“Even if something is outside of your comfort zone or scope of knowledge, don’t hesitate to pursue what you are passionate about”: Student Spotlight Series with Reem Alsati
The TRSS Student Spotlight blog series showcases and highlights the experiences and achievements of students at Ryerson University. In collaboration with the Humans of TRSM project, the featured individual shares their journey through their academic and professional careers and how the resources available at Ryerson have provided a great deal of support.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you choose the Business Technology Management program?
A: Choosing a program was a very difficult process for myself. I am actually a transfer student from OCAD University, where I was in the Environmental Design program to specialize in Architecture. After 2 months at OCAD, I knew it was not right for me. The program itself intrigued the artistic side of me, however it did not challenge me in other ways such as the technological aspects that intrigue me, and the institution at the time did not offer a strong range of extracurricular opportunities.
After dropping out of OCAD, I researched and looked at all the University Undergraduate programs offered in Ontario, to figure out which pathway I wanted to pursue.
The BTM program stood out to me the most because it provides so many different career opportunities and pathways in a wide array of industries. As an individual with widely varying interests, I knew this program would allow me to challenge myself in all of the aspects I want to explore further. Joining BTM has allowed me to better understand the business and technology aspects of organizations, and study intriguing subjects like Cyber Security, Blockchain in the Enterprise, and Information System Project Management.
Ryerson University in particular stood out to me with its extracurricular opportunities. While I was undergoing the transfer process, I knew I wanted to join a Robotics team, especially since I was a FIRST Robotics Alumni, where I competed internationally with my high school. I looked up and learned about the Ryerson Rams Robotics team. I was intrigued and knew that was a prospect I wanted to pursue. The Ted Rogers School of Management also impressed me with its wide range of student teams, and frequent case competitions offered. As a 4th year BTM Major and Philosophy Minor, I know that transferring into Ryerson was the most important and well executed decision I have made.
Q: Describe your journey in Ryerson Rams Robotics. How did you get involved and what made you want to remain involved?
A: My journey with Ryerson Rams Robotics (R3) began in my first year of university. After discovering the team and learning that they are Ryerson University’s multidisciplinary robotics collective that competes in a multitude of international competitions, ranging from rovers for Mars-like conditions to advanced underwater robotics, I was captivated and knew it was something I needed to pursue. I emailed R3 and signed up to join during their recruitment season.
I initially joined R3 as a Mechanical Design member for the VEX robot, where I was able to gain hands-on experiential learning and travel to Kentucky, USA, for the VEX Worlds Collegiate competition. During my second year of university, I left R3 to experience other engineering design teams, but I reapplied to join in my third year since I missed the team and the overall dynamic.
I applied to rejoin R3 as a general mechanical design member. From there, I was contacted for a new role that I was unexpecting but was extremely grateful for. I remember being on a call with R3 executives, where I was able to learn about the position of Chief Operating Officer, and the day-to-day tasks that are encompassed with the role. I was intimidated but at the same time extremely eager to gain this level of responsibility on the team. I immediately accepted the position at the end of the call.
At first I felt a bit in over my head, especially since everyone is so knowledgeable and adept on the team. But I was welcomed and was given the proper support to thrive, which motivated me to put in my best work on the team. Being around such amazing people I look up to gave me energy to really push myself and learn as much as possible, even if it is for something outside the scope of my knowledge. With this mindset, and with the support of my amazing peers, I was able to contribute to technical work. I was able to design the sheet metal chassis top covers on SolidWorks, and bring the CAD to life by contacting manufacturers. I have also worked closely with the Geology sub-team, where I designed and built an SQL Database for geology sample identification and life detection.
I was able to gain strong communication, collaboration, strategic planning, and problem-solving skills, and I gained the confidence to speak publicly at various events. With my role as Chief Operating Officer, I primarily [work in] external communications, ensure operations are running smoothly, and assist the Team Captains with funding and planning of certain tasks. By managing external communications, I have been able to build and maintain relationships with sponsors such as TSN, ANS Performance, VectorNav, Nvidia, Lenovo, ProtoCase, SolidWorks, etc.
R3 has made me grow so much as an individual, and has allowed me to have strong connections and friendships with team members that I know will last a lifetime. This has been my journey to date on the team, and I am so excited to see where it takes me next!
Q: Do you have any tips or advice for someone trying to start something related to your field?
A: Even if something is outside of your comfort zone or scope of knowledge, don’t hesitate to pursue what you are passionate about! Being uncomfortable means that you are positioning yourself to grow. Everything can be learned with the right mindset and work ethic, and people will generally help you succeed when they see you are eager to learn and contribute.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve come across in your involvement in the Ryerson Rams Robotics association?
A: COVID-19 affected our team in nearly every way, from design work, manufacturing, assembly, to holding meetings- everything had to be restructured. The team had to adapt and innovate different solutions to overcome these roadblocks. For instance, we had to design and build the rover in a fully modular manner. The chassis for the 2020/2021 rover was 3D printed since in-house manufacturing was no longer an option, but it resulted in a very effective and lightweight chassis, which helps with the competition’s rover weight restrictions.
A major competition for R3 is the University Rover Challenge (URC), where the top 36 university teams are selected to compete in Utah at the Mars Research Desert Station (MDRS) for finals. To qualify for the finals, teams are required to complete two crucial milestones for the URC competition, which are the System Acceptance Review (SAR) video, and the accompanying report. On average, there are over 100 universities that apply to URC, where their SAR milestones are scored and the highest 36 scoring teams qualify for finals.
For SAR 2021, we had to film for competition, but did not have access to our usual filming sites such as UofT’s MarsDome due to COVID restrictions. With these restrictions, we had to be creative with filming our rover’s maximum capabilities while adhering to public health guidelines. For the filming period, we recorded everything outdoors in my neighbourhood and with very limited members. This resulted in our team using the skate park nearby my house, where our double-lambda rocker bogie suspension system was showcased effectively and in a unique manner. Despite these restrictions and roadblocks, R3 succeeded to produce a high quality SAR video, and successfully ranked within the highest 36 teams to qualify for finals.
With this experience, I was able to learn about the rover beyond my scope of knowledge and in a more in depth manner. I was able to be the primary rover driver for filming, and learned to troubleshoot control issues as they arose. Despite this being a challenging and difficult time for the team, it is my favourite project that I have worked on, especially since it is a project that I learned the most from in such a condensed period of time. SAR 2021 allowed me to understand the team’s overall design decisions along with their competitive advantages.
We want to thank Reem Alsati for sharing her story and speaking on her experiences to inspire and inform the TRSM student body of what Ryerson University has to offer. Learn more about Reem and her journey, and check out her Humans of TRSM feature here!