Even after being a diligent student from a premier engineering institute of India, I was mentally frustrated. I approached professors for an undergraduate research project so that I could take the first step towards my dream of becoming a Professor, but ut all my efforts went in vain. I had no work and started doubting myself. Just when I was on the verge of giving up, a Facebook message popped up on my computer screen. “Are you the ECE topper? Would you like to apply for a scholarship?” the message was sent by Sayan Sarkar, my senior at college. His next question was regarding the number of projects I had undertaken. Now, this was my weak point. Our conversation continued, with me telling him all about my joblessness and failures. He offered to have a look at my CV and guide me. He pointed out how I had been using the wrong approach all along. Though at that time I was preparing for my semester exams, my thirst for work pushed me to take his advice and work on my CV the same night.
Meanwhile, Sayan got an invitation for Kalpana 2016, a nationwide innovation and fabrication competition organized by Tata Centre for Technology and Design (TCTD). He urged me to submit my entry for the same. I, along with two of my college friends, started working for the competition. For the first round, we worked on an “easily rechargeable advanced digital Sphygmomanometer”, a solution for heart-attack related deaths due to abnormal blood-pressure. While our semester was still on, the results were declared. We had qualified among the top 200 teams for the second round. We started working on the idea during our summer break. While working together, Anish (my partner) and I identified a probable healthcare problem in the coming 10 years and provided a futuristic approach to support the existing healthcare system by designing a multipurpose health parameter monitoring chair with an e-diagnostic feature within a medical booth with or without movable feature using wearable electronics based on various biopotential signals. Without any hope to qualify among the top 10 teams for the final round, we submitted our idea.
A couple of days later, I got the good news that we were selected among the top 10 teams. We were invited to IIT Bombay to present our detailed idea (business & technical) in the third and final round. During the same time, one of my teammates backed out due to certain unforeseeable circumstances. Finally, it was only Anish and I who headed to Bombay for a week. I’ll always cherish the memories of staying up all night to prepare for this. With the excitement of travelling to an unknown place for the first time, we left for IIT Bombay.
My conscious mind feared how it was not possible to win a national level contest. My fear was proved correct when we were provided with a canvas for portraying our idea, instead of an art paper which we had earlier predicted. With no prior experience of handling a canvas and acrylic colours, we got to work. We worked in an efficient manner making all calculations about the symmetry of our poster. After working for 15 hours straight, we completed the poster at 1:30 am! I still wasn’t satisfied. We had our presentation the next day. Surprisingly, our presentation was flawless. We tackled every question with poise, leaving the judges impressed with our proposals. The rest is history. My team’s solution to the problem was judged ‘Runners Up’ and we were awarded a cash prize of INR 25000. Since then, some top companies like ”Angel Investors” have shown interest in our idea. Everything seemed to fall into place. All sleepless nights seemed worthy. Though we went to Bombay with a purpose, we still managed to discover the city. From Marine Drive and Gateway of India to Bandra and Hiranandani – we visited every tourist attraction! I returned home with endless memories etched in my “Bombay Diaries”.
By the end of the second year itself, I had an undergraduate research experience. I also had an accepted start-up idea on a national platform, which further helped me to grab internship opportunities in some top angel firms of the country. My advice for all the future interns would be to stay focused and keep the fundamentals clear. Dream to plan, plan to work, and work to enjoy.
Author of the article: Renata Saha