Women in Engineering Society continues Women’s Wednesdays and this week we are presenting Heidi Nasir – final year student at the University of Sheffield who is studying MEng Mechanical Engineering with Biomechanics and also is involved in Sheffield Eco Motorsports (SEM) team for the annual Shell Eco Marathon competition. Heidi shared with us her story how she has got into STEM, gave insight into what it is like to be in SEM team and what challenges she faces being a part of it.
How is your experience so far?
Honestly, it has been one of the highlights of my university experience. It is my final year here as a student and my second one with SEM. As part of the manufacturing team, I was involved with the carbon fibre hand lay-up of the whole body and general assembly of the car and was put in charge of forming the PETG windshield and side windows. This year, we are working on remaking the top mould, so I am currently working on some new design ideas. Being part of the team has given me an opportunity to be really hands-on, teach us to think out of the box and apply what we have learnt. My only regret is not applying earlier when I could have been more flexible with my time.
What challenges have you faced so far and how did you overcome them?
Last year was our first year entering the annual Shell Eco Marathon competition despite the team first being introduced back in 2015. That being said, we are a relatively new team so lack of experience has been (and still is) an issue. As a team, we had to figure things out along the way, mostly through trial and error. Personally, it was daunting for me when I first joined because I had no prior experience working with cars or manufacturing processes beyond what I have been taught as part of my course. I had to do a lot of preparation beforehand – research as much as I could, ask for advice from lecturers, staff and team members, and be prepared to redo or change plans if anything goes wrong. Besides that, time management has been my biggest challenge. It becomes especially difficult when I have to juggle my SEM commitments on top of my assignment deadlines, but studies always come first so I just have to constantly remind myself of priorities!
What has been your favorite memory while you’ve been in the team?
The week of the competition in Mercedes Benz World was incredible. Making it to the competition was an accomplishment in itself and being surrounded by hundreds of other people from all over Europe with the same goal in mind made for a lively atmosphere both on and off the track.
While our team faced some unexpected difficulties, in the end we passed our first technical inspection and managed to get the car running for the first time. I was the team driver too so that was an unforgettable experience for sure.
How did you get into STEM? Who inspired you to get into it?
Growing up, I have always been fascinated by how things work, and naturally that translated into exploring the sciences in secondary school. My family was supportive from the very start by encouraging my interests and hobbies.
There was no specific individual per se, but I guess representation matters because as a young girl I was even more inspired to explore STEM whenever I read articles about women who were very successful in their fields and broke barriers doing so, like Professor Mazlan Othman who was Malaysia’s first astrophysicist.
What would you say to inspire young girls in order to get them into STEM studies?
If you are like me, stay curious and never stop asking questions until you are satisfied. Follow your passions and keep pushing boundaries. Everyone is and can be good at something – if you are still trying different things, if you are curious about how things work, want to be involved in various problem-solving, real-life applications and open doors to a wide range of opportunities in numerous industries, then STEM is worth checking out. It can be scary but do not be afraid to try new things to help recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and develop confidence in STEM subjects.
Thank you, Heidi Nasir, for sharing your experience with Women in Engineering community and good luck in the future!