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Exclusive: Meet the Brilliant Students Who Built the World’s Lightest Satellite

In a country where, even today, a majority of parents want their children to either be engineers or doctors, the scope of being a scientist is rather bleak. Space Kidz provides students with a platform where they can explore science freely, without the pressures of academics.


This article has been powered by Marico Innovation Foundation.

On June 23, 2017, headlines across most leading dailies were about a team of teenage students from India who created history by designing and launching the ‘World’s Lightest Satellite’.

It was a team of six young Indian boys selected from almost 86,000 entries worldwide from various parts of India, who came together, under an organisation called Space Kidz India. Let’s hear their inspiring story.

Inception

Space Kidz was formed with the intention of bringing together like-minded, scientifically-inclined children and providing them with a platform to explore and evolve.

In a country where, even today, a majority of parents want their children to either be engineers or doctors, the scope of being a scientist is rather bleak. Space Kidz provides students with a platform where they can explore science freely, without the pressures of academics.

Having found a platform in the organisation, the boys put their minds together to make magic happen. Helming them together was Dr Srimathy Kesan, the founder of Space Kidz.

Induction of the first team member

Team members of SpaceKidz

Rifath Sharook, the lead scientist, was the first member to be inducted into the group. Hailing from Pallapatti, a village in Karur, Tamil Nadu, Rifath was all of 18 when he joined Space Kidz. It was a chance meeting for Rifath that changed the course of his life.

As part of an assignment for the college magazine, he was to interview Dr Srimathy Kesan. As he got talking, he realised that his true calling was in aerospace, which was also noticed by Dr Kesan. He became the first recruit into Space Kidz.

Growth of the team

Each team member inducted thereafter brought with them a child-like enthusiasm which was what pushed them to achieve such greatness.

Vinay Bharadwaj, a structural engineer from Bengaluru, was the person who took charge of all the coding.

For team members Tanishq Dwivedi, Yagna Sai, and Abdul Kashif – it was a chance glance at the college notice board, which brought them to Space Kidz.

Together they created history

Successful launch

Tanishq says, “It was in 2015, that a flyer which spoke about a trip to NASA, caught our attention. The three of us applied and got to visit NASA with Srimathy Ma’am. That was how we all came together to work on projects.”

Tanishq joined the team as the Flight Engineer and says, “I have always dreamt of becoming an aerospace engineer. There is a world beyond medicine and engineering. Space is vast and has always been so appealing to me.”

Dr Srimathy Kesan, the Mission Director of the team, describes herself as the team’s mother and confidant and was responsible for getting the best out of each one of them.

The group of monkeys who made India proud

The first project they worked on was to launch a helium balloon into the higher atmosphere. Despite all odds, the group of self-taught rocket scientists went on to successfully launch their helium balloon which reached up to 1,07,000 feet and even found a spot in the Limca Book of Records for being the first Indian student team to do so.

While working on the Helium Balloon Launch, also known as the Near Space Launch Vehicle (NSLV), the team was often mocked. Tanishq recounts one such incident, “There was a time when our team was compared with a bunch of monkeys, who had no clue about what they were doing. There was so much negativity and demotivation all around us, but what kept us going was our unflinching confidence in making the project work.”


In their endeavour to nurture innovation in India, Marico Innovation Foundation is helping Space Kidz raise funds for lab to help them continue to experiment and make India proud through a crowdfunding campaign. You too can be a part of this innovation journey by supporting them.

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Having tasted this success, the team was raring to go and aimed higher. Their next project was to make satellites that would enter space.

When a gulab jamun was not just a sweet, but an idea

A bite-sized satellite?

Recounting an incident that triggered the idea of launching a satellite into space, Tanishq says, “It all began with a gulab jamun. One evening, the excitement was high, and we insisted that Srimathy Ma’am make us gulab jamuns as a treat.”

“While the other boys gulped their jamuns down, Rifath and Kashif kept staring at it in wonder. It was something like a eureka moment – ‘why can’t we make a satellite this size and launch it into space?'”

And from there began their next journey.

Cubes in Space

“With limited resources, we participated in ‘Cubes in Space’, where NASA selected our submission, KalamSAT, named as a tribute to former President A P J Abdul Kalam, from 86,000 other entries. What a moment of pride that was for all of us,” says Tanishq.

They now hold the title of having created the world’s smallest and lightest satellite, and with this, it is also for the first time that 3D printing technology has been used in space.

The Indian satellite KalamSat spent 12 full minutes in space before falling back to Earth.

For the team that has made India proud, this is just the beginning.

Marico Innovation Foundation applauds them

Ramji Raghavan, Governing Council of MIF in conversation with Harshwardhan Zala and Team Space Kidz at the Marico Innovation Foundation – Awards 2018

Established in 2003 by Harsh Mariwala, Marico Innovation Foundation strives to nurture innovations that add to India’s growth story. Through their flagship program MIF Awards, the Foundation has identified and showcased more than 57 breakthrough innovations in the country. Space Kidz, represented by Tanishq and Yagna was invited to be a part of the Fire Side Chat with Young Innovators at the 2018 edition of the MIF Awards.

Harsh Mariwala, Founder – Marico Innovation Foundation, says, “The kids did not have access to sectoral experts, and relied on their knowledge of aerospace to successfully launch their innovation. It was their perseverance and conviction towards their innovation that made them successful innovators. For a team so young, their achievements are remarkable.”

Tanishq, who was at the awards, says, “Yagna and I spent considerable time just spotting various people we read about in magazines and newspapers. Meeting Harsha Bhogle sir at the event will always be a memory that I shall cherish.”

“Being associated with Marico Innovation Foundation has opened up many doors for us. After our presentation at the awards, we had many company heads come to us and offer their support,” says an excited Tanishq.

While Space Kidz India has been self-funded so far, to continue research and innovation they need our financial support. If you wish to see them reach greater heights and conquer space, do come forward and donate generously.


In their endeavour to nurture innovation in India, Marico Innovation Foundation is helping Space Kidz raise funds for lab to help them continue to experiment and make India proud through a crowdfunding campaign. You too can be a part of this innovation journey by supporting them.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


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