Meet ‘Reach for the Stars’ challenge winner Ashwin

Ashwin Sundaram Ramesh and his team-mate Arun Lakhshmanan on a yacht in Scotland 

 

Ashwin Sundaram Ramesh, a third-year mechanical engineering student of Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), won “Reach for the Stars” challenge 2012 that gave him a chance to go for a month-long trip to Scotland. He shares with Careers360 his story of excitement during those days in a foreign land.

 

Read all about Ashwin's experiences below:

 

 

Having known that we had won the “Reach for the Stars” challenge, the wait seemed forever for our trip to Scotland, UK. It was February and there was still the task of getting through my exams. There were innumerable thoughts in my head. Anyhow, June arrived and it was time to pack up. All I knew of Scotland was its incredibly friendly people, vast green lands...and bad weather!

 

Meeting the NASA astronauts
Soon after we reached Scotland, we were escorted to the University of Strathclyde's sprawling campus where we'd be spending four weeks engaging ourselves in a variety of activities.

Ashwin dancing with NASA spacesuit designer Heather Paul

The first week was the Space School week in which 100 promising students from all over Scotland came together to participate in space science related events for a week. All of us were put into teams of ten. I ended up in the Team Titans, a fun-loving and talented team. Through the week, teams were put to test on a rocket launch, a Mars Rovers and Landers challenge, each testing different skills. Simultaneously, the teams had to come up with a unique idea that would improve life on the International Space Station.

These ideas were to be presented on the final day of Space School week. Once teams drafted their ideas, they brought them to shape on Computer-aided design and designed posters explaining their respective concepts in front of the judges.

The high point of the week was our guests from NASA - astronauts Ron Garan, Mike Baker and spacesuit designer Heather Paul. It was a reality check for all of us to talk to them in such an informal environment. Garan just recently completed his five and a half month mission to the ISS, so that's a hint at the scale of their achievements!

On the eve of the final day of Space School, I suited up for the gala dinner and Ceilidh, a Scottish dance I had no clue about before Google search. Initially defiant, I soon settled into the mood of the hall and ended up having one heck of a night (and embarrassing pictures)! In the end, the goodbyes came too soon and my team-mates had to leave while I moved on to three more exciting weeks.

Life-changing conversations

Ashwin with his team – Titans

The second week started with trips to Stirling Castle and the beautiful golf town of St. Andrews. We got the opportunity to meet some promising start-up companies in the UK too during this week. First was ThinkTank Math, a company in Edinburgh consisting of students who have done PhD in Number Theory, String Theory and Representation Theory.

They provide out-of-the-box mathematical solutions to everyday engineering problems. The two hours of my life I spent talking to them was almost life-changing to say the least. I felt like it was taken straight out of a Big Bang Theory episode! They challenge defined rules and ask you to open your mind to different possibilities.

Next was Clyde Space, one of the world's leading CubeSat (miniature satellites) development companies. They talked us through their company and I was fascinated by the potential of CubeSats, something I hadn't known earlier. The week ended with a tour of the university's Advanced Forming Research Center, where complex mechanical engineering research is being carried out.

 

Guiding the students
In our third week, we were given the responsibility of guiding school students on a product design competition. It was a nice feeling to help in whatever little way we could.

Challenge to be a consultant
Our most challenging task was reserved for the final week. A telecommunications company, the Steepest Ascent, offered us the role of consultants. Our task was to do a market research on CubeSats and identify a potential role that Steepest Ascent could play in the future of CubeSats.

After a couple of days of intense brainstorming, we presented our concepts in front of representatives from the company and the university. When challenged to come up with a realistic and futuristic vision in that time frame, we defied our abilities and impressed everyone including ourselves.

 

Dream come true
Busy activities on weekdays meant we had the weekends to ourselves. Climbing Britain's tallest mountain Ben Nevis, realizing my childhood dream of watching tennis at Wimbledon, touring my beloved Chelsea Football Club, cycling 30 km around the island of Rothesay, and experiencing the Glasgow pub scene round up my wild summer. Last, but not least, I cannot thank in words the University of Strathclyde and everybody involved in giving us this opportunity for their amazing hospitality!



First Published On : 15 Dec 2012 03:00 PM IST
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