4th-year student, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechatronics Engineering
He wants to innovate and test his skills, says Prayag Shethia who came to AUT as an international student from India and is now in the final year of his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechatronics Engineering.
“Last year I had an idea that I thought could change the people around me; if not the world. I wanted to develop a visual and audio translator for the Deaf community or people who have a hearing impairment. New Zealand Sign Language is an excellent way to communicate, but why do students need a Sign Language interpreter to attend classes? Why do they need to sit in the front to see the interpreter, and why do they need to make arrangements in advance to attend classes? Why not have an app that translates for you; anywhere, anytime?
“I was keen to see how my idea could be developed, so I decided to enter the X Challenge competition. The X Challenge helped me realise that even if an idea seems silly at first, it may be exactly what the world needs. And sometimes an idea might be fantastic, but it won’t work without a proper team and a proper plan. The X Challenge helped me connect with interesting people with sharp ideas across different fields, and the preparation workshops helped me with ideation, marketing and funding.”
As the president of the AUT Startup Club, Prayag loves connecting with other entrepreneurial-minded people.
“I love that the club brings together passionate people who are looking to start, build or grow their businesses, or who want to connect with founders, CEOs and leaders within this community. The AUT Startup Club has grown to almost 300 members today with sponsors, partnerships and support from faculty, other clubs and industry. We’ve also launched two event series; Founder Stories, which highlights stories and experiences from a leader’s perspective, and Pizza and Chats, a more casual event where student entrepreneurs and start-up leaders share experiences and ideas, ask questions and have yummy hot pizza and some drinks.”
An easy choice
Now in the fourth year of his engineering degree, Prayag seems to have been destined for a career in engineering.
“I was always that one child who tried opening devices and broke them, but then felt the need to try fix then. I always wanted to achieve something different, a fresh perspective on solving problems. AUT was one of the universities that accepted my application the fastest, and with its younger vibe, smaller classes and more practical approach, it seemed to be an easy ‘best choice’.”
The beauty of studying mechatronics is that it’s the ‘Jack of all Trades’ of the engineering world, he says.
“Mechatronics is a combination of mechanical engineering, designing, computer programming and electronics. The field is new, and gives you ample knowledge and practical skills for designing, prototyping, programming, troubleshooting, communicating and managing projects. Every company likes people who are flexible, mouldable and have the basic knowledge for most things.
“Over my four years of study, leadership and connections are the main skills I’ve developed, both through academic projects and by working with industry in internships and work experiences. AUT has given me a lot of different opportunities to connect with people, work with them, and build personal and close connections.”
Advice for other students
Prayag has some great advice for other students.
“If you see an opportunity, grab it, no matter what! If you can’t find one, make one. No one ever achieves their goal simply after waking up from a dream. It’s definitely not how this universe works. It's important to step up with varied skills and try different things to see where you flourish the most. Sometimes, opportunities are away from your skillset or possible interest, but at least you get to learn something new.”
Make the most of your time at university, he adds.
“Study hard and get that done early. But don’t compromise on opportunities across AUT, volunteering or event projects. Experiences like that are what makes a ‘great graduate’.”