Pursuing double majors in computer science and data science, working for a tech startup to develop the first autonomous delivery vehicles, all in addition to the responsibilities of a senior university student might seem impossible, but this is life for Anikeit Chanda. Each of these focuses, including his minor in entrepreneurship, has one core desire at heart: to build and explore without limitations. This desire and principle is at the center of entrepreneurship, and has been a fundamental component of his academic experience since early in his academic career. 

“I’ve never seen myself as a 9 to 5 person. The dream has always been to start something for myself,” Anikeit said. “Even in high school, I’d just come up with ways to make something new and cool.”

After his early discovery of entrepreneurship, Anikeit first came to the Center for Entrepreneurship during his sophomore year of college, when he applied for the MCity Program

“I knew coming into Michigan that I would want to pursue entrepreneurship,” Anikeit said. 

MCity is a 32-acre testing facility for autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence that might need a mock urban environment for testing purposes. The Techlab at MCity program, hosted by the CFE, enables technically skilled students to get hands-on experience with autonomous vehicles and early-staged advanced mobility companies. 

“Through MCity I was able to make a lot of connections in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It was a good way to stay connected,” he said. 

While participating in this program, Anikeit began his work with Refraction AI, an Ann Arbor tech startup focused on creating a fleet of autonomous delivery vehicles to improve resource accessibility and efficiency. These vehicles could be deployed to deliver anything from groceries and medicine to hot, freshly prepared food for users without access to a vehicle or who are immunocompromised and cannot risk a trip into public. 

It’s been really cool seeing all the engineers and their robots in the real world,” Anikeit said. “It’s inspiring to see an early stage startup up close and working.” 

Anikeit’s contribution has been the development of a novel identification and perception system so the delivery machines are able to safely travel in bike lanes alongside roads. His work has increased vehicle safety, and accelerated the REV-1’s timeline until it is available to the market. 

In addition to his work with Refraction AI, Anikeit has been devoting his personal time to development projects to make social impact within the local community. Since the COVID-19 pandemic turned worlds upside down for students, parents, children and families alike, Anikeit decided to use his tech skills to help. 

“When Covid hit the United States, I felt like I was in a privileged position and felt secure with my job, and I wanted to find a way to give back,” he said.

Anikeit has been dedicating his personal time to developing a resource for schools in Ypsilanti and Washtenaw county in the wake of the pandemic. School systems nationwide have had to adapt quickly to entirely new, pandemic-related needs from students and parents alike. In order to increase transparency and increase the visibility of Ypsilanti Central School District commitment to education and public health, a new approach was needed. This is where Anikeit Chanda jumped in to help by creating a revolutionary digital platform for the school system. The website provides a plethora of important virtual resources to the community, and will drastically improve information accessibility for local families.

“Schools all across Washtenaw county were looking for a way to track and assist with students’ remote learning progress,” he said.

The website would serve as a gateway to help connect students, parents, and teachers during this unprecedented time of remote learning. It provides instructional tutorials for students who need extra support, the latest information on the school safety measures and plans, along with supplemental materials for curious parents and children. 

“It’s basically a one stop shop website for what parents need to know about their students’ remote education during this time.”

Anikeit has been working alongside three others to have this resource available for Washtenaw county users. As the original member of the team, he has been taking responsibility for the front and back end development, in addition to serving as a project manager. He, and the entire team, have been incredibly proud to have been a part of a project which will make an enormous impact on the everyday lives of local community members. 

Although the website will not be available until December 2020, his project correspondents at Washtenaw county schools have been thoroughly impressed by the development of the website and its user experience. 

“The best part of this project has been working directly with the schools and hearing their positive feedback on my work,” Anikeit said. “The recognition of my work feels great.”

In the future, Anikeit plans to continue using the skills he has acquired at the University of Michigan to make a positive impact on the lives of those around him. Whether this means developing portals for increased information accessibility, or pioneering a new generation of connected, autonomous vehicles, Anikeit Chanda is making a difference. 

Read more about Anikeit Chanda and his work with Refraction AI.