From a young age, Mahasvin Gogi was immersed in engineering, a trait he perhaps imbibed from his father, a software engineer. At high school, he built energy systems energy systems from scratch, using the materials his class had on hand.
Born in Mumbai, Gogi spent his primary school years in Australia and returned with his family to India to attend high school. There he participated in many engineering activities. “My class group made a turbine that ran on water. The magnets attached to it created an electric flux in the copper wires that are wound around the turbine creating current and energy. My group converted mechanical to chemical energy and created a renewable energy system using tidal power.”
These experiences led Gogi to decide to study engineering when his family returned to Australia. He joined UTS Insearch, a pathway provider to the University of Technology (UTS) Sydney, where he went on to win the Outstanding Graduate Prize this year. Each year UTS Insearch offers more than $210,000 in prizes to recognise the success of its students and reward their academic achievements. In conversation with Mahasvin Gogi.

How would you describe your Indian educational experience?
I moved to India in 2008 and spent eight years in Mumbai completing my 5th to my 12th grade there. The Indian education system I was put in burdened me with numerous challenges. One of the challenges was the teachers. I encountered unfriendly teachers who spoke poor English. It was at times arduous to comprehend exactly what they were attempting to convey. Another thing was Indian textbooks. They were often a time-consuming read as they contained a minefield of grammatical and theoretical mistakes. Rote learning was my most pressing problem. I found it futile to memorize concepts and then write them from memory in the exams. I felt that this system had to be modelled and improved to be of any use to students. Apart from the poor quality of education I had received, I didn’t have anything interesting to invest free time in, because both my school and my college lacked extra circular activities.

Coming back, how did you find the education system here?
Australia delivered the education system I expected a developed country would deliver. There was no rote learning, to begin with. The education system evaluated us based on our problem-solving ability, our creative intelligence and, most importantly, our understanding of the concepts and not on our memory of them. The textbooks were concise, grammatically correct and had minor mistakes, which made my learning easy. The thing that surprised me was that the teachers were friendly and encouraged us to ask questions. This was something I hadn’t seen before in India. I eventually received good grades in both my semesters because the educational institutions in Australia shared my core values and ideas of how students need to be taught. In addition to this, Australia offered me a diverse range of sport clubs, activities and volunteering opportunities. This was something missing in my life for a long time.

You won the Outstanding Graduate Prize for his Diploma of Engineering. What does the prize entail?
I received $5,000 for the prize. I would also like to note that I also won the Dean’s Merit prize which includes $5,000 more. Both prizes are awarded to the student who gets the highest marks in his/her cohort. My GPA was 6.4/7, and that was the highest in my year. The total sum of $10,000 went towards my parents who in turn, paid $28,000 for my first year.

What according to you are your strengths and weaknesses?
I perceive my strengths as being focused, determined and motivated in work. I always try to achieve better each time by self-analysing and thinking of ways to improve my existing practices. I look at my overall progress and think about how I can work to achieve the same goal more efficiently. I feel that my main drawback is that I anticipate the uncertainty of the future too much.

For students coming from India and studying in Australia, what kind of advice would you give them to achieve what you have?
Based on my previous experiences in India, I assume Indian students entirely focus on their marks. To achieve the kind of accomplishment I have achieved, I would like to highlight that instead of competing with others to get the highest marks, you should concentrate about learning something new and expanding the horizons of your knowledge. After acquiring considerable depth of understanding, good grades will follow effortlessly.

What were the challenges that you faced before joining UTS Insearch?
After I had completed my HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) from Mumbai, I moved to Australia and I stared applying to the universities in Sydney. It wasn’t surprising that my HSC certificate from Mumbai was not recognised by any Australian university. I had to get into UTS by an alternate pathway, called UTS Insearch. UTS Insearch allows students with low ATAR’s or those with an unrecognised HSC (my case), to finish first year at their institute. They then can apply to UTS and fast track into second year based on the merit of their grades in their first year. After I applied I wasn’t sure UTS Insearch would provide me with education that’s standard to first year students at UTS. But my worries were put to rest when I started learning there. UTS Insearch offered student-oriented learning material, supportive teachers and a nice learning environment. I found no challenges after joining Insearch, and I hope other people who were once in my place follow the same path.

How do you balance your academic work and your other interests?
I think a balance is necessary in life between academics, social life and sports. I do maintain that balance in several ways. I meet my friends twice a week in a park in the city for our fitness routine. In addition, I also enjoy playing social tennis occasionally. Sometimes when I get over burdened with my work, I tend to take some time out to mediate and relax my nerves. I think physical and mental fitness are necessary for everyone to maintain good health in life.

Tell us about renewable energy systems that you are interested in.
I am interested in contemporary renewable energy technology and electric power generation from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide, hydro and fuel cells. I feel that the understanding of renewable energy storage and integration into hybrid cars, power grids, etc., is important for developments of clean energy alternatives. This is moving away from non-resources such as coal and petroleum that more than two centuries of past industrialization has exploited.

What are your future plans?
I think it’s too early to say what I might like to do, as my interest might change ten or twenty years down the road. So far, I am interested in designing renewable energy systems. What makes renewable energy an ideal field for the future is its sustainability and environmental benefits. The international renewable energy agency (IRENA) predicts job growth in this industry and says that “The industry created more than 500 000 new jobs globally in 2017”. If I do become successful, I might consider becoming an entrepreneur and I might commercialize my ideas. But again, it’s too early to say because the future is uncertain.
What is your definition of success?
Success is all about competing with yourself. It’s the satisfaction obtained from knowing you put in all your effort to achieve your goal. Even if your toil doesn’t bring positive results, you have at least tried and learnt something. Even failure is a form of success if you continue your progress and learning without discouragement and think of ways to improve.

(As told to Indira Laisram)