Hey, It’s a new day and we're here with a new club, let’s get to know more about them.
This team goes by the name VOLANTE and was created by a group of students from MSRIT in 2016. Since then the club has participated in many competitions and have bagged ranks that prove the quality of their work and heart they put into their projects. Currently, there are 25 members who work for the success of the club.
The main event for the members at Volante is the e-BAJA SAEINDIA intercollegiate design competition. This event was a new initiative introduced in 2014 on the counsel of former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, the motive of this event is to promote eco-friendly automobiles. By automobiles, I mean, tough and rugged all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) that run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The event consists of a series of categories that put these ATV's to the test and the performance of these ATV's are assessed and graded. The whole premise of this event is to create a sustainable automobile industry while keeping all that adrenaline pumping elements intact and Volante is doing a great job at it.
Along with the cool name they have a list of achievements to back their club, 12th rank overall in e-BAJA SAEINDIA virtual 2019, 19th rank overall in e-BAJA SAEINDIA main event 2019 and they also won best acceleration award in the event champion of champions organized by ISIE India 2020. We'll be talking more about their achievements in the interview below.
The members of the club are very ambitious and they back it by their statistics, they aim to venture into the off-road vehicle industry with their project and subsequently shine a light on the potential of electric off-terrain vehicles.
Volante as a club show a lot of grit and determination towards their craft which clearly reflects, it's going to be interesting to see what this club can do in future events.
| INTERVIEW with Preetham and DEVI |
How was the club started and by whom? What was the initial aim of the club?
[Preetham] Basically the club was started by 3 automobile enthusiasts, 2 from the first year and one from the third year. They had a long-term goal to participate in BAJA but they didn’t want to directly enter BAJA with no experience and so they planned to compete in go-kart events first. They entered the National Karting Championship, so our seniors started working for it with a group of 25 members.
[Devi] So, the plan they had was, by the time they reach their 4th year they wanted to do a national level competition and since they didn’t want to directly head into that, they took a slower approach by learning the small things as they generate momentum as well as some income. The initial process itself took some time; it took us close to 3 years to compete in BAJA.
At first, they didn’t plan to do electric, they just wanted to do BAJA but after the first competition they ended up going in a different route, they went on to do a solar vehicle and actually that’s where they picked up the electric idea so that’s kind of how we moved into the EV competition.
[Preetham] Actually it was a gradual process, they started with solar and IC but as you know that IC is not going to be prominent in the future as everyone is moving towards electric. So, then the captain and vice-captain focused on EV's, but the long-term plan was always BAJA. E-BAJA started in the year 2016 and since it was new, we opted to go ahead with that.
How did the college react to the plan and what did your college mates think about it?
[Preetham] So as we all know at the starting the college will always oppose but since this time it was an SAE event, they supported us, not financially only with motivation. The faculty advisors did all the procedures so that we will be able to take part in the competition and the college gave us a lot of technical support which was really helpful
[Devi] So the monetary support was - let’s say zero itself for our initial projects, then after seeing how we were doing in the competition and observing our success rate and other aspects, little monetary support started picking up, again not much but it was helpful.
As for the reaction, it was normal because usually for any new idea there is initial resistance. Usually what happens is when a new club is started by the students, they push on for around 6 months and during the course of that time they participate in 1 or 2 competitions; once the team members reach their final year the club disintegrates. So, this initial resistance was there from the beginning but since we were consistent with our performance and club work, we started receiving attention from the college. In conclusion, I can say that we are receiving support from our college but it can be better.
What were the challenges the club had to overcome?
[Preetham] The main challenge that we faced was regarding money only, getting funds and finding sponsors for our projects is damn tough. The captain actually helped us a lot with funds, I would like to thank him for that, together the club members pooled in money and brought up a few contacts. Some contacts were given to us by the college and that was very helpful, also we received sponsors through the help of our college and for that we would like to thank them.
[Devi] I definitely agree that money is one of the challenges that we faced a lot, the other thing is that every year we start from scratch since we are always venturing into new competitions and each time we start a project it is upon us to learn these new things, so however good the resources are - like the YouTube videos and the journals, when it comes to practical application it’s a little tough to figure out everything and especially in our 3rd or 4th year of college, that is one of the challenges that we face.
The idea on which your club is currently working on is quite a hot topic in the automobile industry, what are your views on electric cars and the probability of it taking over the conventional engines?
[Devi] The thing is that we are very sure electric is definitely going to be the future and whatever technology that we have seen in the past 10 to 15 years is just the tip of the iceberg and there is a lot more to be explored and probably in the next 10 years, we will be seeing the real change. One sure thing is that until now electric cars were known to be boring and slow like there were many complaints that it used to run out of battery and it has very low range but now I think all these stereotypes have been broken with companies like Tesla coming out with their EV’s. These latest technologies have been made accessible to the common man, for example, a person with some basic mechanical knowledge and equipped with the right tools can convert his petrol or diesel car into an electric vehicle.
I feel the main point will be the introduction of electric vehicles into motorsport, I guess this is going to bring the bigger change as all these new innovations and tech is usually done in motorsport and when this is picking up pace, in no time we’ll have more electric cars with good speed, mileage and overall better performance.
[Preetham] If you consider our genre that is electric off-roading, it’s only India, nowhere else do they do this; in this case, we ourselves are the competitors in the future to other off-roading companies and this motivates us to work hard.
What are your past achievements?
[Preetham] Yes, talking about our past achievements as I said before, the National Karting Championship was our first competition which we came 3rd in. Our second competition was the India Solar Championship in which we performed exceptionally well by ranking 7th overall in the competition, one funny memory from that experience was that we made our car without the suspension and still managed to get runner up in the mud trail event. In the go-kart event we placed 12th in the virtual round, we designed and fabricated an electric car as well as an IC car for that competition, unfortunately our IC car did not perform well but our electric car was placed 3rd overall in India. Coming to BAJA which we did in 2020, we were ranked 19th overall and we also did a similar competition called ‘Champion of Champions’ in which we came first in the acceleration event. We are not yet satisfied with our achievements but we will work till we put ourselves on top of the list.
How does the current situation (lockdown due to the pandemic) affect the club and how do you plan to overcome it?
[Preetham] To be frank, this lockdown has benefitted the club, individually it is a loss for the fourth years as they can’t be there to see the final product in 2020 but as a team, if you see, we have 2 years to design and fabricate and give our best, so with this time we can put out a really good result. We were actually halfway through our design process for 2020 but due to all the unfortunate events from the pandemic, we weren’t able to go forward but this has given us enough time to put in work.
[Devi] Adding on that the main effect is that all the competitions were dynamic events and due to the situation, all of that has gone virtual now and basically all the fun we used to have in the lab along with the things we used to learn while building the car is now stopped.
We run the simulations based on the virtual designs we make, so the progress is pretty good as we are working from home. We divide the work amongst ourselves and later compile it together to get the final product, I think this is a pretty good solution that we have come up with but in the long run, this will not help us as we need practical knowledge and I think it’s a must to be able to participate in any competition, plus the face to face interaction in the club is vital for the functioning rather than the virtual meet.
Do you see the focus of your club changing in the future? Maybe towards hybrid or even IC engines?
[Devi] Rather than hybrid I think the next big thing in the automobile industry is autonomous vehicles, so I guess that’s where we would be going but I think that IC technology is old technology which will be obsolete in another 15 to 20 years and only a few enthusiasts will be using IC. Coming to hybrid, though it is working well right now, when the electric vehicle technology is at par with IC even hybrid will be obsolete and then all the focus will shift towards autonomous vehicles and that’s where the way humans travel will change.
[Preetham] Autonomous BAJA was supposed to happen in 2021 but now it is postponed and we will be waiting for the dates.
[Devi] Autonomous vehicles are basically vehicles that have a computer instead of a driver, in layman’s terms the car is driven by a computer which will scan the surroundings and roads to create a map from point A to B. It will take care of all the work like turning, changing lanes and overtaking, so you can just sit back while your car drives you.
Talk me through the process of building an electric ATV.
[Devi] It’s no different to any other project, at the end of the day we have some parameters and goals to achieve so keeping that in mind we work and if we have a car from the previous competition, we do an analysis of our performance and by that, we identify our weak points; based on those weak points we try to design a better system. Let’s say our suspension was quite weak, so, we will work better on that. Like that we basically have a rough sketch of the designs in offline mode, then we move on to software. We have 3D modelling software's, analysis softwares and simulation softwares. For each of these, we use a variety of software like Fusion, SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, Lotus, Adams, etc. So, we use all this software’s to make our design and, in the meantime, we analyse the working of the design so once all this is done, we compile our work and run simulations on the whole car like with all the systems combined. Once all this is done and the mistakes are corrected in the analysis phase, we move on to manufacturing.
In testing, we basically test the car according to whatever we have designed and we try to meet our required parameters like the turning radius, time, etc. If some tweaking is needed in the design it’s done in this phase and after the final fabrication is done the car is ready for the competition.
[Preetham] As Devi said we do a lot of testing for the car, once we get the results of the competition, we take the car back to the workshop and run some more tests. This report, we compare with our previous car’s reports, all the departments do their respective comparison and we then compile them together. The final report is used to educate us about our mistakes and what we can do differently to produce better results in the future by putting out a better car.
Tell me about your teammates and the departments that you have in the club.
[Devi] I’ve been involved in this club for the past 2 years so this will be my 3rd year. The time since I’ve been in the club, we have worked in teams of 25 and we usually have 2 teams. One is our junior team and the other is our senior team. The senior team goes to National level competitions like the SAE related competitions while the junior team will venture into go-kart competitions for the sake of experience.
Coming to the departments we have the design, suspension, steering, electrical, brakes and the management department that takes care of the marketing, sponsorship and maintains our social media handles.
[Preetham] Actually, to be honest, it’s not like a team it’s more like a family for us, we share a special bond between us which comprises friendship as well as responsibility. When we go for a competition it’s more like a trip for us, we enjoy a lot as we work.
[Devi] In my point of view, we get together with like-minded people. So, let’s say you are interested in automobiles, there are 24 more people who share your interests and passion and instead of sharing your idea with, say - 200 to 300 people, you can share it with your teammates who understand you and that will help you to end up in a better place in your engineering course. Moreover, you will learn many skills like talking to people or dealing with funds and working is more like a fun time for us. I feel even though we work day and night it won’t feel like you are tired. This is mainly because you will be joking around with your teammates, it’s like friends first then teammates. Basically, we get to do the things that we are passionate about along with our friends and these are the memories that will be with you forever. If I look back after 30 years into my engineering life, this phase will be a very vital part that I remember.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JUSTDEETS BEING A PLATFORM TO PROMOTE CLUBS SUCH AS YOURS?
[Devi] I feel this is a really good initiative and it is going in the right path. I can see this platform going to greater heights in the coming years. For college clubs like ours, we need all the marketing that we can get and our reach to a greater audience will end up helping us in our projects and achieving our dreams. We are really happy to present the work of our club on this platform.
[Preetham] What I feel is that JustDeets is a medium where we can get to know about all other college clubs and how they do things. JustDeets will also promote us a lot and we can show it to our sponsors, by this they can get to know about our projects. It’s a great initiative.