In about a month or two, I will graduate from college and will head out to follow a career path that I hope will some day lead me to the door steps of ISRO. As one of the co-starters of SEDS in India, I thought you may be interested in sharing the journey of SEDS till date. My passion for outer space started way back when I was 13 years old and I have been smitten ever since. Despite the best efforts from several people, I have not been able to go off the path of space sciences. At age 17, sitting in an internet cafe, looking for a space organisation, the first one that came up was Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).
I was able to find several amateur astronomy clubs in India but none that were dedicated to space engineering. I learnt however that some did exist but I seemed to have been not patient enough to find them. I shared my concern on the forums of SEDS and there was able to meet several people who convinced me that I can be the right person to start the Indian extension of SEDS. While I remained non-commital, I was introduced to Abhishek Ray who seems to have found out about SEDS in the same way and had expressed the same interest.
So, way back in late 2004 and early 2005, with a simple forums announcment, we got started with SEDS in India. We started off with perhaps 10 members or so. Even with such humble beginnings the dreams of two late teens clashed with what SEDS could be or do in India. We both felt that the ultimate thrill would be for ISRO to some day come to us looking for great leaders who could lead their projects and missions. What a thrill that would be!
Things did get difficult from there on and we had a lean patch where SEDS was not doing much and we were mostly co-ordinating and working towards an international SEDS organisation than building anything here in India. Throughout this phase of SEDS in India, I would like to specially point to the help provided by Kirk Kittell, then a Vice Chair at SEDS USA.
Enter Pranav Aggrawal and the chapter at Vellore Institute of Technology University. After failing with a two chapter model, we thought of putting all efforts into building one chapter properly that could then serve as an example for several other chapters across the country. By working on one chapter with effective results we thought that this could help people understand our work better and also aid forming chapters.
With this intention most of 2007 and 2008 was spent building up the chapter of SEDS at VIT University. This was an era of several wonderful conversations and idea storms that I shared with Pranav Aggrawal and we are still a bit sad that we were not able to implement many of the ideas that we did have. Perhaps, the SEDS International Conference 2007 hosted by VIT University was the time that SEDS in India stepped up and did what several people still reminiscense as a wonderful conference.
There, for perhaps the first time, we brought to India, the Moon Rover Design Competition and water rocket competitions. It was a great joy for us to the wonderful turnout that we had and the grand success that the event was.
The event also got us attention to what SEDS was and as to the projects and events that we had done. At this point, we discovered that having a big successful chapter can also work in another way, to make new chapters worry about their success or failiure. In 2007, we began efforts to streamline the organisation, get it registered and to begin expanding to younger chapters.
Several innovative solutions were brought to the table by the founding Executive Committee members (Anmol Sharma, Snehal Deshpande, Krishna Mohanty, Ashish Aggrawal being the chief among them) and several others who worked with and under us during the period. We developed solutions that would I think help us in the future as the organisation grows and spreads across India.
An organisation that started with a dream has now got some very practical implementations for the way we work – the activities that we choose to do and the implementation of our projects. We hope we can continuously improve and be more effective than we have been.
In 2009, Snehal Deshpande and Krishna Mohanty and others at the chapter in VITU, worked hard to bring to fruition the SEDS India National Conference (SINC 2009). Here too we brought the cansat competition for the first time in India, got all the small satellite developers from across India at a venue (thanks to ISRO and specially, Dr. Raghava Murthy for this), math modelling etc. We hope to do much better in 2010. There are many projects already planned and several that we are still brainstorming. For the new chapters, I hope this is a great opportunity and for VIT, perhaps a caution that we have only covered a small distance in the vast ocean.
To conclude, I would like to thank several people who have helped me in starting and getting SEDS up on its feet – Kirk Kittell, Pranav Aggrawal and Abhishek Ray. There have also been people that each of these individuals including me reached out to – brothers, friends, professors etc who have advised us and kept us going. I also hope that the future members of SEDS remember all these people who helped set up the organisation and worked hard to contribute to what it has become today.
Thanks for being a part of this journey and I hope that while I hand over this mantle to the next generation they will take SEDS to great heights and perhaps one day even to another planet or even another star :).