“I want to live in a world filled with entrepreneurs and inventors; they are going to turn all the fancy gadgets we saw as kids in movies and cartoons into real, functioning ones!
Name: Varun Heta
Vocation: Innovation Enthusiast
Operates out of : Saket, New Delhi
Alma Mater: Institute of Management Studies, Ghaziabad
Past Projects: VAYU-500 (Customisation drone kit that is fold-able)
Current Project: All Year round Workshops
Favourite YouTube Channels: Be Inspired
Varun Heta is an engineering graduate, an avid robotics enthusiast, an expert on Drone building, customisation & operation and one of the stars of the Maker Movement in India. In talks with MakersBox for our Meet the Maker series, he sheds light on his past as well as current efforts to spearhead the movement and help the maker community improve and grow.
Currently working on…
I am working on a round the year workshops by organising and improving the pre-existing material on drone building, and also working on my YouTube channel, those interested can have access to how to build and customise drones.
My focus is on the design fabrication of things because, I believe that is an area that needs to be developed as a skill amongst the maker community. Take for example, Fusion360 (a software from AutoDesk) is a free, yet complete software for those who want to turn their ideas from a sketche on paper to 3D design and then proceed with the mechanical engineering & manufacturing engineering steps to develop their prototype.
See, maker-spaces have 3D printers as their primary prototyping tool and earlier, most software did not have compatibility with them, so prototyping was a bit of a hassle. Plus earlier the steps involving the mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering bits would require the design you modelled on one software to be exported to another software and so forth. This was a big headache since designing, customisation of mechanical aspects of your design, exploring various requirements via simulation and finally the modelling before manufacturing – all these steps required different platforms.
Now as I used Fusion360, I have realised that all these steps can be done on a single platform and makers like me should have a structured way to help guide them through these steps. That is what my workshops aim at and moreover as they will autonomously be conducted across the myriad maker-spaces to help the community develop this skill set of designing things, instead of merely downloading a already done design and just printing it.
Tools that you use…
I explained how Fusion360 is an absolute favourite of mine for the software bit of things. See back in college before cloud softwares had become the norm, there was always worries about you know, losing all your work if there is a power failure and you hadn’t saved your work or your hard disk got affected, but now on this platform my work is backed up automatically to cloud. To assemble drones, rather if you are a maker, you need to be comfortable with hand tools as well as power tools, most of which are readily available at a maker space. So yeah, that is what I use.
You got into making because…
As a child I wanted to be a pilot and I wanted to fly, simply because the thought of being in the sky thrilled me. I would tinker and make stuff like simple bots or toys from parts salvaged from a junkyard that was near my house. This was when I was still at school, then I went on to pursue engineering in Electrical and Electronics. At college I got into Robotics competitions, you know, making bots like line followers or edge avoiders, the standard competition bots. As my interest in making bot peaked further, on graduation I joined a start up that basically dealt in Robotics and Education.
That was a pivotal point because I would have to go up on stage to conduct classes, and I realised how bad I was teaching stuff. See, knowing something is one thing, imparting that knowledge is a skill and you have to cultivate that over time. If you know something but are unable to communicate that knowledge to others then you are missing out on a chance to grow. I think it was around 2013 that I left my job and started prepping up for higher education and began freelancing to provide tech solutions in robotics to companies and clients who needed the same.Since I had a lot of time to spare, I would frequent a friend who ran the Bonus Electronics shop in Lajpat Rai.
There I saw a lot of students who bought components required assistance with their projects too and most of the shops that sold components didn’t really know how to help those students out. One such group of students was referred to me, by my owner friend and I thought well let’s help the kids. In my hobby room at home, I’d assist these guys in their projects and a lot of them were actually doing some great work.
These meetups turned into what I now recognise as an early form of a maker-space, with several students collaborating, some donating tools and so forth. That transformed into the idea of having a proper Maker Space and later on I did run the Delhi Maker Space for two years.
Getting into Drones and how that added to life…
While still freelancing, I happened to work with guys who made these model air-planes that could fly and had the good fortune to meet up with a retired Air Force pilot. Exchange of ideas coupled with my life long affinity to flying, drone building became my way of flying even if I was not a pilot you know. It gives me this rush, piloting a drone.
This culminated into workshops, teaching people how to assemble, tune and fly their own custom drones and got to collaborate with some amazing people. I learned on the go, most of it and then instead of it being a drone building workshop, over time it took shape of Aerial Robotics, as the drones have changed in that aspect as to how they behave with a certain degree of decision making on their part. It’s great fun and I love the entire experience. As a person, I can always go and work on a drone if I am feeling down. I mean, staying put bugs me, working on something, be it just testing a new feature or making improvements to design or any new challenge, that fills me with a sense of direction and purpose if I ever feel lost.
Thoughts on the maker movement…
See the way I see it, the movement will churn out future innovators and entrepreneurs. We need to understand that the nature of jobs is going to change as time passes and the guys today need to be taught a skill set to match the ideas they have in order to execute them properly. Going to college or self learning are still ways that help achieve this, but it might not work out the same way for all. In a maker-space there are tools to get around with, people from different disciplines to work and share ideas with, get a good perspective about a problem.
We need to empower and educate our future inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs so that they may be able to tackle different problems that require solutions. That is what the movement is all about. Secondly, as technology in terms of both software and hardware becomes more and more open source, sharing is the only way to, working in isolation is no longer the way. Again since most of the tech becomes open source, the fear of people stealing your creation or you know stamping their name on your work becomes far less unfounded. Sure IP rights, patenting your ideas, or inventions are a must but in order to grow, sharing is important and need of the hour.
Changes you’d like to see happening in the movement…
Again, maker-spaces are setting up the groundwork for results that will prove fruitful in a long run. The students of today will take some time to become successful makers of tomorrow. So I think if the big corporations could see the value of investing in maker-spaces either as a CSR activity or say providing grants or some form of funding that would be really great. Maker-spaces can be where inventions, product development and even pre-sale can be done but it will require initial capital and I think that’s where the big corporate ventures can play an important role. Along with this, the spaces need a structured business model to stay functional as this is a very capital intensive venture. So the maker-spaces are in need to work towards this front too.
Makers who inspire you…
Anool Mahidharia, from Mumbai is a charm when it comes to circuit designing. He is a superb electronics guy who you know is proper maker, gets his hand dirty to get the work done. He really innovated when it comes to designing PCBs, you know. Second name comes to mind is of Kavita Arora, who is a gem at getting the community engagement done properly. She curates the content and is able to organise the events in a fashion that is beneficial to those trying to learn something by attending it. She has been able to connect people and cultivate a good Maker community in Bangalore.
I talked about the round-the-year workshops so the next logical step is to connect the the makers to incubators, accelerators and evangelists because that is how product development can be possible. And it just doesn’t stop at product development, there is sales marketing, these are things that also need to be taught as a skill set to those who are tinkering and working in maker-spaces and hobby labs. I will like to do this engagement, not just nationally but on an international level; I am travelling to San Francisco and Tokyo to meet people & talk about the same. On a more personal front, I would like to work more on Manufacturing Engineering and Industrial Designing in the whole fabrication process.
A word for the new makers…
I would like them to know that sharing and collaboration is how you can expand your horizons. With so many people out there building stuff, by opening up about your work you can compare notes with those working on something similar to your own project; if it is something new, you’ll attract makers who can help you improve. The more you interact, collaborate, the better you become as a maker. That’s all.
Here is a little test run of the VAYU-500, enjoy. Also, please do not fly your drones in closed spaces unless trained properly. Varun is not only a drone builder but an expert pilot.
Want to build a drone, or build something that you have always wanted to, why not become a member at a MakerSpace, check out our Membership Plans at MakersBox, if you are in Delhi
Disclaimer: Some of the pictures used in this article are not shot or pictures that belong to MakersBox, these have been re-used with permission from Mr. Varun Heta. In case you feel you are the copyright owner of the image, please do share this information with us so that we can credit you and link it back to the original source.