Left to Right: Sahil Singh and Shahzad Khan
Casey Tinney

A year ago, Shahzad Khan and Sahil Singh were trying to figure out what they wanted to study and where they wanted to go to college. Now, halfway through their first semester of college, they've already attended a regional IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference and have plans to start a new club at the College of Engineering. 

Khan and Singh recently participated in the IEEE Region 1 & 2 SAC Conference at Marshall University where they were some of the few freshmen in attendance. They attended several workshops and were able to learn from their peers and industry professionals. Khan and Singh are already looking forward to the next conference they may attend.  

Part of the IEEE conference included a sumobot competition featuring 16 teams of two from the various schools that attended. 

Sumobot competitions feature two mini, pre-built robots (also called sumobots) where they aim to push the other out of the ring to earn points. The sumobots are equipped with sensors and are programmed by the competitors to detect the other and attempt to move out of the way as well as push the other out of the ring. 

Khan and Singh were up until 2 AM the night before the competition testing out the sumobot and perfecting their code for the next day. Their hard work and sleepless night paid off, as they took third place in the competition, even with using an older version of the sumobot with fewer sensors and being the only freshmen in the competition. 

Khan and Singh, originally friends from Northeast High School, are part of the College of Engineering's NSF (National Science Foundation) funded STEPS (Sustainable Temple Energy and Power Scholars) Program. The STEPS program provides support for high-achieving, low-income electrical engineering students in the form of scholarships, mentoring, and professional development. 

Khan was first introduced to the College of Engineering when Chair and Professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Dr. Li Bai visited his high school robotics club. He was considering a major in computer science, but after speaking with Bai, determined that an electrical engineering major with a concentration in computer engineering was more aligned with his interests. After applying and choosing Temple as his school, Khan learned he was eligible for the STEPS program. 

Singh, originally an undeclared engineering major, learned about the STEPS program from Khan and was then introduced to Bai. Singh then quickly declared an electrical engineering major and was also accepted into the STEPS program.  

Khan and Singh describe the support they have received through STEPS as unparalleled. Khan highlights the guidance and connections STEPS provides saying, "Just being able to go to someone that has an idea of what you need exactly, and if he doesn't know he can go to someone else...having that network is really helpful..."  

STEPS scholars meet weekly with their upperclassman ambassador, Austin Predmore, as well as a seminar course with Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Affairs Dr. Shawn Fagan where they discuss potential career paths, academic plans, and receive additional mentorship.  

"Just being able to have a support system like that especially with the transition from high school to college is a really big factor and if I didn't have that I would be completely lost," explains Khan. 

The combination of support they receive from their seminar as well as Fagan, Bai and Associate Professor of Instruction Dr. Cory Budischak, has allowed them to have a smooth transition through their first semester of college. 

It was through STEPS and Bai that Khan and Singh were first introduced to IEEE and sumobot competitions. 

Now, they are working with Bai to create a sumobot club as an offshoot of the current robotics club. They're still gathering interest but are looking forward to the potential of this new club. 

"Our goal is to expand broader," explains Singh, as they hope to use the sumobot club to increase interest in IEEE as well as get involved in other competitions. 

Khan and Singh are also preparing to go back to Northeast High School with Bai to speak with prospective students and share more information about the benefits of the STEPS program.  

With not even a full semester of college completed, Khan and Singh are already looking towards paying forward the mentorship they're receiving through STEPS and the future impact they can have at the College of Engineering with the new sumobot club and mentorship opportunities through the STEPS program. 

Learn more about the STEPS Program here