A chit-chat with Dr. Srimathy Kesan, Founder of Space Kidz India Organisation

Behind every success is effort, behind every effort is passion, behind
every passion is someone with the courage to try. We found one
such person, Dr. Srimathy Kesan, founder of Space Kidz India, an
organization involved in designing innovative concepts in the field of
space research. The entire team is deeply committed towards
inculcating a passion for space science, in the youth of our country.
KalamSat, the world’s lightest and first ever Femto satellite launched
by NASA, was designed by their lead scientist, Rifath Sharook – the
young boy hailing from Tamil Nadu, who made the entire nation
proud with his marvellous creation.

Dr Srimathy Kesan and her team of scientists were kind enough to
share their words of wisdom, in an interview conducted during the
Valedictory function of Vyuhaa ’17.

1. Your success is a huge source of motivation for us. We are
really curious to know what inspired you to start the Space
Kidz India organisation.
It is my dream and passion to start this. I love children and I wish to
do something for the country as well. And for an able country like
India, if you’re able to impart knowledge and create a platform, it
means everything. We need not be scientists but if we are able to
create scientists, this is my ambition and that’s why I started Space
Kidz.

2.Since you work with kids and train them, could you share some of
your funny experiences/incidents with them?
Everyone has this misconception that, when you’re building
satellites, the kids are going to be a bunch of nerds. But there is a total contrast here. We have a bunch of monkeys. I keep referring to
them as monkeys because they are very intelligent. There is a
synchronisation between aerodynamics and monkeys and that’s
what my kids are! For example we can say that the Kalamsat is a
culmination from a Gulab Jamun. Our lead scientist, being a foodie,
forced me to make Gulab Jamuns and while having those, the idea
struck us and that’s how Gulab Jamun turned into Kalamsat!

3. Which other project posed as a competition to yours, during the
Cubes in Space challenge conducted by NASA?
We generally don’t believe in competition. It is basically our ideas we
give importance to. Predominately what I want to emphasize is what
if these kids can do it, all can do it. It all starts with confidence. In
spite of doing aerospace engineering, people still believe in the
stereotype that if you have to go to space, it costs a lot, it’s huge, it’s
impossible and you probably have to work in a organisation in the
West or have to do higher education. But we wanted to break this
myth. So apart from the competition, we wanted to instil confidence
in every aerospace student that sky is not the limit. You can really
achieve anything!

4. When we went through the technical aspects of Kalamsat, we
came to know that every component was is nanometre scale. So
how challenging was it to design the components in this range?
It was pretty difficult. To identify and to procure components wasn’t
an easy task. 64 grams was a big challenge. The people at Colorado
Spacecraft actually flipped and said, “How can this happen? How can
you bring so many sensors? “. The other universities that
participated had just 2 or 3 sensors, but we being Indians thought,
“Anyway it’s going up, so let’s send all 10 sensors”.

5. One question to the team. How did you face the difficulty of
fitting your project within your budget?
It was definitely challenging. We are a self-funding organisation, so
money was a parameter. Our aim was to make it more economic as
well. So we searched for companies that manufactured sensors at
nanometre scale. But with the constant support from our
ma’am/mom, we made it happen. Moreover, we tried to be unique.

6. Records are usually created so that they can be broken, so some
words of wisdom for those waiting to break yours!
We genuinely want kids to break our records, so that would pose
another challenge to us. And with this pace, India will be number
one. So, the ultimate aim is that, all Indian children should go for it.

At present, Space Kidz India is one of the top five finalists in an
inducement prize space competition organized by XPRIZE and
sponsored by Google, called the Google Lunar XPRIZE, also known as
moon 2.0. As the old saying goes, the only impossible journey is the
one that you never begin. We congratulate Dr Srimathy ma'am and
her team of scientists, for achieving the impossible and wish them all
success in their future endeavours.