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Ahmed Raja

Schulich Leader, Engineering I

A FIRST Robotics team captain for two years, Ahmed is a software developer who placed second in the Halton Skills Robotics and Control Systems Competition. He’s also the event director for TechUnder20, an organization in Halton that engages students 15-20 in the growing tech community in the region.

What does it mean to be named a Schulich leader?

Being named a Schulich leader means the world to me and I find it difficult to express my gratitude in a short article. The opportunity to pursue an Engineering degree without any financial burden alleviates tons of potential stress and allows me to focus on school and extracurricular activities like McMaster's design teams. Being a recipient of such a prestigious scholarship is something I could only have dreamed of, and to think it has become a reality is still unbelievable. In the near future, I plan to use this achievement to help inspire students younger than me to pursue engineering through various avenues like FIRST Robotics. I am extremely humbled and grateful for this opportunity and am excited to meet everyone in the network very soon.

What is your dream job?

Though I am open to various career paths, my current plans are to pursue a Master's degree in order to work in the research and development sector for the automotive or space-exploration industry. I want to come up with concepts that no one else has ever implemented in an attempt to revolutionize the way people live. This contribution may be for a big company like SpaceX or a startup that I create. If all goes well, I would love to get a Ph.D. and give back by mentoring the future generation of engineers.

What made you choose McMaster Engineering?

McMaster Engineering offers various experiences that have piqued my interest. With background experience in FIRST Robotics, I am excited to join vehicle teams like EcoCAR and FormulaE, as well as some of the various non-technical clubs McMaster has. Additionally, McMaster's flexible co-op program leaves tons of avenues open for me in terms of internships, allowing me to control my experience, which is something other universities prevent. Lastly, I have heard very positive testimonials about the campus and student life at McMaster, assuring me that I will be able to destress when needed and enjoy my time over the next 5 years.

What are you most passionate about outside of the classroom?

Outside the classroom, I am most passionate about robotics and the future of automation. In my free time, I am often on my phone watching videos or reading articles about new robotics innovations around the world. One of the more prominent ones being the recent release of BostonDynamics' Spot, a robot dog aimed to handle the tedious and repetitive tasks that previously humans had to do. Ever since I joined my high school's FIRST Robotics team, I have been hooked on researching how some of these companies accomplish these amazing milestones in our endeavour to automate the world around us.

Who is your role model?

My role model is undoubtedly Elon Musk, someone that inspires most upcoming engineers and entrepreneurs thanks to his amazing story and accomplishments. His ability to be involved in the engineering aspects of his businesses while managing various aspects of them as an owner is a trait I dream of developing myself. As someone who is interested in similar fields of study as him, engineering and entrepreneurship, I like reading and listening about him to learn from his experiences. After a tough upbringing, Musk managed to accomplish so much: sold his company for $1.5 billion, saved Tesla and SpaceX from bankruptcy, and eventually beat the competition to manufacturing economical electric vehicles and reusable rockets for space exploration. His inspiring story has undeniably motivated me to work hard and achieve more no matter what the hardships I encounter. Hopefully, I can inspire the world as well so that one day people look up to me in the same way.

How have you stayed motivated during the pandemic?

Though times have been tough for everyone, to stay motivated during the pandemic I have been trying to keep myself busy with various kinds of activities. I have tried to keep a fair balance between productivity and leisure by setting aside time for certain things and holding myself accountable. I started biking 100 kilometers per week to make sure I stay physically healthy, play video games with friends to wind down, and try to spend some time with family and friends (in a safe manner of course). Though it's great to have some time off, I have also been working on fun coding projects and learning new math and physics concepts. Overall, keeping myself busy with things to do and rewarding myself with some purchases has helped me stay motivated during these unforeseen times.

What are you looking forward to and/or are most nervous about working virtually this Fall?

Working virtually in the Fall is going to come with its challenges, but I am still stoked to start learning new things and making new, life-long friends. In all honesty, I am not too nervous about the upcoming semester. Fortunately, I have tons of resources available to me for help and guidance thanks to the mentorship programs that McMaster and the Schulich Squad are running. For the most part, I am excited about joining various clubs and working through the limited access we have to still achieve success in the competitions. In addition to extracurriculars, I cannot wait to be the first class to take the Integrated Cornerstone Design Projects in Engineering (1P13) course. The projects we will be working on will teach me practical skills that I can directly apply to co-op jobs and eventually, my career in the industry.

What three things would you take with you to a desert island?

Assuming we aren't stranded and are just visiting for leisure, I'd take (1) good company in the form of family and friends, (2) a soccer ball to have some fun, and (3) a tent to sleep in and get away from the radiating sunlight. With the right group of friends, having just a soccer ball to play with can still be very enjoyable and relaxing. We'd be able to relax, forget about the rest of the world and just have some fun. Most people would probably choose to take a mobile device, but I feel like that would ruin the experience of forgetting about everything else. I would prefer to just take some time off and come back to unread messages and tons of voicemails.