scratch and managed to beat out 95 other teams, many of whom had more consistent and larger teams over the past year. The best part was the look of shock on our supervisor's face - I think he was impressed as well :)
✏️ Unfortunately, our plane crashed out of bounds during one of our flights in the competition, and that disqualified us from flying again for that year. The winds were unbelievably bad, especially compared to Singapore where there is practically no wind, and our testing and designing were insufficient to counter those winds. Our plane was impossible to control in those conditions.
✏️ It felt quite horrible knowing that we weren't able to get a flight score after what is probably over 10,000 hours of work from the team over the course of the year. However, we didn't feel like one crash marked the end of the journey for what is still a fledgling team compared to our competitors and some of the other, more established teams in NUS. We spent the next 6 months after the competition hosting a bootcamp and training and mentoring the new team, who I would like to say are absolutely excellent, and were able to achieve a tied 1st place result for their proposal! I hope that the legacy we set through our efforts and our mentorship will continue throughout the future teams and we can achieve better and better results.
❓ What would you like to say to students considering joining AeroNUS?
✏️ If you're interested in aeronautics, AeroNUS is the best opportunity for you to learn and experience what it's like to build flying systems. This experience is extremely valuable - we've got alumni interning at Airbus, DSO, DSTA, ST Engineering, Pratt and Whitney, and more. I got into NOC mostly by talking about my experience in AeroNUS as well!
✏️ Now that I'm somehow nearly done with university, I realize more and more that these short 4 years are fleeting. You'll meet a lot of people and leave them behind a year later, and you'll sit in lectures and tutorials and forget about it all. University can be extremely mundane, and you have to find ways to make it exciting. For me, the year I spent in AeroNUS was one of the most memorable of my life, and I made friends that I still talk to regularly. It's not the classes nor the certificates, but experiences like AeroNUS that make university worth it, and can enrich your university journey as much as it did mine.