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Aerospace Engineering, IIT Kanpur ? How It is? Placement ? By Praveen Honhar (ANE IITK)

Aerospace Engineering, IIT Kanpur ? How It is? Placement ? By Praveen Honhar (ANE IITK)

Exams Freak

I am Praveen and I am graduating this year from the Btech program of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at IIT K. I would like to share my experience of the Aerospace Engineering program at IITK. First of all I believe congratulations are in order. You can rest assured that the next four years would be a memorable roller coaster ride no matter which college or which stream you pick.
As Aerospace Engineering is a relatively unconventional branch, I am going to pay more attention to it in this article. If you want to know more about the campus and student life at IITK, I am sure you will find much better articles . However, I would still like to point out a few other things which I believe are important:
1.     All IITs are great institutions and regardless of which one you pick right now, you are going to be a big fan of your IIT when you leave. This doesn’t mean you should not explore your options, just go easy on yourself when you decide on something.
2.      When other people congratulate you for clearing JEE, they are appreciating your success at clearing a tormenting examination. When an IITian congratulates you for clearing JEE, it is because he/she knows that you are lucky enough to be given a pool of opportunities and access to facilities that a select few people get. Remember this and respect it. While it is very important to enjoy and relax right now, that is only because you should be quite busy for the next four years.
3.      There seems to be an ever growing misconception that IITK is more academically rigorous than other IITs (Is quality education such a bad thing?). I would in fact like to bask in the glory of my academic superiority over sister IITs, except for the fact that this is not true. IIT K has a liberal and easy curriculum and it is not very difficult to perform well, especially compared to other IITs. It had a more rigorous curriculum some time in the past which could explain this common stereotype. If you really want to come to IIT K but you are confused about it on grounds that you will be forced to become a bookworm, I can assure you that is not the case. (Except maybe 24 hours before exams). For more information about student activities, please read other articles.
Now that we have these things sorted I would like to focus more on Aerospace Engineering keeping the article direct and factual as I understand that as prospective students you might have a lot of legitimate questions about this unconventional branch.
What is Aerospace Engineering?
Aerospace Engineering is a specialized division of Mechanical Engineering which deals with the design, research and construction of all aircrafts and spacecrafts. This involves a lot of physics, a good deal of mathematics, electrical engineering/control and some chemistry. This department is your first step if you are an Indian and you wish to become a rocket scientist in the future!
What do we learn in Aerospace Engineering Curriculum?
I would answer this question both technically and non-technically. First let us understand the problem from a non-technical perspective.
An aircraft in flight is basically a trade off between these four forces: Thrust, Lift, Drag (due to air) and Weight. Now before you are deceived into believing that this should be trivial, let me warn you it is not. For starters all these forces are strongly interdependent on each other. As you will learn soon enough, increasing lift will lead to increase in drag, to compensate for which you need to put in more thrust, which in turn will cause changes in the weight. Secondly, flying is a serious and expensive business. Cost dictates that engineers come up with efficient designs. When payloads are launched via rockets, reducing every gram of extra weight is a real challenge! Interestingly though, there are situations were you would prefer non-efficient designs over efficient ones. For example, a fighter pilot in a dog fight (that is what airplane combat is called) has bigger worries than his fuel expenditures. This situation requires a design capable of undertaking difficult maneuvers. Another example would be that a spacecraft will need to meet different requirements than a low altitude aircraft.
Now for a more technical description:
It goes without saying that in your first year you would be doing “core courses” which are common to your entire batch. Do not take these lightly (esp the Math courses) as their knowledge is a prerequisite for understanding many advanced courses. The curriculum (and also specializations) within the Aerospace Engineering department at IIT K can be divided into four broad categories:
·         Aerodynamics: The relevant courses include fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, low speed aerodynamics and high speed aerodynamics. These courses tell you everything that you should know about how to generate lift and reduce drag. They will also take you through the history of how people tried to get things to fly, from Wright brothers making their historic flight till Chuck Yeager creating the first sonic boom in flight when he broke the sound barrier! Advanced topics on rotor dynamics and supersonic flight are also covered.
·         Propulsion/Combustion: An engine is like the heart of any airplane. It is basically a device that burns fuel to convert chemical energy into mechanical energy. In combustion systems modelling of flows is coupled with energy and chemical considerations. An undergraduate course in propulsion tells you about the different kinds of engines, their advantages and disadvantages and you can do more advanced courses in Combustion Theory as electives.
·         Structure: A moving airplane is under the action of very heavy forces and moments. It is the job of a structural engineer to make sure that it does not break into pieces due to this. The demand for lightweight and highly rigid materials has opened exciting research in materials science with the development of composite materials for the same.
·         Flight Mechanics: So far we have been dealing with specific sections of the aircraft. Flight Mechanics is the field where you bring all of them together to predict as well as alter the motion of the aircraft. A closely related field is Avionics- the study of all electronic components needed to control an aircraft. Please note that avionics is still a developing field in IIT K and there is a shortage of faculty in this field. So if you are only interested in avionics, then this department is not suitable for you.
Apart from your compulsory courses you are required to do three electives in the department and six other electives which can be chosen within or outside the department (Basically you can take up any course in any department as per your interest). You are also required to do five courses from Humanities and Social Sciences Department.
In your final year you are also required to get some hands on research experience by doing a compulsory Btech Project. You can even take more credits in Btech Project than just the compulsory one, if that interests you. The Btech project is a good way to practically apply your knowledge and skills into something useful for the aerospace community. You can choose your project topic and your guide. And yes, there is a best Btech Project Award up for grabs!
What can you do with an Aerospace Degree?
Different people do different things after completing their education in Aerospace Engineering. Of course you can go for higher studies/research in some of the best colleges in the world or take a job in a company related to Aerospace Engineering. However, you should probably note here that the UG curriculum in Aerospace is very broad based and with the choice of proper electives one could end up learning more about another department. For example, after doing basic and advanced courses in fluid mechanics and computational modeling, many people work in fields related to biofluidmechanics (like flows in respiratory and circulatory systems of the body) or maybe weather and climate modelling etc. Such changes are very frequent and it is impossible to come up with an exhaustive list. However, I have seen students branch out into the fields of Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Material Sciences. A program to do a Masters in another department also exists in IIT K. Do not be discouraged if you take up Aerospace Engineering and then realize that you do not like any of the fields listed above. Many of our alumni now work in the corporate sector in finance, consulting, management, software development. Some of our alumni have also set up their own independent companies like Aurora Integrated which serves DRDO and the Indian Army! It all depends on what you are interested in and how you use the resources available here. One of our seniors (that I know about) is in the field of performing arts right now!
“Scope” and “Placement” of Aerospace Engineers in India?
Contrary to what you might have heard, the placement scenario is not bad. Most of the batch ends up getting placed in good companies. Many students do not sit for placements as they prefer to go for higher education. Past recruiters in the department include General Electric, Airbus, Eaton Technologies, Honeywell, Michelin, Mitsubishi, ISRO etc. In aerospace engineering, most companies are looking for expertise and therefore converting to a dual degree is advantageous. Apart from these “core” companies many other companies remain open in software, consulting, finance and banking etc categories. Basically, there are enough options available and therefore you should not worry about placements too much.
Professors and Facilities
IIT K has some of the very best and well known professors in their field. Most of them are ready to interact and help you out. The infrastructure is also very good compared to any Indian university/institute. The National Wind Tunnel Facility, Airstrip with Gliders, High Performance Supercomputer, Helicopter Lab, Supersonic Wind Tunnel….there is a lot of good infrastructure, some of which is best in the country.
I hope I have given you a good flavor of Aerospace Engineering @ IIT K. Please feel free to contact me on Facebook if you have any further questions. Also if you are still in doubt about Aerospace Engineering, I recommend you to watch the BBC documentary Space Race (Part 1to 4). It inspired me a lot and I hope it will also inspire you. Link: