School of Engineering


Summa cum laude for BSc in Mechanical Engineering graduate, Mr Rylan Odayan.

Summa Cum Laude Graduate Aims to Reach New Heights

Mr Rylan Odayan who graduated with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering summa cum laude lives by the credo, “Tough times never last; only tough people last”.

Having to acclimatise from in-person contact learning in his first-year of study, to online in his second year and hybrid learning for the last two years towards a degree that is historically extremely demanding, Odayan is ecstatic to be graduating in the stipulated time with exceptional results.

With an avid interest in cars and putting together complicated Lego sets, Odayan always knew that Mechanical Engineering was something he wanted to pursue. ‘I decided to complete my studies at UKZN because of their strong Mechanical Engineering Department,’ he said.

‘Rylan showed an interest in cars and structures from a young age, watching shows like Top Gear, MythBusters, Trading up and Wheeler Dealers,’ confirmed his proud father, Mr Poovie Odayan.

Odayan’s insatiable appetite for knowledge and enquiring mind had him planning ahead even during his undergraduate years. He is currently studying towards a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Institute (ASRI). ‘Aerospace is a very innovative field that uses advanced technologies not often seen in other applications,’ he said. ‘Seeing this made me want to learn more and contribute.’

He is investigating the simulation of the trajectories taken by sounding rockets from the Overberg Test Range (OTR), as well as the general weather patterns experienced in the area in recent years. ‘By simulating the trajectories of sounding rockets and analysing historical weather data, I aim to determine the types of missions that can be conducted with various sounding rockets from OTR,’ he explained.

He hopes that his research will impact society. ‘If more sounding rocket missions occur from OTR, this will be cheaper than the current option of launching them overseas. Having local capacity could also grow the economy as more services will be required in this area,’ he said.

Odayan’s enquiring mind and inquisitive nature were always encouraged and appreciated by his parents, for which he is eternally grateful.

Said ASRI Director, Professor Mike Brooks: ‘After a stellar performance in his Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree, the Aerospace Systems Research Institute is delighted to welcome Rylan as a postgraduate student where his master’s work will focus on the analysis of prospective sounding rocket operations from South Africa.

‘He has settled in well with ASRI and has already contributed to the recent success of the team during its March Phoenix hybrid rocket launch campaign in the Western Cape. It’s a pleasure to welcome another outstanding engineer into the ASRI fold and we look forward to working with Rylan.’

Words: Swastika Maney

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan