Basma Heda, BHC Scholar and mechanical engineering major, has interned with both Limbitless Solutions and Lockheed Martin throughout her time at UCF. Before she reaches her graduation in Fall 2021, Basma hopes to apply to UCF's accelerated bachelor's to master's program to start working toward her master's degree in mechanical engineering. Her long-term goal is to get a Ph.D. in the field and continue working with Lockheed Martin.

Why did you choose UCF? Why are you interested in pursuing your major?

My name is Basma Heda, I'm majoring in mechanical engineering, and I'm graduating in Fall 2021. I’ve lived in Central Florida my entire life, and so naturally, I heard all about UCF growing up. When I eventually chose engineering as my major, I knew UCF offered a strong engineering program; combining that with the knowledge that Central Florida had an abundance of full-time engineering opportunities to choose from, it was clear that UCF was the school for me.

My journey into engineering was “accidental”. When creating my schedule for my freshman year in high school, I had an open slot and no preference on what elective to fill it with. My mom suggested the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering classes, since my older brother was taking them at the time and seemed to enjoy it. I figured it would be a fun endeavor and agreed to it. From the first week of PLTW, I was hooked. I took four years of engineering classes through the PLTW program, each year focusing on a different specialty of engineering (mechanical, electrical, aerospace, etc.). By sophomore year of high school, I had discovered my love of planning and creating mechanical systems and came to the realization that mechanical engineering was the field for me.

Talk about your internships with Limbitless and Lockheed Martin. What specifically did you do? What did you learn?

After my first semester at UCF, I was accepted to Limbitless Solutions’ Scholars Program, which enables students to intern with the organization so that they can learn new skills and gain experience. During my time at Limbitless, I helped with the production of their 3D-printed bionic arms, as well as several smaller projects, one of which was designing and creating a 3D- printed arc reactor (modeled after the one worn by Tony Stark) with a functioning microcontroller that lights up and plays the Iron Man theme song. This internship taught me everything I know about the world of 3D modeling and printing, as well the process of creating a product. Above all, what I gained most from my time at Limbitless came from the people I worked with. The work environment was friendly and encouraging, and as a result, I never found myself hesitant to ask a question or offer an idea. The collaboration with non-engineering majors was particularly helpful, as fresh perspectives were often the key to solving an issue with a project or improving it in a new way.

After my internship at Limbitless had concluded, I was offered a position in UCF’s College Work Experience Program (CWEP) with Lockheed Martin. This program allows me to intern part-time at Lockheed Martin as a contractor while I take my college courses at UCF. I work on the Reliability Engineering team for the Apache program. My position has allowed me to learn FRACAS data analysis, which is the process of identifying and analyzing part failures and planning corrective actions to solve those failures. In addition to FRACAS, my job involves data scrubbing to ensure accurate information for team metrics and ongoing projects. My experience at Lockheed Martin as a CWEP has continued to surprise me, even after a year at the company. The exemplary leadership shown by my manager and team lead has allowed me to focus my energy on learning new technical skills and what it takes to work in the defense industry. Their constant support and guidance have been invaluable during my time in the program.

What leadership positions, research experiences, internship experiences, study abroad experiences, etc. have you had so far while at UCF? What did you learn from them and how do you think they helped you get where you are today?

During my first semester at UCF, I joined the Muslim Student Association. It's a great way to meet new people and participate in campus activities. One semester, I served on the marketing committee and helped with the organization of Fast-A-Thon, an event hosted by MSA to raise funds for Yemen. This experience allowed me to have an active presence on campus and contribute to the community.

My time with the Burnett Honors College has also had a significant impact on my UCF experience, especially symposium. My first internship with Limbitless Solutions was a result of the company/nonprofit coming to talk one night during lecture. I remember their presentation vividly, especially when they mentioned they had applications open that would close the next day; it was a short amount of time, but I adjusted my resume and cover letter as quickly as I could and applied with an hour to spare. In addition to providing internship opportunities, my time in symposium enabled me to have thought-provoking discussions with my peers and navigate my first semester of college with a group of other freshmen.

What is your long-term goal/future plans? How did the BHC help you to achieve these goals?

My plan for the future is to stay as a CWEP with Lockheed Martin until graduation, and then work full-time with the company. Lockheed Martin has been a dream company of mine since I decided on engineering as my career, and I’m looking forward to discovering more about what the company can offer me.  I am planning on applying to UCF’s accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program, which will allow me to begin taking courses for my master’s degree in mechanical engineering as an undergraduate student; I’ll complete the degree while working full time. My eventual long-term goal is a Ph.D. in my field, although that will be after I have worked some time in the industry.

If all things go right, 10 years from now I will most likely be…

…a successful mechanical engineer who’s making a difference.

What advice do you have for other students who may be interested in following a similar path?

Be confident in who you are and your ability. It sounds a bit cliché, but growing up, my mom repeatedly told me that “confidence is 50% of succeeding.” You need to believe that you are capable, or else how can you expect others to believe in you? Self-confidence is the first step of success, for once you believe you are worthy, you’re one step closer to your goal. I would also advise students to learn to advocate for themselves and take control of their careers. Internships aren’t served up on a silver platter, waiting to be claimed. It requires the student to take advantage of their opportunities: to go up to the speaker after a presentation and inquire about their work, to attend resume workshops, to go to internship fairs and give their elevator pitch.

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?

The best vacation I’ve ever had was in 2019, I went to Dubai after the summer semester ended to celebrate Eid Al-Adha [an Islamic holiday]. It was my first time leaving the U.S. in over a decade, and my first time visiting Dubai. The city was stunning, although the heat could certainly rival a Florida summer. It was astonishing to see Arab culture on full display, and it made me feel at home in a foreign country.