Geared Up: A Team Unwired Tale
Having a vibrant and accomplished ten-year history, Team Unwired is undoubtedly one well-geared team. They have participated in various FS and Baja events and have established themselves as one of the most reputed clubs at NITC. Aravind Krishnan and Asif Majeed, fourth-year Mechanical Engineering students and the heads of the FS and Baja teams for the year 2020-21, talk to us about the workings of the group, projects they’ve done and the social causes picked up by them.
Can you tell us a bit about how Team Unwired started?
Asif: Unwired has a long history, it began about ten years ago and was called “Club Unwired” then. The team used to work on projects related to aero-dynamic modelling and building models to compete. The club then split into Aero Unwired and Team Unwired. We built our first vehicle in 2012 and represented the college in the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Baja competition. We also participated in Formula Students in further years.
Aravind: The FS team started in 2013, and the first competition we attended was the British Formula Student UK, at Silverstone. We started with international competitions and also branched out to regional competitions. We have attended the Supra events as well.
(Team unwired at NATHRAX, 2017)
That’s pretty cool! So what is your team structure like? Is there a hierarchy?
Asif: We are currently divided into two teams, one for the on-road event which is the FS team, and one for the off-road event, the Baja team. Within those teams, there are further divisions based on the task involved, like chassis, braking, electrical equipment, etc.
So basically Unwired is divided into the work that goes behind making a vehicle.
Aravind: Yes, we divide it based on the functional parts of a car. All of them come together to make the vehicle. But this division doesn’t prevent a member from exploring other areas, it is just for accountability reasons. The third years are the top tier of Unwired, the fourth years are the guides and mentors.
We all see the final product that rolls out of the workshop, but we don’t know the things that go behind it. Could you tell us what a day in the workshop looks like?
Aravind: It’s pretty different for both the teams. For FS, it’s mostly about the design, which is looked after by the third years. After the design is complete, the subteams then take charge, with the chassis team being the busiest at the start, as it is very labour demanding. After the pipes are laser cut, and everything else is ready, spot welding and grinding of the pipes is done. It’s a pretty lively atmosphere. Days turn into nights and nights turn into days, and many times we also work in shifts to ensure that the project is completed on time. We’re just hustling till the final product rolls out before deadlines, so we can make sure it is tested a lot. If we don’t, it will be reflected during the competition.
Aravind: Making a car from scratch is harder than it seems. I used to think it would be easy before I joined Unwired, but I was very wrong. And we do stuff with a different perspective, we try to incorporate new ideas. It’s not just getting your parts from outside and assembling it at the workshop, it’s so much more. A lot of our preconceived notions fall apart once we start working on it.
Asif, could you tell us about a normal day at the Baja workshop?
Asif: It depends on the work and the people on it. We may even have to go to various labs to complete the work. But we enjoy doing this because all of us are interested in the field. Everyone puts in their best, and it’s really fun to work, especially during the night-outs. Many people think that it’s hectic and tedious, but I feel that it was the most beautiful and wonderful experience of my college life.
Definitely, a lot of camaraderies must have been built over the years. What other skills have you picked up since you joined Unwired?
Asif: Experience is one of the best things we earned. From the very first day, we had a particular aim and a path to achieve the goal. Even though we work in different teams, we try to help each other. Only last year did we decide to make an electric vehicle, even though it was being built at NITC for the first time. From day one, the FS team members were eager to help us.
Aravind: You learn about commitment as well.
Asif: Also, someone always has your back - no matter what you do, someone will always have your back.
Aravind: Working hard, taking others’ opinions, helping find solutions to problems, working as a team is an overall development process.
(Kari Motor Speedway, 2015)
Is there any difference between the functioning of Team Unwired compared with the other groups?
Aravind: That’s the question that you should ask the other clubs (laughs). We mainly try to have an open workshop. If you need anything done from our workspace, you can always approach an Unwired member and they won’t say no. They will take the necessary permission and try to help you as much as possible. In such ways, we try to give back to the college. We also conduct workshops and also have a social initiative called Lumos.
Could you tell us more about Lumos?
Aravind: It is an initiative where we teach school students about our creations and the work we put behind it. We interact with them and try to get them interested in the field. We also teach CAD modelling software to differently-abled students, so they can bring out their creativity more, and it’s not stuck inside their heads.
Not many know this, but Unwired also has a blog. What is the vision behind it?
Aravind: If you go through our blog, you will notice that it’s not very technical. We wanted to share our experiences with the next team, our juniors and their juniors and so on. Essentially, to let them and the others know how we got to the stage and what difficulties we faced along the way.
Engineering is the application of principles to solve real-world problems. And most of the stuff that we learn in college, we’re not exactly applying it in the real world. In your opinion, how we can bridge the gap between classroom knowledge and practical knowledge?
Asif: The best thing to do is a project or get some hands-on work. During a theoretical study in the classroom, you will make a lot of assumptions before designing something. But when you come to the design phase and try to integrate it with the rest, there will be a lot of issues with the task. The classroom does give you a fair bit of knowledge to start, but it doesn’t go all the way.
(The BAJA team at NATRAX, 2017)
The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has been disastrous for many of us. We are locked down by the pandemic and it must have affected the working of your team, which is very dependent on people coming together and building a project. So is there any plan for this year? Is it going to be online?
Asif: Yes, we are affected, but we are also proud that the designing part is going on with the same fervour. Last year we used to gather together and discuss the design, but we are unable to do it right now. So that is the only issue.
Aravind: Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t approach sponsors. However, we learned a lot about cost-cutting and effective spending last year. We have sufficient funds for the working and there will be no financial burden on the team this year.
The induction process of Unwired is widely popular among the first years, is there any particular characteristic that you look for in the student? A particular skill set or knowledge of the field?
Aravind: We only check whether the student has basic knowledge, other than that we are looking for those who are very interested and will be active in a group setting. It’s 70% interest and 30% knowledge. For us, it’s about the passion towards automobiles and the resolve to finish something they have started.
We hope this gave you a glance at what goes on behind the scenes and everything else you wanted to know about Team Unwired. Next time you see their cars race past the Rajpath, take a minute to appreciate the hard work, determination and passion that goes behind making it.
Interview by Abhishek Jain