Leading a robotics team to a first place championship? Building a portable and sustainable energy-harvesting device? Creating a personal electronics laboratory? Teaching math and robotics to underprivileged girls? Each of these accomplishments alone blows us away, but would you believe us if we told you one girl completed them all, and then some? Meet Farita Tasnim, the STEM goddess whose extracurricular successes tower over those of most of our parents’. Oh, and btw, she’s 18.
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Farita Tasnim: My most fulfilling achievement was helping to create a lasting engineering empire in my high school robotics team. In ninth grade, I joined FRC Team 4188 at its inception, and since then, my team has been my second family. After a couple years of apprenticeship under the team leaders and our robotics coach, Mr. Luther Richardson, I became captain, and led team 4188 in orchestrating five major achievements: vastly increasing female representation in our robotics team and in science and engineering classes, employing proper engineering team structure through assigning people to integrated process teams to partition and integrate work, ensuring the use of CAD modeling before mechanical construction, securing a grill company to sponsor us and manufacture our robot parts and training younger members of the team in software, electrical, mechanical and systems engineering in order to build a self-sustaining empire.
By championing these improvements, I was able to lead my amazingly hardworking team to win first place of more than sixty teams from the Southeast U.S. at the Peachtree Regional for the FIRST Robotics Competition, securing us our second-ever earned spot to World Championships and our first-ever regional winner title. Working together to win it all with my team at Peachtree was one of the most defining experiences in securing my love of STEM.
HC: What was the hardest part of creating your ocean wave energy project?
FT: My portable ocean wave energy harvesting and instrumentation platform required meticulous integration of work in many different fields: circuit design, board layout, CAD modeling, mechanical construction and firmware coding. Achieving this seamless integration was the most challenging, yet also the most enjoyable, part of my project.
In the process of completing this project, I created my own electronics laboratory starting in tenth grade, such that I was able to design, build and program printed circuit boards (PCBs) in my own room. I was also able to gain many skills in various different fields, with heavy emphasis on electrical engineering, allowing me to immerse myself in systems engineering two years before university.
HC: Why has your participation in STEM been so instrumental in your life?
FT: I personally find freedom within STEM. This crucial confluence of fields has allowed me to grow mentally, academically and socially – it was directly involved in my development since I painstakingly read through all the science books I could get my hands on when I was 5-years-old. Passing down the baton and inspiring others is what gives me purpose!
Since I have received hundreds of hours of valuable mentorship from my robotics coach, engineering mentor and parents towards my pursuit of STEM, I have truly understood the importance of having one-to-one mentorship and inspiration from role models, and I want to give back to the community that helped me go after my passions. My love for STEM has allowed me to inspire many little scientists to pursue science, engineering and the arts in exciting ways. Since ninth grade, I have given talks about robotics and engineering to elementary and middle school kids, presented my FRC team’s robots at Maker Faires, encouraged immersion of youth in partaking in their own STEM projects, and taught underprivileged girls math and robotics at Girls, Inc. The smiles on the faces of those realizing their dreams through STEM make my efforts worthwhile.
HC: Who in your life most inspires you?
FT: My parents have inspired me with their constant hard work and endless love, and they have pushed me to pursue the things I enjoyed since I started school at 4-years-old. Their constant patience and support helped allow me to explore many different fields before I found my passion in electrical engineering, both through merging fashion and technology, and alternative energy harvesting. Furthermore, both my parents have degrees in engineering from Bangladeshi and American universities and graduated at the top of their classes. They came to North America, starting off with simple factory jobs in Canada, and worked their way up to landing their own little “American Dream” while raising three kids. I am forever grateful for them.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
FT: Try everything! Dive in headfirst into anything that interests you! If somehow learning about the glutamatergic pathways regulating the formation of memories in the hippocampus excites you, then get a position in a lab and run some experiments! If engineering more efficient solar cells through nanotechnology makes you elated with passion, then buy equipment and run more experiments. If robotics tickles your fancy, then join a robotics team, or better yet, start one, and build robots! Keep exploring until you firstly find your one true love, and then, fight to overcome all the failures that strike you while you work hard to achieve your goals. And always, keep laughing.
HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
FT: Post-graduation, I would like to pursue three major goals: 1) continue to contribute to my community by inspiring young kids to achieve their dreams in STEM, perhaps through a global non-profit promoting the mentorship of young kids by professionals in STEM fields, 2) strengthen the integration of the arts and technology through incorporating science and engineering into fashion, design and art, and 3) advance the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of energy conversion by furthering alternative energy harvesting on a large scale to overcome fossil fuel usage.
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
FT: “To find what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” –John Dewey
HC: How would you describe yourself in five words?
FT: Enthusiastic, persistent, ambitious and constantly laughing!
Elana is a sophomore in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, majoring in magazine journalism and economics. She currently works as an editorial intern for Her Campus, as well as a writer for her school's chapter, Her Campus Northwestern. She'll be going abroad in the fall to study journalism in Prague, working at a local media outlet in addition to her classes. In her free time, she captains her Dance Marathon team and teaches local public high schoolers through Peer Health Exchange. She loves spinning, hates nutella, and is totally indifferent towards baby animals. After graduation, she hopes to work for a high-profile lifestyle publication.