APJ Abdul Kalam obtained the B.Sc. degree from St. Joseph’s. He realized that Physics was not the subject of his choice. He had a desire to study engineering in order to materialize his dreams. He applied for admission into the engineering course in the Madras Institute of Technology. It was considered to be the best institution imparting technical education to the pupils.
Kalam was selected but he had no m6ney to take admission there. Zohara, his sister mortgaged her gold bangles and chain in order to get him admitted in the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT). Kalam was deeply touched and vowed to release her bangles from mortgage. The only way before him at that point of time was to study hard and get a scholarship.
Kalam was deeply attracted by the sight of two decommissioned aircrafts at MIT which were displayed for demonstration. Various subsystems of the planes were demonstrated. Kalam completed his first year at MIT and opted for aeronautical engineering as a subject of specialization in] the second year. Though the author was hailed from a humble; background yet his father’s inspiring words helped him to settle there.
There were three teachers-at MIT who shaped the career of Kalam. They were Prof. Ponder, Prof. KAV Pandalai and Prof. Narasingha Rao. Each one of them had very distinct personalities. But they share a common impulse. It was the capacity to inculcate in their students adequate amount of knowledge by sheer brilliance and untiring zeal.
Prof. Ponder taught Kalam technical aerodynamics. Prof. Ponder was an Austrian with rich practical knowledge in aeronautical engineering. Dr. Kurt Tank was another aeronautical engineer who had designed the German Focke-Wulf FW 190 single-seater fighter plane, an outstanding combat aircraft of the Second World War. Dr. Tank later joined the Hindustan Aeronautics limited (HAL) in Bangalore. He was responsible for the design of India’s first jet fighter, the HF 24 Marut.
Prof. KAV Pandalai taught the author aero-structure design and analysis. Prof. Pandalai was a man of great intellectual integrity and scholarship. There was no trace of arrogance in his personality. His students were free to disagree with him on several points in the classroom. Prof. Narasingba Rao was a mathematician. He taught the students theoretical aerodynamics. Kalam still remembers his method of teaching fluid dynamics. After attending his classes, Kalam preferred mathematical physics to any other subject.
Aeronautics is a fascinating subject for the author which contains within it the promise of freedom. The great difference between freedom and escape, between motion and movement, between slide and flow are the secrets of this science. Kalgm’s teachers revealed these truths to him. They created within him an excitement about aeronautics through their meticulous teaching. Kalam started a serious study of fluid dynamics. The structural features of aero planes began to gain new meanings namely biplanes, monoplanes, tailless planes, canard configured planes, delta-wing planes. All these assumed immense significance for Kalam. His three favorite teachers helped him to develop a composite knowledge.
Kalam’s third year at MIT was a year of transition. He had to test his belief in God. In those days a new climate of political enlightenment and industrial effort was sweeping across the country. Kalam had to see whether his own belief in God could be fit into the matrix of science. The accepted view was that a belief in scientific methods was the only valid approach to knowledge. Kalam was nurtured in a profoundly religious environment. He had been taught that true reality lay beyond the material world in the spiritual realm, and knowledge could be obtained only through inner experience.
When Kalam had finished his course, he was assigned a project to design a low-level attack aircraft together with four other colleagues. Kalam had taken up the responsibility of preparing and drawing the aerodynamic design. His colleagues took the charges of designing the propulsion, structure, control and instrumentation of the aircraft By reviewing Kalam’s work, Prof. Srinivasan, then the Director of the MIT, declared that his progress as dismal and disappointing on a Friday afternoon, the Professor directed him to complete the work by Monday morning. Kalam worked hard and satisfied his Professor by completing it in the Sunday afternoon.
Kalam took part in the essay competition during the rest of the period of the project. He had a great love for Tamil language. He was proud of its origins which have been traced back to Sage Agastya in the pre-Ramayana period. Kalam wrote an essay in his own mother tongue which bore the title, “Let us Make Our Own Aircraft”. The article evoked much response. He won the first prize. Prof. Sponder declared Kalam to his best student. He blessed Kalam in his farewell ceremony.