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Haddam’s Contribution to Xavier’s Winning Engineering Team

By Kathy Brown.

Xavier High School’s Engineering Team of seven students won the Real World Design Challenge International Championship in April, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Three of those students are from Haddam: Roham Hussain (senior), Akshay Khunte (sophomore), and Carter Chase (sophomore). Xavier has won the national championship twice in the last three years, but this was the first time that they won the international competition. Akshay chose Xavier for its “good academic rigor,” while Roham chose Xavier for “a strong, challenging education,” and Carter chose Xavier for its “prestigious aura and its strong community.”

(from l to r): Akshay Khunte, Carter Chase, Roham Hussain

The Xavier team, which consisted of four seniors, and three sophomores, beat out 19 teams from around the world for their design of an efficient, un-manned aircraft, which was capable of identifying bug infestations in cornfields and spraying them with pesticides. The team had to submit a detailed business plan, along with specifications of their aircraft to a panel of professionals, professors, and FAA and NASA officials.

Roham explained, “Typically, the Engineering Team is made up of seven team members. This year was special, not only because it was the 10th year of the competition, but because our team only had four returning members. Now, to complicate things further, those four members were all in their final year of high school, and therefore in the final year of being able to participate in this challenge. This meant that three new team members had to be selected who could carry on the team after those four seniors had left. From the start of the year, the objective was never to win, instead we were concentrated on training those new team members to the fullest extent possible, so that future years of the program could have success. We were focused on a long-term strategy that happened to have a successful short-term outcome.

Carter, a sophomore, said, “I knew right from the beginning that this team was special. I knew, while many did not, that we would get far. Little did I know that we would go on to win it all!”

One of the new members to the team, Akshay, said, “The work which was put in by the entire team as we made our way to the international championship was difficult but rewarding. It was a terrific means of not only improving our engineering/business skills, but also, most importantly, building our communication skills through experience in presenting to high-level representatives of various organizations. I believe that the newfound confidence and ability I have for speaking in front of a substantial amount of people will help me during interviews, future presentations, and in general while communicating ideas with others.

Everyone on the team spoke highly of growing up in Haddam. “My favorite thing about growing up in Haddam is the accessibility to the outdoors and the quieter lifestyle compared to busier city life,” said Akshay. “I really enjoy going outside and exploring, as well as camping and hiking and other outdoor activities which come from my participation in boy scouts.” Akshay is a member of Haddam Boy Scout Troop #44. Roham said, “I’ve always loved how peaceful and serene Haddam is. I can’t imagine biking around anywhere else because only in Haddam can one truly appreciate a natural and quiet livelihood.”

“Haddam is the perfect place to grow up,” said Carter. “The people, the atmosphere, the schools, all of these factors set me and my fellow teammates up for this un-forgettable experience and success. I guarantee that without the motivation provided by my teammates, my family, and even my friends from middle-school I would not be the way I am today. All in all, my most favorable facet of Haddam is the community. As I grew into the person I am today, I will never forget the endless memories throughout my life in this town that have affected my life in a way that no one could ever imagine. There is no place in the WORLD that I would rather have grown up and the experiences I have had will form me into a better man in the future.”

Roham, who graduated from Xavier in May, will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in the fall, studying Information Technology and Web Science. Carter and Akshay will continue at Xavier in the fall.

“I am so thankful for this team,” said Carter. “I will never forget the experience that we have had and the intangible amount of learning that has come through it.”

For more details about the competition, please visit the Real World Design Challenge website.

Photo by Ajay Khunte.

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