Feature Image Photo Credit: Tony Pulsone
Aditya (Adi) Mehrotra is a FIRST® alum and a Mechanical Engineering graduate student at MIT. Using his FIRST-gained skills, Adi is able to add valuable knowledge and experience to his professional work as an instructor in the MIT D-Lab and as a member of the MIT Electric Vehicle Team. Not only does he make an impact at MIT, but he has also spent time in Ghana working Moving Health to use STEAM to address the issue of maternal mortality and is passionate about finding sustainable and renewable energy solutions for developing countries and using cinematography to change perceptions of these communities.
Read more below about Adi and how he uses STEAM to make an impact on his community and beyond.
FIRST Staff: Can you share some information about your studies at MIT?
Adi: I did my undergrad at MIT in the EECS department and focused a lot on electrical design and mechatronics. Now I’m a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering. My research interests are in renewable energy technologies, especially hydrogen, and specifically in the context of developing countries. I focus on figuring out how we can use renewable technologies to help create energy independence and boost the economy of underserved communities. I also love teaching and part of my work is focusing on developing a new curriculum for Mechatronics at MIT.
FIRST Staff: What is your favorite part of being on the MIT Electric Vehicle Team?
Adi: The people. I mean the project is fun and challenging of course, but the people are what make the team. In January, we started building this hydrogen motorcycle, and a few weeks ago we finished a fully functional prototype. Someone at a conference asked me, “how’d you guys do it so fast?” and the truth is anything is easy with teamwork. The group of people we have is dedicated and passionate. They’re also silly, goofy, and so much fun to be around. That environment lets us support each other and play to each other’s strengths.
FIRST Staff: Can you tell us about your work with Moving Health?
Adi: I worked for Moving Health in Ghana the summer of my senior year of undergrad. In Ghana, maternal mortality is a huge problem because people in the rural regions don’t have access to adequate healthcare. Transportation is a huge part of this challenge, so Moving Health builds three-wheeled offroad ambulances that connect the rural regions to the urban population centers. I helped them with the design of a folding stretcher that summer. Now, because of the increase in oil prices, I’m helping them transition towards green energy to reduce cost, increase reliability, and make their work more sustainable.
FIRST Staff: How do you combine your cinematography/film interest with STEM?
Adi: I use cinematography to change our perceptions of people who live in underserved communities around the world. Too often, we see images of poverty on the TV or the internet and it de-humanizes the people. We see them as helpless. But the truth is every one of those people has a story, they have hopes and dreams for their own lives, and ideas, good ideas. It’s our job not to come in with a solution like we know better, but rather to be a friend. To get to know them, understand them, and then work with them to build solutions that can work for their communities. Their stories are what I try to portray in my work.
FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?
Adi: I think it’s a hard question in that how do you “know” you’re making an impact, but I certainly try. Most of my research projects are tied to implementing a solution to one of the UN Sustainable Development goals in an underserved community somewhere in the world. This is important to me; it’s why I do engineering. I try to understand the people I’m working for, and the environment I’m working in. I try to come up with every possible way (however improbable) the systems I’m designing can fail. And then I try to break them in every way I can think of to ensure they’re robust.
FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?
Adi: Katherine Goble Johnson. Hidden Figures is one of my favorite movies of all time and I really encourage you to watch it if you haven’t. She was a critical member of the team that helped perform the calculations that launched John Glenn into orbit. Her math was the foundation of NASA missions after that. She did all of it by hand, without a computer, using the basics of physics and math. Especially in such a digital age, she inspires me to go back and learn the fundamentals.
FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Adi: Books are amazing. I really mean that. I think in high school I stopped reading because of time and because I didn’t love high school English. It was something I enjoyed so much as a kid. Any book, from fantasy to a textbook, can teach you so much. And art helps inspire creativity, and creativity makes you a better engineer. Art and engineering are so intertwined, and I wish that’s something I’d learned earlier. Also, textbooks are a far better resource than the internet sometimes. Being able to trust your sources is so important.
FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?
Adi: Be passionate about your work and have a reason for doing what you’re doing. The world has so many problems we need to solve together. Read about them and understand them in as much detail as you can. Then think about your passions - what excites you? And then think about where your passions might be applied to solving those problems you read about. To build robust solutions, you need to understand problems at a deep level and your engineering needs to use hard-core physics. Take the skills you learn through participating in FIRST and use them to build a better world!
Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.