Some time ago, we at ChalkTalk, published two back-to-back stories about an all-girls team from the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) making it to the Formula One student competition (FSUK) in Silver Stone Circuit, UK with their single-seater Formula car which they built from scratch. They then went on to make their university, parents and country proud by winning the ‘Spirit of Formula’ award at the competition.
Recently, we spoke to this absolutely spectacular group of young women comprising Team Auj and asked them about their experience at the international event. While they expressed their gratitude to their parents, faculty and management, they revealed that the original idea to participate was given by one of their instructors who had participated in this event earlier. “Nothing would have been possible without his support and faith in us; he led us to achieve what we never would have thought possible in our wildest dreams.”
According to Team Auj, the management and faculty at NUST are always supportive about new initiatives and ideas. “The university tried to facilitate us with most of the paperwork and administrative measures and the faculty members from different departments offered their technical expertise many times and we are very grateful to them.”
Since the competition involved making a car from scratch, it is understandable that a diverse team would help them achieve their technical, business, cost and design goals more effectively. “We started interviewing students from all the departments at NUST. Initially, we used referrals and word-of-mouth but later we used our social media pages to create awareness and schedule interviews with students. Unfortunately, many students dropped out due to the workload and commitment issues and in the end, it was just us 10 strong-willed and motivated girls who refused to give up!”
So, we bring to you Team Auj – 10 girls from three different schools of NUST. Their team consisted of two electrical engineers from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (SEECS), three business students from the NUST Business School (NBS) and five industrial designers from the School of Art Design and Architecture (SADA).
Here are the 10 questions we asked these 10 brilliant girls and this is what they had to say:
Q. Was this the first time that a team of NUST students entered the competition? Have NUST students participated in any other international competitions in the past?
Zoiba: Previously students from NUST Karachi PNEC had been participating in this event. But this was the first time that a multidisciplinary team from the main campus of NUST entered this event.
Yes, NUST students have participated in events like Shell eco-motive but Formula Student UK (FSUK) was the first of its kind for us.
Q. Tell us about some challenges you faced in actually building a car from scratch?
Harim: Given the diverse group of people determined to get this project done, the main challenge was to actually build a knowledge base essential for the design and manufacturing of the car. We would schedule study sessions and discuss different topics while we began the actual manufacturing in parallel.
Another main challenge was the procurement process. Our team had to visit shops for autoparts as well as kharadias and kabarias on a daily basis. This was the first time we were doing something like this and we had to make sure that our naiveté didn’t cause people to overcharge and de-fraud us! The list of challenges we faced during the manufacturing itself is an endless one with countless hours spent in the garage.
But we all had each other to rely on and so, none of us lost the will to work, despite all the trials.
Q. Was it challenging to work with people from different departments/fields?
Azka: This was, in fact, our first big challenge as a team. People from different departments meant different environments, different schedules and different perspectives. While it was refreshing to have different points of view, it was also really hard to get people to meet in one place at one time because there was always something happening in someone’s department or the other.
To come up with a solution/decision after hearing all the points of view was the key learning point on how to work together as a team.
Q. How difficult was it to convince your parents to enter the competition?
Syeda Al Aima: It wasn’t difficult to convince the parents to enter the competition. What was difficult was to ease their concerns along the way. Seeing us go through testing times – facing countless rejections in terms of sponsors, dealing with setbacks while making the car and watching it drain our energy while at it, was definitely not easy for any of them.
But while they wanted to protect their children from the ‘big, bad world’, they had to support us while letting us exploring that very world on our own. There is nothing we are more grateful for, than their unwavering support.
Q. Were you given any support, financial or otherwise, by the government?
Wardah: The Government of Pakistan played a pivotal role in bringing Auj’s dream to life.
The former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi, congratulated us on being role models for Pakistani women and we received a funding of Rs. 2 million from the Prime Minister’s office.
It was primarily because of this that we were able to participate at Formula Student UK 2018 and raise the national flag high!
Q. What would you like to say to the youth, especially young girls, in Pakistan?
Laiba: I can say without a shred of doubt that participating in this event and going to London was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life!
We learnt to challenge ourselves by getting out of our comfort zone and meet people who were equally ambitious, motivated and energetic. We got the opportunity to learn and make friends with people from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds. We travelled alone, lived in camps, arranged our own food, learned to navigate the public transportation network and explored amazing places around the city all by ourselves. Trust me, that feeling of independence is addictive and irreplaceable!
The personal, interpersonal and academic growth is truly invaluable because it gave us the confidence to believe in our dreams and now we know that we can overcome all hurdles. This event helped me realise that if you believe in yourself and work hard, it doesn’t matter what people say or think; you will be able to achieve anything you want. Such experiences help you understand that giving up is not an option even when you fail.
Personally, one of the many things that I learned from this trip is that life is too short and the world is big and beautiful and there’s so much to see, learn and experience. We grow as people only when we step out of our comfort zone and traveling, I believe, is extremely important, especially when you are young because it allows you to explore all the possibilities that life has to offer; it helps you to find your purpose and direction in life. It helps you develop into a more responsible, independent and grateful human being. And once you start loving it, you’re unstoppable! You want to experience new customs, foods, places, art and music. You want to learn more and more about people, their cultures and languages.
And everything becomes easier once you start making plans and work on achieving your goals instead of just sitting and dreaming about them.
So, whether you’re a girl or a boy, please step out of your comfort zone. Explore and try out new things and don’t be scared of failing.
Q. Do you have a message for parents in Pakistan?
Aatrah: Our parents were our biggest support in this competition and it would not have been possible for us to enter the competition or win the Spirit of Formula award without their support. I know how hard it must have been for them to see us struggling every day – working with mechanics, dealing with the local suppliers, staying late at the workshop, skipping meals and more.
But today they are so proud of us. And that’s what I want to say to each and every parent out there – don’t cut your children’s wings; whether you have a son or a daughter, let them spread their wings and fly as high as they can. Don’t restrict them when it comes to career choices; the world is advancing fast and there is scope for emerging technologies in every field.
Support them and let them strive towards their dreams because nothing in this world is impossible!
Q. Any specific incidents at the competition that you’d like to share with our readers?
Sabah: I think all of us on Team Auj would agree that the most noteworthy incident for us was winning the ‘Spirit of Formula’ award and receiving overwhelming applause.
The manner in which the judges and participants recognised our efforts, truly left us crying tears of joy. We were the first team ever in FSUK to receive a standing ovation from all the participating teams and the gesture left us elated yet, humbled.
Q. How did international exposure change your perspective/aspirations, if at all?
Cybil: The international exposure showed us how much we, as Pakistanis, need to represent our nation at an international level. The support we received was immense and even overwhelming at times, but we learnt so much and there’s still so much left to learn.
We really hope we get a chance to go again and bring back more knowledge and experience to share with others. And I really hope this will motivate more teams from Pakistan to try and participate in such events.
Q. If you could change ONE thing in the current educational scenario in Pakistan, what would that be?
Fatima: In my personal opinion, the current system of gauging a student’s capability does not always do justice to their true potential. The capabilities of different individuals cannot be assessed using the same scale.
The core idea of assessment needs to be completely revamped in order to assess the capabilities of all students objectively. Otherwise, we will continue to overlook their strengths and waste precious talent and skills.
The team unanimously agreed that the FSUK is an excellent platform for student teams to interact and learn from one another. According to them, students who choose to participate get to interact with numerous experienced teams who have been participating for years. “We learnt a lot of valuable tips with regards to car design, cost management and even creative marketing strategies. And we can’t wait to put all this newly gained knowledge to test for FS ’19!”
Regarding their future plans, they said the idea is to learn and improve every year and make a better version of the product each time. “Auj has always considered sustainability to be a core objective and the fact that Pakistan needs a flourishing motorsports industry. For that, the team will keep working on new designs and ideas for future events. We are exploring new areas for this year’s project and people might see a different side of Auj in 2019!”
We can’t wait to see what they have in store for us! Can you?