Girls create auto marvel

young achievers

Komal Khatri, a third year mechanical engineering student at Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology (IGIT) got her driving licence not more than two years ago.

However, unlike other girls of her age (she appears to be 20 though she shies away from revealing it) she depl­o­y­ed her driving skills to manoe­u­vre an all-terrain-vehicle at the prestigious Baja-SAE India 2013 at Pithampur near Indore last month. Her exper­tise in surpassing stumb­l­ing blocks enroute just won her – along with 14 other students from the same college — the chairman’s award of Rs 1 lakh.

She is one of the 15 team members from IGIT, the only girls’ engineering college in India, who worked for close to six months  to design, fabricate and finally to test drive the vehicle before it was sent for the national level annual car contest organised by the US-based Society of Automotive Engineers.

The shortlisting for participation required clearing an interview with a panel in August last year in Bangalore. “After initial shortlisting, we got cra­c­king on the project. We divided ourselves into seven teams – five technical and two non-technical. All of us used to me­et everyday to discuss the pro­g­ress,” said Nidhi Joshi, team captain.

When the basic structure was ready, the ‘car’ was tested for endurance several times so that any deficiency could be fixed before the final “battle” in Pithampur. “We wanted the breakdown to happen during testing so that we could work on its deficiencies,” said Nidhi .

Designing the vehicle also required regular financial contribution. The car cost them around Rs 2 lakh, for which each student pooled in Rs 2,000 every month for six months. Some cost was also borne by the corporate sponsors, and around three reputable companies came forward for the purpose, thanks to the girls’ badgering.
 
However, all investments made – money and efforts – bore fruits with a cheque of Rs one lakh under the team’s kitty now. But the young carmakers have still not decided about the modest prize money’s future use. Team leader Nidhi Joshi – the lone participant who took part in BAJA-SAE for the second time from IGIT – wants the money to be kept as corpus for next year.

The competition entailed testing the cars on three co­u­nts. While each test was done on a dedicated day, the first day involved evaluation of sub-systems from chassis to steering. It was followed by dynamic events on the second day wherein car’s acceleration, suspension and hill climbing abilities were tested. Finally, endurance test was conducted and the single-seater vehicle was driven by Komal Khatri for three and a half hours through tough terrains of four-km long national automobile test tracks. “One of the front wheels demounted while driving on the tracks. Still I continued to dri­ve. After all, they were testing the vehicle’s endurance,” said Komal.
    
The girls never considered themselves to be the odd-ones out for being only females in the car design contest which is traditionally a male-reserve. “We don’t think we broke any glass ceiling there. It was broken several years ago when our college took part for the first time in 2009,” said Prof Deepti Chabra, faculty adviser of project.   

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