Hi, my name is Abdullah Hadi, and I am currently an IB student at Robert Bateman high school. I have been a part of my school’s FRC team, the Wildebots, for 3 years now, and throughout my journey, like many other FRC members, I have learned a great deal about technology, teamwork, and a multitude of other
things. Working with my peers towards the same goal, and surmounting the challenges that came our way has been an invaluable experience for me. Thus when I heard about a similar program through a friend I decided to do a little research. I found that SHAD was just like FRC in the sense that it immersed motivated youth in an academically rigorous environment, with an emphasis on STEAM and innovation. Not only are they alike in this regard, but both programs give you the opportunity of expanding your network, and getting to meet incredible people, from which you can establish lifelong relationships. I truly believe that the two defining factors of my high school experience have been being a part of the FRC community, and becoming a SHAD Fellow.
Suffice it to say I was extremely excited about the opportunity presented by SHAD, and was quick to start my application. After a couple weeks of carefully preparing my answers, and refining them, I hit the submit button, and hoped for the best. I was ecstatic when I received my acceptance into the program, along with the FIRST Robotics-SHAD scholarship. This covered all the costs associated with the SHAD program, and removed a huge financial burden for my family, for which I am ever grateful.
When I first arrived at the Western campus, greeted by the large blue and white SHAD banner hung across the front entrance of Delaware Hall, I was slightly nervous. I entered into the building I would be calling home for the next month and was greeted by the program directors. A program assistant subsequently showed me my room. As fate had it, my roommate was one of the executives of FRC team 610, and we automatically formed a close bond, discussing the competitions we had attended, and the strengths and weaknesses of the robots that we had built. After getting to meet the rest of the students at the campus through very well organized ice-breakers, I felt quite comfortable in this new environment, and was eager to start learning. Through the workshops, lectures, and excursions that followed, I was amazed at how SHAD and FRC practically embodied the same philosophy of engaging motivated youth. It allowed me to realize that FRC was more than building robots for a competition, but rather it was about the community that was built in the process, and the passion that we put into our work.
For the first weekend of our SHAD experience we went down to the southernmost inhabited island in Canada, Pelee Island. Here we camped for three days. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of SHAD as I really got know the rest of my peers, and had some extremely interesting and insightful conversations over the campfire. After Pelee, we transitioned into a more structured schedule, which included engineering workshops (we got to build and program self-balancing robots), lectures from award-winning professors, and visiting world class research institutions (WindEEE institute, the Purple Crow Lidar Institute, Propel Entrepreneurship Incubator, and many more). This was just a small portion of the incredible, and eye opening activities we did on a daily basis.
During SHAD there was also a strong focus on our physical health. Everyday included a “rec session,” and there would be voluntary runs every morning at 7:30. These really helped with de-stressing at times as throughout SHAD we would be working on our business projects which had strict deadlines. Nonetheless, some of my most memorable SHAD moments were spent while working on these business projects with my group. The FRC build season and working on the projects was definitely a similar experience. Essentially, we were given a theme, and by the end of SHAD we had to have a product, or service with a functional prototype to present to judges addressing the issue we were presented with. I incorporated skills I developed through FRC into my project, which helped out in many aspects.
SHAD was also an amazing way of getting to meet industry professionals, professors, and many other accomplished individuals. We even got to listen to a lecture by a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate! The lectures provided many insights into several different areas, and provided new perspectives on things. The combination of the business project and the lectures greatly enhanced my entrepreneurial skills, and my understanding of STEAM.
With all that being said, if you are a part of FIRST Robotics, I would highly encourage you to apply to this amazing program, as it is an enriching experience. It is an opportunity to make lifelong friendships and connections, and learn things experientially, rather than through a textbook or what we are typically accustomed to. If you feel anxious or perhaps reluctant spending a month away at one of the many host campuses offered by the SHAD program, I say to you what Hill Du, one of the program assistants at SHAD Western told us many times, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”