Thu, 01 Jun, 2023

Nation's Pride: Kshitij Raj Lohani

By Nikita Gautam

30th April 2014 was the day that every Nepali citizen was once again proud of being a Nepali. 17 months of struggle and handwork led to an achievement that will be noted in the history of Nepal. Kshitij Raj Lohani, who for the first time was able to send a Nepali national flag to the edge of the space, 80,000 feet above the earth surface, named the project "Krinjal Project".  He is a computer-engineering student pursuing his studies in Northeastern University, USA.  He owns 4 world records and 1 national record. He says, "Never reply to the other person when you get angry and never promise to someone when you are happy". An inspiring personality was asked with the following questions during the interview session: 1. Starting with your childhood at first. How would you describe your childhood? Just opposite then what it is at present. I was a very naughty kid who made excuses to avoid school. I utilized sleep till 9 o'clock in the morning and after the school bus was gone I used to watch TV. I had literally done everything, taekwondo, gymnastic, film, poem whatever I wished to. I was an uncontrollably notorious child. There are merely some parts of my body which aren't broken. I was even thrown out the school for not being able to pay 500 rupee as school fee. I was able to see the other part of life because of poverty. I have closely experienced both parts of life, happiness and misery. 2. What inspires you the most in life? Every six months, I always want to do different things. Sometimes I am known as a memory champion, sometimes as a poet, someone who acted in a film, sometime as a scientist, which I don't think I am. But people call me by different identical tags. I think that doing something new every six months inspires me a lot. 3. What is/are the thing/s that you love the most about you being yourself? I think it’s the greatest weakness I have but I love it the most that I never get angry. No matter what you do to me, my temper never goes high. I am a reserved personality. It's been months I am continuously in the media but what people know about me is 0.5%. There is 99.5% what people don't know about me and I never share them. When I do something no one knows, what I think no one knows, no one can predict me. My greatest weakness is the thing that I love the most about myself. 4. What made you choose the path, which you have chosen? I really don’t have interest in physics but I live science as a whole. When I started my college, my colleagues were from different countries, each one of them at least had a satellite launched in the space. But when my turn came it was zero because Nepal had never been able to launch a satellite in space. I was assigned to write 800 pages of essay about it and I had nothing to write so I submitted blank sheet saying we have/had nothing. I won’t say that I have started a space exploration in Nepal; my main aim was that unlike me, in future there wouldn't be students who should submit a blank sheet of assignment. We have to start contributing at some point. This isn't a huge accomplishment, but a start of space revolution in Nepal so that students in near future will be able to achieve something more than this. I had literally assembled broken materials and carried entire the Krinjal project in $150.  I had to do everything: physics, chemistry, stat, calculus, weather prediction, computer programming, simulation, which I had only 10% knowledge about before commencing the project. That moment of blank assignment made me choose the path. 5. Tell us a little about the “Krinjal project"? It was a weather balloon project, which was meant to reach the edge of the space. Nepali national flag was sent to 80,000 feet above in the space and played national anthem of Nepal for the first time.  This project almost used the unused and damaged cameras, which I repaired and programmed myself.  I made some changes using canon hack development kit (canon cameras were used for the project). Neither my parents nor my roommate knew about this project. I love giving them surprises. 6. Who did you name your project after? Krinjal is a name that gives me positive energy in itself. I myself do not know why I named this project after it. This name just makes me feel good. There is no meaning attached to the name, but for me this name is everything. 7. What difficulties did you face while working on this project? And how did you overcome them? First and the most challenging difficulty for me was to deactivate my Facebook account.  I was too much into Facebook that I couldn’t keep myself away from it. The other difficulty that I came across was that I had invested 6 months in this project with the Sony camera but it didn’t work.  At that moment I was disheartened and thought that 6 valuable months of my life has already passed; now I shouldn't be wasting my time anymore. But I kept on moving and after 17 long months of hardship the outcome is in front of the entire world.  The day my project had to be launched tornado occurred which is something unpredictable by the weather so I had to postpone it. The day before the launch I had to wake up entire night to predict the weather. I had to predict the weather over a night, which I had previously predicted after 3 months of research. That was challenging but at last it worked. 8. How do you feel about your huge accomplishment? Awesome! Awesome! I knew it would be big but I never thought it would be this big. The honor and the respect that people have been giving me feel great. People call me celebrity but I still do not think that I am a celebrity. 9. What does this project mean for Nepal? I would focus on Nepali students because I receive a lot of messages from them. This success has been a great source of inspiration for them. Many students have been sharing a lot of their personal projects with me and are coming across developing it. So it feels great to hear such things.  Another great achievement for this project is that, it is going to be in the history of Nepal. 10. Why did you choose computer engineering for your undergraduate studies? I used to play a lot of video games in my childhood in video game parlors. My interest towards computer developed from childhood itself.  It does not have any specific reason. 11. What is your biggest ambition? Every six months do something new. 12. How do you think computer engineering will help you accomplish your goal in life? You have to be master of one and jack of all. This is the field where I want to be the master. Computer engineering and memorization are the fields that I want to master at. I want to take that long way. I have tried many things in life. But those fields are only sideways, but my right tracks in life are the above-mentioned fields. I understand computer engineering and it feels interesting learning about computer and its related topics. We literally can program anything that is the fun part of being into computer science. I love this field. 13. What do you consider failure? I cannot say the exact meaning for failure but for me not attempting/ trying is called failure. 14. What would you like to say about the controversies going on about your Weather Balloon project? Yes, there are some controversies going on about the project but in my point to view they are baseless. People have been saying that this project is a crap because sound cannot travel in space but the title of my YouTube video was "edge of the space", which is the stratosphere, 80,000 feet, where sound can travel. So those controversies are just a publicity stunt or something else I might say but they are completely baseless and unscientific.  15. What do you plan to do next? Well, actually I have no idea about that. After the 17 months long months of hectic work, my mind has been monotonous. So I am here in Nepal to reenergize my mind. I don't have any plans for now. But I want to do some project that is non- technical. Something related to education. 16. What message do you want to convey to the students of DWIT?  IT field changes very quickly and you need to cope up with the change. I have a startup in US and I wanted to build a development team in Nepal. But what I found was there were little to no developers who were expert in Ruby on Rails. Ruby on Rails has the market in US now. So if you can learn the programming language as the market requires you will have the piece of cake by your side. Being in IT field you should be able to learn that lesson. Yes we need to definitely learn C or Java or PHP, they are long-term languages but we also need to analyze what has taken the market value for now. We shouldn't only stick the same programming language. Start learning new things. The more you explore the more you learn. If you are good, highest paid salary will be in your feet.