Applying theory to practice in India

Working at Pors and Rao in the framework of the III program was a unique experience for many reasons. Upon my arrival, the working mechanism of the studio was the first thing I had to understand. From the few employees there, it took me a while to grasp the extent of my role and my responsibilities. The task I was given was rather simple and clear on paper: “Designing and supervising the manufacturing of a fully functional artwork.” The result of my internship would then be presented at an upcoming exhibition. In a known environment, such a task would have already been challenging for me, a still unexperienced soon-to-be graduated engineering student, and here I was in Bangalore.

The artwork “Turning Panels” features 8 black monochrome canvas hung in a symmetrical pattern against a wall. Each panel is in a sense an abstraction of an insubordinate being, that rests or does as it wants when no one is there, but when someone is, it would immediately join the rank. The actual panels tilt along an axis depending on the viewer motion and presence. If no one is around, they move away slowly from their vertical position and if suddenly someone comes around, they all swiftly turn back to their original rigid posture. 

The success of the artwork was dependent on the selection and design of a rotational actuation module. The final module had to be compact, powerful and as quiet as possible for the desired speed of motion. The first step was to choose an electric motor that would suit the core element of the module. This selection process required the mathematical modelisation of the artwork to evaluate the motor capabilities given the specific usage. Once the motor was chosen, the module mechanism was designed around it, so that the final assembly would satisfy the artwork requirements. The constraints on the actuation modules were not always similar, the design of specific mechanisms was then required for the different panels. The availability and the lead time of parts, material and manufacturing process was also a factor to be dealt with in every part of the process. This task was exciting and fun, I had to learn about the software tools that were used in the studio and use them for my projects. The manufacturing process was also stimulating; from talking to and visiting the suppliers that would produce the parts, to receiving, checking and finding mistakes on them and to finally assembling everything. It took a few iterations to fully validate the design and to get a better understanding of the suppliers and manufacturer capabilities.

At the end of the three months, the final artwork was produced, although some testing and tuning are still to be done, the mechanical aspect of the artwork is finished and will be used for the actual exhibition. The whole experience was rich in learning and emotions; it was for me one of the very first opportunities to apply my theoretical knowledge for a real world practical application. I was challenged and motivated by the freedom and the responsibilities I was given during this internship. The inputs I received throughout the project were always positive and helpful.

This working experience in India allowed me to learn and discover more than I thought in technical as well as relational matters.

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ETH Zurich

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