We never showed up!
To a competition, we registered with so much zeal.
So one fine day, my friend and I heard our seniors in college talking about designing an ATV.
ATV stands for All-Terrain Vehicle.
They were planning to participate in a design competition meant for college students. The idea intrigued both of us and inspired us to make a team of fellow batchmates and register in that competition.
When we decided to participate, it was already the second last day for the registration. Further, the registration fee was a hefty Rs 15,000 (Indian Rupees). It was a large sum as my monthly expenses were around Rs 4,000 at that time (2010).
When we were entirely sure that we have to participate, it was already evening, and we had a big task of putting together a team and collecting the money. To increase our woes, it was the month’s end when no student has enough money. We were racing against time!
The next day in a somewhat heroic sequence of events, we made the impossible happen! Please read about it here.
We were basking in glory, and we had the momentum with us! Our morals were sky high!
“So, what happened next?”
This question kept haunting me for a very long time!
I will try to tell you all the things which happened and what I learned from it?
After the James Bondesque task of pulling off the last-minute registration, we were being treated as heroes.
But, what we had no idea about was the logistics of being a hero!
It will be apparent, as I tell you more about it. But, first of all, let’s start with the rulebook. The rulebook for this competition was nearly a 100-page document establishing all aspects of design and manufacturing. Regarding the technical aspects, each line was important! Thus couldn’t be ignored. It was like a whole extra subject added to our course which we needed to study in the most detailed manner.
It was nothing unexpected. We had anticipated that a lot of effort would be needed to understand everything that goes into making a vehicle! And to build it eventually. We knew we had to learn a lot as we were just in the second year of our course. The branch specialization starts from the second year. (We were total freshers!)
So I started with reading the rule book and making notes from it. But nearly 100 pages were not easy to fully understand then for me. Other members were allocated some other jobs. Our exams were also approaching so slowly most of our focus shifted there. Though for me, the priority was always this competition. Because it felt like the most significant opportunity to show my talents. Somewhat like the Olympics for any athlete! Also, I had my syllabus under reach in terms of the exam.
So, with each passing day, we fell behind as we didn’t want to risk our exams.
Now when I look at it, our basic plan was:
First, understand all concepts
Design the vehicle
Prepare the presentation showing tests and simulations.
As it is clear, the first step was theoretical, but we did not see any point in going to the 2nd and 3rd steps before completing a significant portion of the first step. Now there are two important things here that I realized only after starting my professional career.
First, while planning a project as we were doing, all its stages are listed, and their dependencies are determined. Microsoft Project is the tool to deal with such plannings. In this case, we should have known that the first and second steps could have been overlapped.
We chose not to do that because we wanted our design to be the best, which could only be done if we had a solid understanding from the first stage itself.
Looking at it now, I realize, though the studying was of paramount importance, the detail design was something we were completely new to.
Therefore any extra time would have helped us there.
Also, we were better off designing on paper, whereas it was supposed to be done on computers using CAD software. We used large sheets on which designs and blueprints were made. However, I still enjoy it more than designing on the computer. So we thought of designing on paper first and migrating it to CAD later. This proved to be a disaster!
After this mistake, I understood that no single work is ever easy and requires time to master. A better way to put it would be —
Too many interrelated simple tasks form a complicated task. But the complexity lies in the interrelation, not the job itself!
The only way this plan of ours could have succeeded was if we showed super high levels of enthusiasm, kept believing in ourselves, and enhance our knowledge at each and every step and some more efforts!
I understood later from this and other experiences in life, whatever the resources and obstacles, the right people can finish the job most of the time!
I should also tell you that even after our exams, some new academic engagements came into the picture, which further ensured we would not be able to dedicate our time!
This resulted in a decreased team morale, and some of us were happy to make compromises with the design quality. But, unfortunately, some also thought to drop the idea of participating!
I didn’t, though! I tried till the very last. I designed the vehicle to a considerable extent, first on paper, and then I attempted to do it on the CAD software. But, as I said earlier, even small things troubled me a lot, and I had to drop that idea.
As I remember, it was around 4 days left to the presentation day when I was trying my best to migrate my design to CAD, but by the second last day, I thought to complete the design on the paper itself.
I had to catch the train the next day as the presentation was in another city. A few of my friends who were not a part of my team also suggested going and seeing what the other groups had done, even if I could not complete it myself. At first, I was convinced, but later I analyzed everything and decided against it.
My close friends encouraged me by reminding the effort that I had put in. After all, we lost, but the battle was a well-fought one!
Of course, other students like us indeed completed the task, but no worries, even we tried like hell!
We designed and built that same vehicle as our final year project. It was more than satisfying! But we will go into that detail some other day.