Kerala’s CET: College that produced Magnificent 7 of 1986 batch who helped take India to the Moon

CET, established by the former Maharajah of Travancore, on 3 July, 1939, today has a campus that is spread over 250 acres.

ByK A Shaji

Published Aug 25, 2023 | 9:30 AMUpdatedAug 25, 2023 | 11:43 AM


“IITians went to Silicon Valley; CETians took us to the moon,” lawmaker Shashi Tharoor exclaimed in a Facebook post on Thursday, 24 August.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP has enough reason to be upbeat. Not much known outside the state, the government-run College of Engineering, Trivandrum — or CET — is over the moon ever since Chandrayaan-3 soft-landed on the Lunar South Pole.

Seven of its alumni were part of the team that propelled India to the elite club of nations — including the US, China and the erstwhile Soviet Union — that have touched down on the Moon. Incidentally, CET’s Magnificent 7 belong to the batch of 1986.

CET College of Engineering Trivandrum

College of Engineering Trivandrum turned 84.

S Mohana Kumar (Mission Director, Mechanical), K Athula Devi (Deputy Director, Electronics), N Satheesh Kumar (Deputy Director, Mechanical), MA Suresh (Associate Director, Mechanical), G Narayanan (Associate Mission Director, Mechanical), M Mohan (Hunan Space Flight Director, Mechanical), and K Shooja (Associate Director, Electronics) form the Magnificent 7 CETians.

“We have been over the moon ever since their photographs went viral on social media. I was in their senior batch but I knew them all. Their achievements took me down memory lane as the institution played a pivotal role in shaping them as the best space experts in the country,” environmental activist Thomas Lawrence told South First.

Lawrence, of the 1985 batch of the Electrical Engineering Department, returned to Thiruvananthapuram after spending many years as an IT entrepreneur in the US.

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Unsung colleges

Tharoor lauded the CETians along with ISRO Chairman S Somanath, an alumnus of the government-aided Thangal Kunju Musaliar College of Engineering, commonly known as TKMCE, in Kollam, the district neighbouring Thiruvananthapuram.


College of Engineering, Trivandrum (CET)

“Indians are rightly obsessed with the IITs, but let’s salute the alums of unsung engineering colleges who serve the public sector with dedication and are the backbone of national enterprises like ISRO. IITians went to Silicon Valley; CETians took us to the moon,” Tharoor’s post, which was shared by many, said.

Kerala’s former accountant general James K Joseph, a 1970 alumnus of CET’s Civil Engineering Department, said governmental institutions are playing a silent role in nation-building.

“These scientists are products of a quality institution located in a corner of the nation. They built their careers on the solid foundations of the robust educational system prevailing in Kerala,” he told South First.

“I know some of them and wish to congratulate them personally once the formalities of the mission are completed. The alumni association is planning to honour them by organising a public function,” he added.

Shine Divakaran of the CET 1993 batch said the college’s ecosystem evolved through close relationships between quality teachers and bright students.

“The CET has played crucial roles in almost all scientific initiatives of the country. ISRO’s mission to study the sun (Aditya-L1) would also involve CETians,” he said.

“This is not the first time a low-profile government institution has proved its mettle. But IITs and NITs always grabbed the public attention. Now the CET is proving that it is much ahead of them,” AL Charles of the 1985 batch and former superintending engineer of state’s Irrigation Department told South First.

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Galaxy of illustrious alumni

“This achievement is fabulous. Institutions are moulding the careers of talented people by helping them sharpen their skills. CET is one of the top engineering institutions in India, and continues to mould the best talent for the country,” said Prof Achamma Cherian, a CET alumna, who retired recently as a professor of civil engineering from the same institution.

The CET boasts of several illustrious alumni like former IAS officer and Union minister S Krishnakumar (Civil Engineering, 1962); former additional chief secretary Dr D Babu Paul (Mechanical, 1964); Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Sukumaran Ramakrishnan (Electronics & Telecommunications, 1985), former chief secretary VP Joy (Telecommunications, 1985); project director, PSLV, for the Chandrayaan-1 George Koshy (Civil, 1986); Music Director M Jayachandran (Electrical, 1993); head of the Bioinformatics Department, University of Kerala Dr Achuth Shankar (Electrical, 1985); Actor and Director Venu Nagavalli (Electrical, 1976); former chief of ISRO G Madhavan Nair (Civil, 1966), former chief secretary Babu Jacob (Civil, 1966); environmental activist Sushil Thomas (Electrical, 1985); actor and director Basil Joseph (Electrical, 2011); and former managing director of Travancore Titanium Products Eappen Joseph (Civil, 1964).

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Vision, mission, and a ‘quality policy’

At the time the Magnificent 7 joined the CET in the early 1980s, the institution used to have an intake of only 180 students in a handful of departments.

Today, the college — on a campus that sprawls over 250 acres at Kulathoor near Sreekariyam, 13 km from Thiruvananthapuram railway station — has a yearly intake of over 700 students in 12 departments.

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) has ranked CET 110 among engineering colleges in the country. Its Architecture Department is ranked 14 among architecture colleges. All of CET’s BTech programmes are accredited by the National Board of Accreditation till 2025.

Established by Sree Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma, the former Maharajah of Travancore, on 3 July, 1939, the campus is now spread over 250 acres.

It initially started functioning from the former office and bungalow of the Trivandrum chief engineer, which is now the office of the Postmaster General. It was in 1960 that it was shifted to Kulathoor on the outskirts of the city.

With a Vision that promises “National Level Excellence and International Visibility in Every Facet of Engineering Research and Education”, CET’s has embarked on a Mission to…

  • Facilitate quality transformative education in Engineering and Management.
  • Foster innovations in Technology and its application for meeting global challenges.
  • Pursue and disseminate Quality Research.
  • Equip, enrich and transform students to be Responsible Professionals for better service to humanity.

Uniquely, it also has what it calls a Quality Policy, that states: “It is our commitment to impart Quality Engineering and Management Education to the students, acquiring advanced knowledge in Science and Technology, while continually striving to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the system by periodically reviewing all processes, so as to enable our students to become Competent Professionals useful to the society.”