At Embry-Riddle I spent 4 years pursuing two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
It was an exciting journey:
9000 miles from home, I got closer to my family than I was ever before.
I made a wide group of friends from around the world. They exposed me to radical schools of thought and added dozens of places to my travel bucket list.
Working with amazing (and hyper enthusiastic) teams, taught me the value of investing in team dynamics.
I learnt how to design, machine and build solutions to complex problems. The lathe and milling machines became my friends and reliable partners while building a rocket engine, amidst a whole plethora of tools I learnt to rely on.
My very first office was coupled with a little library I ran for the Honors Program. We soon doubled in size and I got my first exclusive office space with a lock and key, formal hours and lots of responsibility. It became one of many homes alongside machine shops, research labs and dorm rooms.
During my sophomore year in college, I jumped on board a team building Embry-Riddle’s first liquid propellant rocket engine.
Initially, I led the research funding effort and won a college grant that took care of the cost of our parts.
My good friend Steve Murphy, taught me everything I know about machining, manufacturing and testing high precision parts. After a semester of design work, Steve and I built most of the parts in three weeks of winter break.
This prototype went on to evolve into a larger, flight worthy engine that is being developed for Embry-Riddle’s attempt at launching the world’s first college rocket to put a satellite into space. You can track its progress here.
Do check out this 14 second hot fire test video, it definitely lit up our eyes.
I joined Gulfstream full-time in June 2013 and took on aerodynamic design responsibilities. Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Catiav5 powered CAD and the robust aerodynamic background that college gave me, I’ve been able to add value to various performance optimization, detailed part design, loads database generation and certification analysis projects.Obviously, some of these images are representative of the work and not actual Gulfstream data.
Another of my primary roles is trouble shooting issues with the hardware we build. The production floor and product support teams call us for aerodynamic expertise with discrepant parts and damages in the field. Tinkering with hardware excites me, and the real world exposure that such a role offers makes me grow as an engineer every day.
As an intern in 2012, my aerodynamics team had predicted that a 0.040” bump near our sensors was causing a big certification problem for the G650 but we couldn’t prove it as quickly as we wanted. Sensing the urgency, I organized some vendors to demonstrate new 3D-scanner technologies to help us and within 3 months, we had acquired a $280,000 Laser Radar (pictured here) that I then helped integrate into our company processes. This initiative opened up tremendous doors for me with invitations to trouble shoot complex issues in all part of the company.
An example of how I help sort out build quality issues is by introducing wireless strain gage technology on our factory floors to evaluate our manufacturing techniques and track down process variability.
I’m also a keen proponent of experimental validations for our computational predictions and one of my initiatives includes understanding aero-elastic deformation better.
There’s quite a story to how a group of students banded together to build the world’s first gas-electric parallel hybrid airplane.
In 2011, Nasa and Google sponsored the Nasa centennial Green Flight Challenge . There was a $1.65 million award for creating the world’s most efficient aircraft. It needed to be capable of completing a 200 mile course, maintaining a noise profile under 78 dB and achieving 100 passenger miles per gallon equivalent of fuel.
To meet this seemingly impossible challenge, we initially worked on a hydrogen fuel cell configuration but since the parts weren't readily available we switched to a hybrid aircraft concept.
To meet the time constraints, we modified a German motorglider (Stemme S-10) airframe. Working within an uber tiny budget, we sourced lots of donated parts and adapted the design as we went. We replaced the Stemme's original Lycoming engine with a Rotax 912 ULS and an electric motor. Along the way we also installed and patented a clutch assembly to couple the electric and gas engines. Further changes included a new propeller, a custom gear drive and a completely new LabView based avionics suite.
I led the battery team under the guidance of Dr. J. Liu. We built four independent battery modules using 160 LiFePO4 cells and a custom battery monitoring system. Dr. Liu designed and tested the parts, while I helped put together teams that would manufacture the batteries and assemble the modules in assembly line fashion. Soldering irons and Anderson clips became my friends as we raced against time to build, test, install and trouble shoot these battery modules. My team and I also did all the internal high current wiring in the aircraft ourselves.
As with any complex project, we had a fun time integrating the battery system with the electric motor controller and the avionics suite created by Ankit Nanda for his graduate thesis.
I'll forever admire our friend and test pilot Mikhael Ponso for trusting us with his life as we built the world's first Gas-electric hybrid aircraft and got it ready to compete against entries from all over the world.
My capstone project for my master’s degree evolved under Professor Anderson, Dr. Moncayo and Brendon Lyons.
They had the notion that their should be a cheap and fun way to test the Simulink® autopilot systems we programmed in college. We set out to try the flight-control algorithms we wrote on a Remote Controlled (RC) airplane.
To achieve its goals, it needed its own ground station, data logger, automated waypoint navigator and remote operation capability.
Oh! And it also needed to be cheap.
We set a production budget of $1000 per unit (A 20x reduction in cost for similar Simulink capable technology at the time.)
With these constraints, we began tinkering with various prototyping hardware to find electronics that would fit the budget while doing the job.
We ended up using Arduino hardware to create an Optionally Piloted - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) test bed.
Along the way, Brendon hacked into the Matlab Arduino module and improved its functionality. We worked with Matlab to help them release an entirely new Arduino package that allowed multiple Arduino boards to communicate via serial ports. It also processed Matlab compiled code more efficiently.
We used a popular RC airframe called the Skywalker to test our electronics and software.
This work went on to be adopted into a graduate course called “Guidance, Navigation and Control” currently taught by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to their students as well as to Gulfstream Aerospace employees.
Update: Some students took this project and used the new Matlab toolbox to create their own ArduPilotMega Simulink blockset. It uses the Ardupilot sensor oilpan for state data collection and simplifies the software portion of this project significantly. It is available here.
The Rockfowl is a 2-seater Light Sport Aircraft based on a request from the Ecuadorian coast guard trying – they were looking for a long endurance reconnaissance airplane to help protect their waters and their wildlife.
Under the guidance of Prof. Snorri Gudmundsson – chief engineer for the Cirrus Jet and chief aerodynamicist on the SR-22 aircraft, we met some substantial preliminary design objectives.
The rockfowl is capable of 8.4 hour cruise endurance, a take off distance of 871 feet and a cruise speed over 104 KCAS. It weights less than 1320 lb and meets all the other requirements of a Light Sport Aircraft.
I led a 3-person team for 12 weeks as we designed, analyzed and iterated. We focused on the preliminary performance requirements while ensuring certifiable safety features, human factors and handling qualities, as well as dynamic stability derivatives and aesthetics.
The primary analysis methods were Vortex Lattice models (panel codes) which are quite representative at these low Reynold’s numbers.
Finally, true to my quest for real-world validation for my work, I went out and built a simple RC model of the design and confirmed its fly-ability!
Plexr is the world's only app that lets you share media with your friends and watch their reaction as they view it.
Developing the business strategy for a fast paced tech start-up, is a roller-coaster experience.
Download it and add me (@prateekjain) as your friend! I'm looking forward to your reaction.
Some of my friends and I got together to create central Florida’s first TEDx Event in 2011. Themed "The Future of Aerospace," we curated talks about every thing - from flying cars, mining Asteroids and using tethered airplanes to re-invent wind energy!
We got an overwhelming response. Within 24 hours of opening up applications to attend TEDxEmbryRiddle, we had twice the number that we could host.
By 2012 it had grown to an international event and by 2013 we flew in speakers from Switzerland, Chicago, Trinidad and Tobago among several other places.
While leading TEDxEmbryRiddle, I discovered the art of inspiring a team of volunteers to create something bigger than themselves.
Curating the speakers, as well as the audience was a new experience. But most of all, meeting our heroes in person and offering them a platform to share their biggest ideas was humbling. Hosting the pioneers in fields like aerospace, energy, architecture and design exposed me to a vast network of people and taught me to connect the dots by bringing the right people together.
Along the way, we inspired hundreds of people. Based on their experience at TEDxEmbryRiddle some of them even changed their majors and direction for life. I’ve shown a picture of a Facebook message I received from my friend Karla, one of our most loyal advocates.
Check out the TEDxEmbryRiddle 2013 Brochure for a look at how we approached sponsorship and speaker invitations (and see how much care we put into the little details)!
One of my favorite organizations in the world is Toastmasters International. I've been a Toastmaster since I was 18.
It is the world's largest community of diverse professionals, driven by the common motive of becoming better speakers and leaders. Over the years, I've been recognized as an advanced communicator, a global judge and a leader.
As a freshman, I also founded a new chapter in India called Toastmasters Manipal. For that I was recognized as the youngest Founder-President in Asia.
My friend Mike Sell and I started a project to offer people a space to have real conversations without any trolls and restrictions. A space where every issue was considered vibrant and colorful, not black and white as we're currently led to believe.
So I found some help and put together a responsive web prototype of our idea. Filed a pending patent and learnt a tremendous amount about the adventures of entrepreneurship.
For market validation, we came up with a way to manifest the Gottact notion in physical spaces using the "Tact Boards" that are pictured here.
8 large boards were opened to the people of Jacksonville, Florida for 5 days and the overwhelming response was exhilarating. From 6 year old little girls to 94 year old gentlemen, thousands of people poured out their hearts on our boards. Our twitter hashtags and pictures got people laughing and my pitch even made the newspapers.
Do check out this exciting 2 minute video of our experience:
From catching a jet on a whim to motorbiking across states, I love traveling, and my answer's always "yes" if anyone has a fun idea.
I also find myself drawn to art all the time. Here are pictures of the two paintings I've bought so far, each has its own story and I can't wait to add to the budding collection!
My favorite workouts are a few hours playing badminton at the local YMCA. Badminton is a sport of agility, strategy and stamina and is the easiest sport to learn for people of any athletic ability.
I also like rock climbing and tinkering with things - notice my 2003 cruiser motorbike that I rode for 14 months and spent way too much time on.
Most of all, I love curling up with a book. Fiction, Nonfiction, Biographies, Autobiographies, Strategy, Poetry, Humor, Anything. I love reading. Feel free to send me the names of your favorite books so I can check them out too!