Meet Our Volunteers

Usman's Stewardship: FIRST Robotics

Usman Waraich

  • Joined Bechtel in 2013
  • Active in FIRST, Engineers Without Borders, and STEMNet
  • Member of Bechtel's Stewardship Advisory Council
  • Control systems engineer in Bechtel's London office

Usman Waraich is a Control Systems Engineer for Oil, Gas and Chemicals (OG&C) business and he supports the British Petroleum West-Nile Delta project, based in London. He joined Bechtel around in November 2012 and has worked on major projects such as Reliance J3 and Pacific North West LNG.
 
Usman began coordinating FIRST Robotics in December 2013, supporting Team 1884. He has volunteered and participated in various other signature programs, including Engineers Without Borders and STEM outreach efforts. He is a STEMNet Ambassador and has conducted career talks at various local schools representing Bechtel.
 

What did you find most surprising about your experience as a volunteer?

I had a bit of ‘engineer’s syndrome’, a peculiar condition that most engineers go through in the early part of their academics, in which they believe that what they study at college will provide solutions to everything in real life, and are eager to put their knowledge into action. It wasn’t until I got to the middle of my degree, when I built my first project applying mathematical equations, that I had the opportunity to observe applied mathematics in action.
 
What I found most surprising was that the things I aspired to do at the age of 9-16 (the ages of FIRST Lego League participant teams), these children have already achieved. It goes without saying that what this next generation of engineers can achieve at the end of their academics is bewildering.
 
As a control systems engineer, coordinating and organizing FLL events and activities was something I began doing merely due to my interest in robotics. I did not expect the overwhelming level of appreciation and recognition from fellow colleagues and Bechtel management. I must say that it completely took me by surprise and I am very much humbled by the experience.

What was the most rewarding part?

It was when I saw children soaked in the passion of achieving the best out of their months-long hard work. When they achieved excellent results from their robot design and project presentation practice sessions throughout the season, they returned home with huge smiles on their faces.

What did you find most challenging?

I have never organized events on such a large scale. Coordination and management of events with around 150 people requires a great deal of responsibility and logistical challenges, which was pretty daunting at first. But thanks to all the volunteers with FIRST and with the assistance of colleagues it all came together in the end, and now that I have organized this signature program I feel I am able to take on even bigger challenges… bring it on!

What, for you, has been the most important lesson?

Apart from learning that you can build literally anything out of Lego (well, if you have enough Lego blocks…), I learned that engaging this next generation of engineers at an early age can make a huge impact on their lives and consequently on the future of humanity.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The key to addressing the challenges faced by mankind today, such as resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and diseases and epidemics, is to equip young people with the tools of engineering, sustainability, and hands-on experience. Giving them insight into these areas at a young age through Stewardship Signature Programs like FIRST Robotics, Engineers Without Borders, and STEM initiatives, can make a real difference.

FIRST®
FIRST® is a global nonprofit that runs four robotics programs for young people between the ages of 5 to 18. The programs offer real-world engineering experience and inspire students to pursue education and career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This year, Bechtel provided funding and volunteers for 50 FIRST® teams in Australia, China, Chile, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. FIRST® is one of Bechtel's signature programs.