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All the Projects I Ever Started - Part 1

October 3, 202015 minutes read

The date as I write this is the 4th of October 2020 - a day before I turn 25. A few days back, out of nowhere, I decided to Google search myself - just to check how I appear online. I had recently moved to DuckDuckGo as my default search engine and the results I got were interesting.

The first page was the usual social footprint - GitHub, LinkedIn, my website and a few other platforms. As I moved to the later pages, the links started getting hazy - the search engine trying to match as much as possible, but the results included links which were very old; some websites which I had created back in 2008-09. It was a good trip down the memory lane as I tried to recall all such tiny 'things' or 'ventures' I had tried out. And this was the motivation for the current post - there are a lot of things which I can currently recall I tried building. Creating things of my own is something that I deeply loved. Over the past two days I have been trying to think and collate a list of such projects, small or large, that I have started till date - it would be a good memoir to celebrate my birthday here on my blog!

The cover photo has me posing in front of a school science project that I had presented in an exhibition. Most of it was built by my dad (guilty), my greatest source of inspiration and creativity. I am posing as an engineer - because back then this was how I/we generally pictured engineers, most of our dads were one.

This post is going to be a long one, but mostly bulleted and not subjective. So it would be easy to browse through and for me, it would act as a note for the future. Many of these might not be actual, huge projects but they held a strong place in my heart and were fun to build. I will go chronologically from the oldest to the newest and try not to overflow things to a second post. I'll also try to attach photos with each project if I find them in my archive - would be a good flash of the past and a peek into how skinny I was.

# School (2000-2010)

# Telescope

A lot of my initial projects were based around optics and physics in general. I loved it back in school and even till date, it gave a sense of mystery and a lot of things were unknown until tried or built. In addition to this, I had access to glass lenses which my dad used to buy, I'm not sure from where, but there were at least 6-7 convex lenses at home back then. My dad had built a telescope when I was around 10 years old and he had used all kinds of empty plastic cans to build the tubular body of the device; since then I too wanted to build one. My crafting skills were bad though, I could not cut and join things very well so I did away with a paper roll design and the thing worked!

# Motor and dynamo experiments

Motors were a huge part of experiments back then, you could break apart toys and gather atleast one motor, or two if you were lucky. It was a cool thing to break-open fully functional toy cars and FM transmitters, get the internals out and try to make them work without the body. Then occasionally you would discover something new and there would be a eureka moment.

One such eureka-moments was discovering that a motor could generate power if it was rotated manually or using some technique as in a windmill. I remember me and Nikhil building random things that rotated and had a motor attached just to get that small amount of juice to get a LED running. Another experiment was adding a brake-light to our bicycles where the brake pedals would work as a switch and the steel rim as the key.

# Mobile designs

This was another extravagant attempt to design mobile phones with over-the-top features and bizarre specifications. I remember having a big notebook to draw these diagrams of phones which had full touch screens and cameras with up to 81MP resolution.

One of these designs was unique but weird - it was a square-shaped phone with a high-end camera. It was essentially a camera with mobile phone features. A few years later Micromax launched this design (and it failed miserably no doubt). A few more years later Nokia launched the 808 Pureview - a behemoth camera sensor of 108MP. We thought of sending our designs to Nokia, but had no clue how that happened or if such a thing even existed. Sounds funny recalling those times!

I do not have pictures for most of these given these happened in an era when smartphones weren't available. I feel too old to talk about 'a different era' - but that is how our technology has evolved.

# A cardboard car

This was one of the most fun and mindless projects we had picked up. I think it was me, Aditya, Nikhil and a few little kids from whom we had 'borrowed' some paraphernalia. The aim was to build a functional, one-seater vehicle which worked at least on a sloped road (no engine, no motors - a simple moving thing).

We took about 9 HotWheels-type toy cars and glued them below a cardboard box. For the steering, it was a wooden 'T' joint which had another set of toy cars attached below. We took this thing outdoors and pushed it down a slope with a driver in it - it broke apart in the third run I think. There was no aim to make a working thing but we were happy that it at least moved!

# Shooting and Editing

Around 2008-09, mobile phones with cameras had started coming up. This was also a time when point and shoot cameras had come out and they allowed easy digital recording. Me and a bunch of friends would record videos and try doing some creative things like pausing and cutting the clip at the right moment so that things seemed to disappear in a moment (lol).

One such big project we took up was filming a farewell movie. It wasn't a movie after all, it was just a video presentation with music and text, but even getting those pictures was equal to filming shots. We used to find free time during breaks and use up free-periods to shoot these videos. Once we were done recording, I would edit and compile the video on a desktop with 256MB RAM and Pentium 4 processor using Picasa + Windows Movie Maker - the video never rendered completely. I remember on the farewell day, we played the video in the preview mode but it was beautiful!

Candid while waiting for the video to render

# Class Branding

This was a very weird concept that I was fond of back then - having a brand representing things and I was unusually proud of my bunch of classmates. So we designed a class logo and pained it on the walls of our class. Another instance was when we wanted to leave a message for the future generations about climate change and we painted a symbolic drawing about global warming. It was real fun to work together to achieve something beautiful!

One of the illustrations that went up on the walls. Courtesy Saylee Kir.

This also involved a lot of random digital stuff like a website built using an online builder and a fantasy newsletter built using Microsoft Publisher.

# Futuremakers

This was one of the first ideas that I believed could become big. There are some things close to your heart, that you wished grow and turn into practical institutions - this was one of them. Around 2011, I had become much political and social vocally. I used to speak and write on some hot topics and urged people around me to adopt certain changes. Out of this Futuremakers was born. Now just to note, the ideas penned in this blog might be a bit rusty, but most of them hold true for me even now but I am much more mellow in terms of expressing them.

The blog was very personal to me and I used to pour my brains and heart out while writing anything new. I wanted to pursue this in the future but the idea gradually died down as I realised the mental pressure and downside of bringing about a change in people. Since then, I have been very passive about preaching ideas and have liked the idea of presenting a question and making people think rather than shoving some opinion down people's throats.

# College (2013-2017)

# Graphic design is my passion

Through my blog and writing skills I got into the magazine club of my college as an English editor, but I soon moved towards design. Thanks to my amazing seniors, during my first summer vacations I left for home with hard-disk full of image/video editing software. That vacation I tried my hand at poster making, general video editing using high-end software (not Movie Maker lol). And this began my love for graphic design and digital creation.

A few posters

# Techbasics

Techbasics was my attempt at starting a tech YouTube channel. I recorded and posted some 4-5 videos about things like iPhone jailbreaking, Windows tips - the regular jugaad tech channel starters. The biggest mistake was me expecting that the viewers will come organically to my channel, so dumb I was. I never promoted the channel, I'm sure no one would be aware of it. I think I was doubtful about the content and quality too.

One of the videos from the channel. Pardon the poor quality and speaking-into-the-mic skills.

# Short Film

Having used mobile cameras and point-to-shoots to record videos in school, I had been dreaming of shooting a movie for a long time. One day, frustrated from an aspect of engineering life, I made a few of my friends to shoot a movie with me. I am unsure how they would react to me resharing this because the movie is very much based on a metaphor that is hard to perceive and might look absurd.

Engineering Escorts - my first short film. Pardon if this wastes 8 minutes of your life.

This was a nice experience getting to know what all goes into shooting a short film, and what all things need to be taken care of if I decided to shoot another one in the future.

# Photography - Roha Trip

During one of my summer vacations, I did a photography trip to my maternal hometown in Roha, Raigad. It is a beautiful town located on the banks of river Kundalika in northern Kokan. The most interesting thing about any countryside town in India is that it has a story and traditions of its own and you get to see this bunch of diverse people coming together for one occasion.

I went around visiting fields and a few local craftsmen - a typical Swades trip. I had planned to print these pictures at some point of time but that never happened.

A few clicks from the trip

# The VNIT App

This was the first Android app I built and tried promoting. The idea was simple - a campus app to cater to all things college. I recently got an old build for the app and installed it on my phone. The idea was novel, but the implementation was too immature. It had various views to display mess menu, syllabus and timetable.

Screenshots of the app. Notice the unconventional pictorial backgrounds - a facepalming UI

At the same time, a senior from my college was trying to solve a similar problem and he had built a full-fledged social network using Angular back then. I committed the grave mistake of ignoring the offer to contribute and losing interest in the idea altogether. The idea of web-based mobile apps and complete social platforms was difficult to digest for me back then.

# Jugaadu

After trying to build a campus app, me and Paresh ventured into building an app for some extra cash. It was a local startup in the hyperlocal services space and we built the Android app for the platform allowing users to book services.

# Untitled - a dream project

What can I say about this one! I have had an old bond with publishing platforms, be it online or in print. Untitled was a monthly newsletter that me and Rohit had started in college. This project was a first hand experience for me in the fields of sponsorships, printing, content generation and marketing. Coincidentally, our cover article was on social media and its impact on society.

Untitled's first and the only issue

We put so much effort into making the first issue perfect that we couldn't publish any more of them. It was a real task to go around in cafes convincing them to place their ad in an available spot and promise more attention. A few were rude, and a few friendly. In the end, we were able to fill all the decided spots for ads and the complete process of printing and distributing was ultimately self-sustained.

We had also tried out some different ways to make people interested in the newsletter before it was published. My poor marketing skills were put to test and indeed it is a tough job. People did buy into the campaign and we gathered a considerable amount of readers. This was also the time when I was trying out the name 'The Lazy Engineer' for anything that I started.

If I ever get to restart one project from the past, this would be it for sure.

# Dilemma - another short film

It was the time when Christopher Nolan movies had grown onto me and the concept of space-time entanglement was intriguing. This idea clicked one morning to me and decided to execute it the same day and me and Pradnyanand started shooting it using our friends as actors.

The execution could have been much better and I would have gotten some good sleep if we had not decided to do it in one night.

# Gudhipadwa Celebration

Organizing an event was something I hadn't done in quite some time then but kudos to Chinmay and friends, I was ultimately a part of the team that was successfully able to start an event at college. Gudhipadwa is a Maharashtrian festival that is celebrated on the day of Marathi new year. This project was a rich experience of how multiple pieces move together to achieve a single goal, and how achieving that goal feels like.

Pradnyanand used to record such moments and put them up on his YouTube channel. During this event, he created a fantastic post-event video.

# Timelapses

This was one of the last things I did in college - I wanted to record the last few days of college. I used to carry a tripod and place my mobile at places to record general activities and the daily life of a final year student. It was fun to do and always fun to watch, I bet I'll be watching it right after adding the video to this post.

I have failed to keep this post to a single unit and things will have to move to a second one. This exercise took much longer than I thought it would and I wonder how long the second would take. Hoping I complete it soon! Now entering the 26th year of my life, good night! 🌚

© Mohit Karekar • karekar.mohit@gmail.com