Inspired by FIRST, Shazif Shaikh ’19 Embarks on Career in Aerospace Engineering

 Inspired by FIRST, Shazif Shaikh ’19 Embarks on Career in Aerospace Engineering

December 17, 2018

At age 11, Shazif Shaikh joined the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team (#3332, [email protected]) at St. John’s Lutheran School on Staten Island, and two years later, he became a referee for FIRST Lego League competitions.  When he entered Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, he joined FIRST Robotics Competition team #694 StuyPulse and began refereeing FTC matches at the FIRST New York City Regional Competition.  FIRST has been a big part of Shazif’s life and, as it has for many students, FIRST inspired Shazif to study engineering.

Now, as a senior aerospace engineering major at Syracuse University, Shazif is enrolled in a robotics course using some of the same motors that he remembers from FIRST competitions.  In this course, Shazif designed and built a “Sumo Bot” to compete against other robots by pushing them out of circle.  He credits his experiences with FIRST for his initial understanding of the design process, his interest in mechanical engineering, his knowledge of C programming, and his machining skills.

Shazif credits the close-knit community in Syracuse’s College of Engineering and Computer Science for opening doors for him to many opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom.

“From the first moment I got on campus, I had an opportunity to get involved with a variety of things,” he said. “I formed early relationships with a several professors, and Dr. Michelle Blum (Program Director for Mechanical Engineering) connected me with aerospace fluids and aerospace structures professors.  Syracuse University allows you to engage very early on with what you like to do.  People may think aerospace engineers are confined to the air.  However, aerospace engineers for the first two and a half years take the same courses as mechanical engineers.  I started in gas turbines for power plants, and jet engines are just turbines in the air.  That foundation has allowed me to create a career at GE Aviation.”

Shazif has created quite a legacy at Syracuse.  Last year, he founded the Unmanned Ariel Systems “Drone” Club, which will be competing this year in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) student competition on a naval base in Maryland.

Over the course of his undergraduate career, Shazif served as freshman ambassador, web developer, internal Vice President, and President of the Syracuse chapter of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE).  Through SASE conferences, Shazif connected with other young professionals from across the country, including fellow FIRST alumni.  He also credits SASE for the development of his leadership abilities.

Outside of engineering, Shazif has served as a Resident Advisor for three years in freshman residence halls.

“I believe that mentorship I received when I was a freshman was important and I should always give back,” he said.  “That’s part of the philosophy of FIRST – gracious professionalism and always giving back.  College is a time when you get to explore what you’re interested in and create lifelong friendships.”

As a celebration of all of his accomplishments at Syracuse, Shazif was selected for the Homecoming Court this fall.

“The Court was an amazing experience. I loved wearing the sash around campus. I thought, ‘I’m royalty at this point,’” he said.” I got to represent what it means to ‘bleed Orange.’ We went to a special alumni awards dinner and we were recognized on the field at a football game in the Carrier Dome.  The amount of young alumni who came back is amazing. Everyone loves Syracuse.  Alumni weekend was really cool.”

During the past two summers, Shazif completed two internships with GE – one working with coal power plants in Windsor, CT, and one working on unsteady flow analysis for gas turbines in Greenville, SC.  Following his graduation in May 2019, Shazif will join GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program.  He’ll be based in Lynn, MA, where GE Aviation typically works on F414, F404, and T700 engine lines.

Shazif is very excited to make the transition from engineering student to engineer.

“Aerospace engineers are at the forefront of creating a more global society and a more interstellar society,” he said.  “And it’s really cool, because you can literally say, ‘I’m a rocket scientist!’”


Syracuse University offers $25K renewable merit scholarships to students who are involved with FIRST Tech Challenge or FIRST Robotics Competition teams.  The scholarship form is available on the FIRST website. Syracuse uses the Common Application, and the undergraduate application deadline is January 1st. Students should contact Jonathan J. Hoster, Undergraduate Recruitment Specialist, at [email protected] with any questions.