Rikhi (Rukmini) Roy '16
I am a junior at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering. My Aerospace journey began on 8 March 2014, when I was in Grade 10 at UWCSEA. That day, the headline was the disappearance of Malaysian Airline flight MH370. As a Singaporean, having travelled extensively and often, I became acutely aware that a loved one could easily have been on board.
Never had I taken anything so personally and I wanted to know what went wrong. So in the summer of 2015, I explored the aviation safety industry as an Aerospace Non-Destructive Testing intern at Setso Services. I investigated new setup strategies to inspect aircraft components and conducted radiographic testing. This internship further fueled my interest in the sector and influenced not only my IB subject choices but my university applications.
Alongside my passion for aerospace, I have trained in Indian classical dance since I was three. And so, when the time for college choices arrived in Grade 12 there were a few options that appealed, but none more so than Georgia Tech. The prospect of auditioning for their nationally acclaimed dance team GT Pulse amplified my excitement and I set my sights on competing at a collegiate level as I made my application.
So I was thrilled and honoured to receive an email prefaced with, ‘We are so excited to say that ....’. And the very next year, in 2017, I was honoured to become the first-ever sophomore captain of GT Pulse, competing with my team to place twice in the top three that year.
Alongside captaincy of GT Pulse, I was a member of the Design Buil Fly club; Financial Officer for the School of Aerospace’s Student Advisory Council and researcher at the Experimental Aerodynamics and Concepts Lab. Here my project involved prototyping and testing a long-endurance solar radiation reflector to fight climate change.
In the course of my studies, there have been smooth stretches and success alongside the bumps of failures and disappointments. Identifying how easy it is to get discouraged, I began writing articles about women in STEM. Looking to the women who have gone before me I interview them to and share their stories - capturing their most authentic and unfiltered selves in the hopes that they spark inspiration in other young women and girls. I curate these stories on my blog and through my writing I aim to strike a balance between the demands of the mind, body and the soul.
Last year, I was recognized as an exceptional undergraduate in aerospace by the Brooke Owens Fellowship committee, and in the summer of 2019 I will be working as an Aerospace Analyst at Bryce Space and Technology doing Space Consulting through my fellowship. However, I realised that for me, it was not enough for me to simply enjoy the large network and job for myself. I felt compelled to inspire another generation of women – through mentorship and conversations about women in leadership. And so in May 2019 months of work paid off as I hosted SheLAEds, a Singapore-wide Women Leaders’ in Aerospace outreach event. The aim was to connect high school girls with industry leaders in the hope of creating a STEM pipeline that is inclusive of individuals of all genders and backgrounds. The message: You must rise, so you can help others rise.
Reflecting on my time at UWCSEA East, I believe it was the skills I learnt founding and leading the focus group Kolkata GC, hosting Kahaani (a dance showcase to raise funds and awareness for the organisations supported by Kolkata GC) and facilitating the IFP (Initiative for Peace) in Timor Leste that ultimately helped me to successfully organise the inaugural SheLAEds conference.
I cannot help but feel as though the belief systems I have that were shaped by UWC were responsible for me having received my fellowship. In my application, I spoke of 'balance' and the growth mindset, highlighting that while I was not a perfect candidate I was willing to try and to persevere. My experiences as the Editor-in-Chief for the EconomEast magazine and co-founder of the Middle School Engineering Club for Girls while at school have all contributed to my ability to view the world through the lenses of both an engineer and of a communicator who believes in the importance of using those skills to engineer a better world.
A better world is one that leads with empathy, kindness and support. It is uplifting and encouraging – where anyone in power actively helps others rise. It is one that recognizes that progress will be hindered if we do not work together and celebrate more inclusively. It is one where we create environments where it is difficult to pass judgement because we feel we belong by being ourselves and the only expectation we have is that others will feel OK with that. And while this is difficult to create, it is not impossible. It is powerful knowing that we can engineer these environments in our daily lives and set examples of how we wish to live by living as we did at UWCSEA.